Gluten Intolerance, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Liver Damage

Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson's Chronic Condition Natural Treatment Blog

Intentional musings of a unique Shelby Township Michigan Chiropractic Physician dedicated to helping people find solutions to improving their health by rooting out causes to chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, thyroid disorder symptoms, balance disorders, migraines, sciatica, ADD/ADHD/ASD, back pain, peripheral neuropathy, gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disorders so they can Reclaim Their Life!

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From the Desk of Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC.....

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Gluten Intolerance, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Liver Damage


Liver2You may not know you have gluten intolerance - but you should be highly suspect if you have elevated liver enzymes. 

Gluten intolerance, largely a genetic disorder can cause many health challenges.  People who suffer with bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, fatigue, weight gain, bone or joint pain, dental enamel defects, depression, infertility, anemia, alopecia areata (hair loss), migraines, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or any of the dozens of other symptoms should suspect their malady to be connected to gluten intolerance.

Elevated liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver.  Inflamed or injured liver cells leak higher than normal amounts of certain chemicals, including liver enzymes, into the bloodstream, which can result in elevated liver enzymes on blood tests.  Two common liver enzymes regularly tested in most blood chemistries include AST (aspartate transaminase) and ALT (Alanine transaminase).

AST (aspartate aminotransferase), which was previously called SGOT, can also be elevated in heart and muscle diseases and is not liver specific.  The normal range of AST is 0 to 45 U/L
ALT (alanine aminotransferase), which was previously called SGPT, is more specific for liver damage.  The normal range of ALT is 0 to 45 U/L

Besides these two enzymes, the liver produces other enzymes, which are special protein based molecules that help necessary chemical reactions to take place.  Liver enzymes trigger activity in the body's cells, speeding up and facilitating naturally occurring biochemical reactions, and maintaining various metabolic processes within the liver.

I regularly see patients who have high liver enzymes of "unknown etiology", which simply means the cause has not been discovered.  One common sign of gluten intolerance is elevated liver enzymes.  Elevated liver enzymes can lead to additional damage to other parts of the body outside the liver if the cause of the elevated enzymes is not discovered.

Proposed Mechanism of Liver Injury With CD resized 600I challenged a patient of mine who has had elevated liver enzymes as long as she can remember to get properly tested for gluten intolerance.  You probably guessed right - she was gluten intolerant.  This patient agreed she should eat gluten free the rest of her life.  In one month on our specialized dietary healing plan, her liver enzymes came down into the normal range, the first time since her liver enzymes have been tested many, many years ago!

Unfortunately most doctors still use tests that are outdated and inaccurate for gluten sensitivity testing.  At Johnson Chiropractic Neurology and Nutrition we use the most advanced, state-of-the-art testing gluten intolerance.  The tests we use include testing for genes that predispose one to celiac sprue and gluten intolerance (I found I have one of each), as well as a special test that measures ones sensitivity to several component of wheat.  Until very recently (January, 2011) testing for Gluten Sensitivity has only been against one components (epitopes) of wheat; alpha gliadin. Through extensive research Cyrex Labs, pinpointed the twelve components of wheat that most often provoke an immune response.  Learn more about this specialized testing, especially if you have unexplained elevated liver enzymes.


 The latest numbers indicate that as many as one in every 5 people

(yes, that's right) have some form of gluten-sensitivity.

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Jun;14(6):567-72

If you found value in this article, please use the social sharing icons at the top of this post and please share with those you know who are still suffering with low thyroid symptoms despite having medical managment. Thank you, help me reach more people so they may regain their zest for living!

