When you use anabolic steroids, one of your biggest concerns should be the health of your liver. After all, almost all of these compounds filter through your liver, and they can cause damage over time. Learning how to read your liver blood test results can keep you healthy, and it may even save your life.
What are Liver Blood Tests?
A liver blood test helps your doctor or other healthcare providers determine whether your liver is functioning normally. The simplest of these tests can determine whether your liver is functioning normally and if there is any inflammation. If these results indicate that there might be an issue, other liver blood tests can help you determine the extent of the abnormal function or inflammation. Many people get abnormal liver function test results even when they are otherwise healthy, but when you use anabolic steroids for performance enhancement, it is best to assume that there are no false positives.
When Should You Get Liver Blood Tests?
Before taking the time to learn how to read your liver blood test results, it’s important to know the best time to have these tests run by your doctor. There are a few different situations that may cause for liver testing.
- Before your cycle. Understanding your liver’s health before you start using steroids is vital, so if you haven’t had a liver test in the last year and you’re interested in starting a cycle, it’s a great time to get these tests run. You will know whether you are healthy enough for a steroid cycle, which can provide some peace of mind.
- After a lengthy cycle. Another great time to ask for a liver blood test is at the end of a lengthy steroid cycle with a product known for causing liver damage. It’s best to always stick to dosage and cycle length guidelines, but even within those parameters, all men are different. If you’ve just completed your first eight-week Winstrol cycle, for example, and you’re concerned for your health, schedule a liver blood test.
- Any time you develop symptoms of liver damage. If you develop any of the symptoms of liver damage at any point during or after your cycle, you should immediately get a liver blood test. These symptoms include pain in the stomach area, yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes, and a feeling of malaise.
What do Liver Blood Test Results Include?
When you get your liver blood test results back, you will often see a set of numbers. Understanding what these numbers mean and whether or not they fall within normal ranges can help you understand your liver’s overall health. The first test you should expect is a gamma glutamyl transferase (gamma GT) test. Anything under 45 is normal, and anything between 45 and 100 requires some observation and retesting. If your Gamma GT is more than 100, it indicates a liver problem. At this point, your doctor will run additional liver function tests, such as those below.
- Bilirubin – Normal bilirubin levels are between 0 to 20 umol/L, which measures microns of bilirubin per liter of blood. If your levels are much higher than this, you may notice some yellowing of your eyes and skin. Unusually high bilirubin is an indicator of liver disease.
- Albumin – A healthy liver should be able to maintain an albumin level between 38 and 55 grams per liter of blood. If your albumin level is lower than this, you may have liver disease.
- Prothrombin (PT) and Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT) – PT indicates how long it takes your blood to clot, and normal readings are 12 to 14 seconds for. PTT indicates the length of time it takes your blood to coagulate, and this number should be between 18 to 28 seconds. If your numbers are higher, it may indicate liver damage that prevents proper clotting and coagulation.
- Alkaline Phosphatase – One of your liver’s primary functions involves carrying away bile. If your alkaline phosphatase level is higher than 20 to 120 units per liter, you may have some sort of blockage in your liver preventing the flow of bile.
- Alanine Aminotransferase – The normal range is zero to 45 units per liter, and if yours is higher, it may indicate a problem. Usually, this is the primary indicator that someone has hepatitis. These individuals often have levels of alanine aminotransferase 50 times higher than normal.
What Should You Do if Your Liver Blood Test Results aren’t Good?
If your liver function blood test results numbers come back too high or too low, don’t panic. Oftentimes, the liver can go through a great deal of stress, yet still heal on its own. The very first thing you should do is avoid anything that may cause further damage, including not only anabolic steroids, but also alcohol, acetaminophen, and any other OTC medications or substances known for interacting with the liver. Next, you should make an appointment with your physician to determine the extent of the damage. Some of the treatments for liver damage are listed below.
Treatment Option Information
After you get your liver blood test results and see your doctor, you will likely be given some information about how to change your lifestyle to help promote good liver health. Your doctor may advise you to eat low-protein diet until your liver enzymes have come back to normal levels, and this is very important. The more protein you consume, the harder your liver must work to process it. If you are overweight, lifestyle changes that will help you shed pounds in a healthy way can help bring your enzymes back to normal, too.
Protecting Your Liver in the First Place
Of course, the best way to avoid abnormal liver blood test results is to prevent liver damage in the first place. If you’re using steroids, use them according to guidelines and never drink alcohol on-cycle. Take breaks between cycles as recommended, and be sure to work hard to keep yourself hydrated. You might also choose to add a milk thistle supplement to your daily regimen; some studies have shown it can help strengthen your liver while using steroids or other products that might otherwise cause damage.
Remember that if any of the numbers in your liver function tests are high, it does not necessarily indicate a significant problem such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or even cancer. Anabolic steroids are hard on your liver, and if your liver blood test results come back abnormal, then you may need to take a break for a while and give it time to heal.