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What is liver fatigue?

The liver is a vital organ that performs over 500 essential functions in the body. Some of the liver’s key roles include metabolizing nutrients, manufacturing proteins, storing vitamins and minerals, filtering toxins from the blood, secreting bile to digest fats, and breaking down hormones. When the liver is overburdened by toxins, infections, poor diet, or other factors, its function can become impaired. This impaired function is sometimes referred to as “liver fatigue.”

What causes liver fatigue?

There are many potential causes of liver fatigue, including:

  • Excess alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can lead to liver inflammation and scarring. This damages liver cells and makes it difficult for the liver to function optimally.
  • Viral infections: Hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, B, and C, can cause liver inflammation and affect the liver’s ability to filter toxins and perform other essential functions.
  • Obesity: Being significantly overweight stresses the liver and causes fat to accumulate in liver cells. This is known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Toxins: Exposure to industrial chemicals, environmental pollutants, mold toxins, or the inappropriate use of medications can overload the liver.
  • Poor diet: A diet high in processed foods, sugar, saturated fats, and sodium can make the liver work harder and contribute to NAFLD.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Conditions like autoimmune hepatitis cause the immune system to attack liver cells, leading to widespread inflammation and impaired liver function.

If the liver remains under strain over a long period of time, its condition can worsen and lead to permanent scarring and damage. The technical term for this ongoing, low-grade liver damage is hepatic microinflammation.

What are the symptoms of liver fatigue?

Some of the most common symptoms of liver fatigue include:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Skin irritation or rashes
  • Allergies and chemical sensitivities
  • Indigestion and reflux
  • Changes in stool color or consistency
  • Joint pain
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in mood, like depression or irritability
  • Weight changes

However, in the early stages of liver troubles, there may be no symptoms at all. That’s why liver function blood tests are important to detect problems before symptoms arise.

How is liver fatigue diagnosed?

There is no single diagnostic test for liver fatigue. To assess liver health and determine the cause of symptoms, a doctor may recommend:

  • Physical exam
  • Medical history assessment
  • Blood tests to evaluate:
    • Liver enzymes (ALT, AST, GGT)
    • Bilirubin
    • Albumin
    • Blood cell counts
    • Vitamin and mineral levels
  • Ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to visualize liver tissue and structure
  • Liver biopsy to examine liver cells under a microscope

Based on results from these tests, your doctor can determine if liver fatigue is present and what is causing impaired liver function. Viral infections, NAFLD, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions may require more specialized testing.

What factors put you at risk for liver fatigue?

You may be at increased risk for liver fatigue if you:

  • Drink alcohol heavily
  • Are obese or have NAFLD
  • Have a chronic viral infection like hepatitis B or C
  • Have an autoimmune disorder
  • Have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Are diabetic
  • Are elderly
  • Take certain medications long-term like acetaminophen, oral steroids, or prescription pain pills
  • Are exposed to industrial chemicals through work or environmental pollution
  • Eat a nutrient-poor diet high in junk food
  • Have had bariatric surgery
  • Have low antioxidant levels

Talk to your doctor about your personal and family health history to determine your liver fatigue risk.

Can liver fatigue cause permanent damage?

If left unchecked, liver fatigue can progress over the years and lead to permanent scarring and dysfunction. Some potential consequences include:

  • Cirrhosis: Healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, impairing liver function.
  • Liver cancer: Cirrhosis from any cause increases the risk of liver cancer.
  • Liver failure: The liver is no longer able to perform essential functions.
  • Portal hypertension: Pressure increases in the vein that brings blood to the liver, causing complications.
  • Varices: Enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach may rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding.
  • Gallstones: Impaired bile flow increases gallstone risk.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Nerve damage causes numbness and tingling in the limbs.
  • Cognitive changes: Toxins that accumulate can affect brain function and mental clarity.

That’s why it’s critical to identify and address the root causes of liver fatigue before permanent injury occurs.

What is the treatment for liver fatigue?