All the best – Dr. Johnson – Digging Deeper To Find Solutions


Thank you for this posting Dr. Johnson. This is the type of investigative doctoring that makes you so special. I appreciate your comments and willingness to keep us informed.
Posted @ Friday, December 02, 2011 10:40 AM by Dr. Serpe
Thank you Dr. Serpe for your comments. As you know patients can perform an online search of this relationship of gluten intolerance and elevated liver enzymes. PubMed has this abstract of an research paper written on the topic:  
Celiac disease is a common (1% prevalence) chronic immune-mediated disorder of the small intestine induced by dietary wheat, barley, and rye. Several hepatic disorders have been described in association with celiac disease. Isolated hypertransaminasemia with nonspecific histologic changes in a liver biopsy is the commonest hepatic presentation of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet normalizes liver enzymes and histologic changes in most patients. Moreover, celiac disease can coexist with autoimmune liver disorders such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Celiac disease has increasingly been reported with a variety of other liver diseases. Thus, the hepatologist needs to consider celiac disease in the differential of abnormal liver blood tests and to be aware of the clinical implications of this frequent disease in patients with liver disorders. The possible mechanisms of liver injury and those common factors that explain the association of celiac disease with liver disorders are discussed. The aims of this article are (1) to review the spectrum and pathogenesis of liver injury related to celiac disease and (2) to provide direction to those caring for patients with chronic liver diseases regarding the detection and effective treatment of celiac disease.  
You can download the full text as a PDF here:  
If you have elevated liver enzymes you can take this research paper to your doctors. Better yet, be sure to get the best test for gluten intolerance by clicking on the link I have in this current blog post (
Posted @ Saturday, December 10, 2011 6:24 PM by Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC
My father had elevated liver enzymes for 7 years before developing cirrhosis of the liver and subsequently died of liver cancer in January of 2011. I have 3 sisters, all of whom have autoimmune diseases. One was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. Through our mutual autoimmune issues and the genetic link for gluten intolerance, I am convinced that my father died of a gluten intolerance that was never diagnosed. He had all of the symptoms, but it was an allergy or diagnosis that no medical professional ever brought up. I am hopeful, however, that with this knowledge, my sister's and I can lead healthier, longer lives.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 12, 2013 1:31 AM by A. Trimble
I really appreciate this blog for bringing up the liver problem symptoms.I believe this blog will help many people out there who are suffering from liver disease. Keep this up and be healthy to all who gonna read this! 
Posted @ Friday, August 09, 2013 8:29 PM by Tammy Reese
Have had high liver emzymes for years all liver test were fine my daughter found out she has a gluten intolerance so I got tested since I was breaking out in red marks (thought they were bites) tested positive went on a gluten free diet. After 3months had my blood tested and finally had normal ast alt results! Thank you so much for your great article!
Posted @ Thursday, August 15, 2013 7:46 PM by laura
I'm so glad Laura, and A. Trimble that this article was of assistance to you! Thank you Tammy for your comments as well. My goals is to help as many people as possible live healthy productive lives! 
Best regards, 
Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:38 PM by Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC
I've had gluten intolerance symptoms for years. Acne, weight gain in my teen and early 20's. PCOS was thought to play a big role. I had diahhrea a lot after 1st child and the dr ordered a colonoscopy and they just advised to add more protein. 8 years after that I've had elevated liver enzymes for about 8 months. I had an appt set up with a GI. Well during my waiting for my appt I have a really weird burning..kind of like heart burn but it's more of a chemical type toxin burn in my chest and up in my throat sometimes. I went to the GI and he did an endoscopy and removed a polyp in my duodenum. He also said my stomach looked inflamed as he took a sample to test for celiac disease. He also did a liver panel. Well my insulin was like twice the amount it should be but my A1C was normal. I'm guessing insulin resistance from PCOS, also my AA markers are positive for an autoimmune inflammatory disease. My dr thinks it is more than likely gluten intolerance. I find out in about 2 weeks. But my dr played off the liver enzymes too for a while thinking meds or alcohol or fatty liver. You know your body better than anyone and I am glad I persued the issue. I knew some things did not feel right and I was tired all the time. Weight was hard to get off. I just hope I caught all this on time to make some life style changes and get on the right track. It's a lifestyle change. But reading these articles help a lot.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:21 PM by Amber
Amber, your problem can likely be helped with the right assistance and a change in diet and individualized nutritional support from a qualified practitioner. Be sure to take a look at my blog post about testing for gluten intolerance. Most tests are wholly inadequate as they are too narrow focused on only checking for one component of gluten. Here is a link to the post you should take a look at and then download the whitepaper on the topic:
Posted @ Wednesday, January 29, 2014 5:13 AM by Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC"
I have had problems with elevated liver enzymes for almost a decade, if not more. Several years back i underwent a liver biopsy, and a muscle biopsy (because I had elevated Cpk's - muscle enzymes). Any standard blood tests I had in the past turned up negative. It was not until I saw a Naturopath that she had me do a saliva test which came back as me having a high sensitivity to gluten. That was almost 4 years ago. I've been gluten free since and my muscle enzymes are now normal and cpk's are almost back to normal (in the 200-300's - had been about 1,000). I am not always 100% gluten free and think if I was that my cpk's would be totally within normal limits.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 02, 2014 6:36 PM by maria
Maria, I am glad you found out about the connection between high liver enzymes and gluten intolerance. Likely you have saved yourself from some nasty disease. Elevated liver enzymes means liver inflammation! Go 100% gluten free for you health's sake!
Posted @ Thursday, July 03, 2014 6:15 PM by Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC
Hi Dr. Johnson, 
I wanted to make a correction to my post above. I wanted to add to that "any standard blood tests I had done in the past turned up negative for celiacs or gluten intolerance" and that my liver enzymes are now normal (not muscle enzymes). Sorry for the corrections - just was so overwhelmed when I saw your blog. Can you make corrections 4 me or send back to me and I will do it?
Posted @ Thursday, July 10, 2014 8:59 PM by Maria
Hi Maria, 
If you want to resend another corrected reply, do so and I will delete the last two of your replies. I cannot edit your replies...I can only approve or delete them.
Posted @ Monday, July 14, 2014 7:03 PM by Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC
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