Sluggish Liver and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome -Part 2

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH


Read Part 1 | Part 3

Liver Congestion and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

While small fluctuations of cortisol levels within the body are well tolerated during normal daily living, chronic imbalance and dysregulation can be problematic. Chronic stress is particularly worrisome, because it leads to over activation of the HPA axis, resulting in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome mentioned earlier. In the early stages of AFS, cortisol, the main anti-stress hormone, rises. This is part of the automatic compensatory effort of the adrenal glands to help the body deal with stress. The unintended consequence is increased risk of fatty liver that can eventually lead to liver congestion or a sluggish liver in layman’s terms. Unfortunately, this is seldom attended to as a possible risk because symptoms of liver dysfunction have yet to surface in early stages of AFS, where most sufferers remain asymptomatic. While they may be tired and unable to work at peak performance, this is compensated by taking in caffeine drinks and sugary foods as sources of energy.

The underlying insult to the liver because of stress induced AFS and resulting high cortisol continues unabated unless the stressors are removed. If left unabated, the liver workload increases, and liver function is marginalized. Breakdown of metabolic products slows, resulting in sluggish liver or stagnation. Like a clogged water pipe, excess input will only create a backlog and spillover at the source. Weak liver function and resulting congestion leads to a rise in the level of internal toxins, as toxic metabolites remain unprocessed and thus unable to be broken down into less harmful metabolic byproducts for excretion out of the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Sluggish Liver

A woman suffering from Adrenal Fatigue and sluggish liver.Accumulation of such toxins within the liver can be responsible for a myriad of symptoms. They include fatigue, anger, psoriasis, neck and back tension, acne, acidosis, eczema, joint and muscular pain of unknown origin, cramps, menstrual irregularities, PMS, dizziness, pulsating headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, brain fog, food sensitivity, insomnia, intolerance or sensitivity to drugs and nutritional supplements. A weak liver may also weaken the kidneys and contribute to digestive problems, including lowered vitamin B12 absorption.

When the liver is chronically congested, sediment often settles out of the bile and accumulates in clumps that resemble stones or sand in the gallbladder. As a result, the gallbladder can become clogged as well. Pre-existing stones can further aggravate the situation as they become lodged in the bile duct leading to the small intestine. It is common for AFS sufferers to complain of discomfort in the gallbladder area, especially after a meal.

You can tell how well a person’s liver and gallbladder is functioning simply by looking carefully at a person’s skin color, tone, pigmentation level, and texture. Dry, pale, and mottled skin with dark spots and pigmentation are signs of underlying sluggish liver. Unfortunately, by the time these are observed, congestion within can be well entrenched.

Advanced Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Liver Congestion

The exhausted adrenals have failed for adrenal fatigue sufferers, affecting all other systems in the body and leading to sluggish liverAs AFS proceeds to more advanced stages, the adrenal glands become exhausted in a continuous effort to put out ever increasing demands of the anti-stress hormone cortisol. Over time, cortisol output begins to drop below normal after reaching peak output. Low cortisol level affects gallbladder function by negatively impacting the bile recycling process. Fat metabolism becomes suboptimal. With the resulting deregulated fat metabolism, the liver is further burdened with increased workload. The detoxification pathways responsible for breaking down substrates into smaller toxic metabolites within the liver are marginalized. Internal toxin buildup increases, further overloading the liver and the body, which has been working hard since AFS appeared.

Throughout the AFS progression from mild to severe, relentless insult on the liver continues. This results in the vicious cycle of a decompensating liver faced with a concurrently increasing metabolic workload as AFS advances. The liver is a silent soldier bearing much more of the brunt of a losing battle at the frontlines. It comes as no surprise that most sufferers of advanced AFS usually have some degree of sluggish liver and dysfunction at the same time. However, physical and laboratory examination continues to be normal as the injury is occurring at the cellular level and therefore remains sub-clinical and evades detection.

Read Part 1 | Part 3

© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

High liver enzymes are not normal. You should continue to follow your doctor’s advice, find out what is the underlying cause of the elevated liver enzymes.


Sluggish liver is one of the main symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

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