Treatment for liver fatigue involves removing the underlying cause while also giving your liver nutritional support. Key treatment strategies may include:

  • Eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Losing weight if overweight or obese
  • Managing diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Treating underlying viral infections
  • Taking medications to manage autoimmune disorders
  • Avoiding unnecessary medications and over-the-counter painkillers
  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats
  • Choosing organic foods to minimize pesticide exposure
  • Replenishing nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, C, B-complex, zinc, magnesium, and selenium
  • Drinking freshly squeezed lemon water to stimulate bile flow
  • Taking targeted liver supplements like milk thistle, NAC, and alpha lipoic acid
  • Detoxifying with sauna therapy, broth fasts, or juice cleanses
  • Exercising regularly to improve liver function
  • Reducing stress through yoga, meditation, or mindfulness

Following up with your doctor and getting repeat bloodwork done is important to monitor your liver health and determine if additional treatments are needed.

What foods are good for liver fatigue?

Nutrition plays a central role in recovering from liver disease. Some of the top foods to include in your diet if you have liver fatigue include:

  • Coffee: Helps protect the liver from scarring and damage.
  • Olive oil: Provides healthy fats to reduce inflammation and improve liver enzyme levels.
  • Grapefruit: Contains antioxidants that boost liver detoxification.
  • Avocados: Packed with glutathione to support liver cell health.
  • Walnuts: High in omega-3s that help reduce accumulated liver fat.
  • Berries: Contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and fibrosis.
  • Garlic: Contains compounds that protect liver cells from toxins.
  • Green tea: The antioxidants prevent and reverse NAFLD.
  • Beets: Improve bile flow and flush toxins out of the liver.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain sulforaphane to boost detoxification.

A Mediterranean style diet high in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats provides the nutrients your liver desperately needs.

What foods should you avoid with liver fatigue?

Just as important as adding in beneficial foods is avoiding those that tax the liver. Foods to limit or avoid altogether when trying to improve liver health include:

  • Refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Processed foods and fast foods
  • Excess salt
  • White breads and pastas
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary drinks
  • Red and processed meats
  • Fake butter and whipped toppings
  • Conventional dairy

These highly processed foods provide little nutritional value and place an extra burden on the liver. An elimination diet removing processed foods, dairy, gluten, and sugars allows the liver to take a much-needed break.

What supplements help liver fatigue?

Certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other natural compounds can help rejuvenate liver cells, reduce inflammation, and support detoxification pathways. The top supplements for liver health include:

Supplement Benefits
Milk thistle Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that repairs liver cells
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) Precursor to glutathione, a vital antioxidant for the liver
Alpha lipoic acid Boosts glutathione levels and supports fatty liver disease
Vitamin C Potent antioxidant that reduces liver inflammation and damage
Vitamin E Helps manage NAFLD and NASH
B complex vitamins Supports many liver detoxification pathways
Magnesium Relaxes tight or constrained bile ducts to improve bile flow
Selenium Assists glutathione function and protects liver cells
Zinc Aids enzymatic reactions for liver detoxification and bile synthesis
Turmeric Anti-inflammatory that reduces liver fibrosis and increases bile production

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before starting any new supplements, especially if you are taking medications. They can help determine the optimal doses and combinations for your liver.


Liver fatigue, also known as hepatic microinflammation, occurs when the liver becomes overburdened and strained over a long period of time. This impairs its 500+ vital functions, which can lead to symptoms like fatigue, digestive issues, allergies, headaches, and high blood pressure. If left unaddressed, liver fatigue can progress to fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver failure, and other serious complications.

The main causes include alcohol overconsumption, obesity, NAFLD, viral hepatitis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, medication side effects, chemical exposures, and a poor diet. Blood tests, imaging, and sometimes liver biopsy are used to diagnose the cause. Treatment involves removing the source of liver strain, eating a whole foods diet, taking targeted supplements, and following an overall liver-healthy lifestyle. Addressing liver fatigue early can help restore normal liver function and prevent permanent liver damage.