HammondN Asked :
I went for number of blood tests for insurance purposes recently and everything was normal except my liver enzyme. The insurance company informed me that I was rejected due to an elevated GGT. From what I understand this could be linked to alcohol consumption and liver disease but I no longer drink alcohol and I do not use painkillers. I was told that I should see a doctor who can do complete test and motivate as to why I am a suitable candidate or explain these elevated readings.
While I do not consume alcohol, I have used a number of herbal tinctures which are in an alcohol form that have been prescribed by a naturopath. I am not sure if this could have caused the rise and if so, how long should I wait before seeing a doctor so that my liver enzymes will give a normal reading? What types of liver disease could cause this high GGT levels?
Any response by the Health Hype team does not constitute a medical consultation and the advice should be viewed purely as a guide. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment program. The information provided in this article is not an authoritative resource on the subject matter and solely intends to guide the reader based on the questions asked and information provided.
Dr. Chris Answered :
An isolated GGT is not only caused by alcohol consumption. Other drugs may also be responsible including sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medication (barbituates), drugs for epilepsy, bipolar disorder (phenytoin, carbamazepine), antibiotics like rifamipicin and antifungal drugs like griseofulvin. If you have been using any medication before or during the test, you should speak to a doctor about stopping it and waiting for a period of time before undergoing another test.
You do not specify which herbal remedies you are taking or the reasons that you are using it but the alcohol content in tinctures may not be sufficient to cause a significant elevation in your GGT levels although it depends on the quantity you are consuming. The active ingredients within these tinctures could also be responsible and it is advisable that you speak to your naturopath or medical doctor about the implications of using these tinctures. If you are using other supplements, even vitamin and minerals, you will need to inform your doctor about it.
Apart from drugs and alcohol, certain medical conditions may also be responsible for the elevated GGT. Biliary obstruction (cholestasis) which is an obstruction of the flow of bile out of the gallbladder is another fairly common cause of an elevated GGT. Alcoholic liver disease is another factor to consider and even if you do not consume alcohol now, there could be liver disease based on your previous habits (you had mentioned that you “no longer” drink alcohol). Hepatitis is also known to cause an elevation of GGT levels although the readings would not be as high as in alcoholic liver disease or biliary obstruction. Remember certain diseases of other organs which are now affecting the liver may also result in an elevated GGT. Your doctor will discuss all the possibilities with you.
There is no way of conclusively identifying a time period in which your GGT levels would return to lower levels. If it is due to some underlying chronic disease, this may not happen irrespective of how long you wait. On the other hand, if it is due to alcohol consumption, drugs or herbal remedies, you will first have to stop these substances. The liver enzymes could return to normal as soon as a few days or take weeks. To be on the safe side, you should wait at least 6 weeks after discontinuing these substances to test your GGT levels again.
In terms of your doctor’s motivation, the insurance company may require that your doctor conduct a full liver function test (LFT) and identify any underlying diseases that may have been responsible for the elevated GGT levels. The levels of your other enzymes (AST, ALT and ALP) may provide some indication of a cause. Based on the findings, you doctor may provide your insurance company with a medical report as to why you are a suitable candidate. This does not guarantee that you will qualify for the insurance policy. Nevertheless, it is important to isolate the cause of your elevated GGT levels even if it is not for insurance purposes.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on July 15, 2010