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Five Signs Your Liver is Struggling

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights

Jokes about “punishing” the liver abounded at college, but as we’ve gotten older, we take our liver health seriously. The realization that aging happens to all of our organs makes us diligent about caring for them, and making sure they last. 

The liver is one of the most important organs in our bodies. Researchers have identified more than 500 functions carried out by the liver alone. When our liver is sick, we get sick, so it's important to make sure our lifestyle habits and health stacks support healthy liver function. 

Curious about what this double-lobed organ does and how you can know if it is in trouble? Read on. 

Functions of the Liver

The liver has too many functions to name in one article (see above). But generally, the liver keeps your blood clean. It filters toxins from your blood, turns them into bile, and removes them from your body in the form of stool. 

Your liver also plays a major role in how excess glucose is stored. When you eat a meal, your pancreas releases insulin that breaks down the glucose in your blood and helps get it to your cells for energy. 

If you have excess glucose that your body doesn’t need, the liver converts it to a compound called glycogen, and stores it until it is needed for energy later. When it is needed, the liver converts it back to glucose to be used as fuel. 

Your liver also regulates the levels of chemicals in your body. Whether the chemical is good and beneficial or toxic, your liver decides what your body needs and how much. Any excess is filtered through the liver and passed out of the body in the form of stool or urine.

Part of this function is your liver’s ability to metabolize drugs. Many of the medications we take are metabolized through the liver, which is why it’s a good idea to only take a medication if you absolutely need it. Metabolizing medications repeatedly can be taxing on your liver.

All of the blood that leaves your stomach and intestines, filled with the nutrients from the food you eat, pass through your liver where the nutrients are broken down for use by your body. At any given time, your liver holds over a pint of blood. 

Your liver also plays a role in your immunity by removing bacteria from your blood and helping create an immune response when you are sick. 

It’s critical we pay attention to our liver health and make sure it’s able to function properly. Sometimes, liver issues can be caused by disease, but sometimes our lifestyle habits can take a negative toll on our liver health.

What Hurts the Liver?

Diseases like viral hepatitis B can harm your liver tissue, but many times our liver is damaged by lifestyle habits we can change. Let’s look at some of things that can cause liver problems, and may even lead to life-threateningliver failure or fatty liver disease. 

Excess Alcohol Consumption

The correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and liver disease is well known. Alcohol must be broken down in the liver. Drinking alcohol to excess can lead to too much alcohol being broken down in the liver and the destruction of liver cells. 


Carrying excess weight can cause fat to be stored on your liver. This can lead to the development of disease, like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. You can also develop NAFLD if you consume an excessive amount of sugar. 

Because sugar is broken down into glucose that is stored as glycogen in the liver, the liver naturally stores it as fat when it isn't used for energy. This fatty buildup in your liver can be more damaging than excessive alcohol use, so even if you don’t consume alcohol, your liver could still be in danger. 


Many medications are processed through the liver. Some over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver if they are taken too frequently or in amounts that are too large. The best rule of thumb is to only take medications on an as-needed basis. 

If you’re concerned your liver might be in trouble, you can look for warning signs and symptoms. 

Five Signs Your Liver Is Struggling

The problem with liver disease is that symptoms aren’t usually present until the liver is significantly damaged. As such, it’s important to not only protect the health of our livers but also to be very aware of signs it could be in trouble.

1. Chronic Fatigue

This is the most commonly reported side effect of liver disease. It’s unclear why fatigue accompanies liver damage, but researchers believe it has something to do with the neurotransmitters signaling inflammation from the liver to the brain. 

2. Fluid Retention

A liver in trouble will cause swelling and pain in your abdomen and even in your lower extremities. This happens because of high blood pressure circulating in the veins of your liver. Your liver may also produce less albumin, a protein that helps prevent the fluid in your liver from reaching your bloodstream. 

Medications may help with the removal of fluid, as well as switching to a low sodium diet. However, in severe cases, you will have to have the fluid removed at a hospital. 

3. Jaundice

Jaundice is a condition in which your liver does not properly remove bilirubin from your blood. When your red blood cells break down, a natural process is the release of bilirubin. Normally, bilirubin is taken to the liver where it is removed by bile into your feces. 

When bilirubin collects in your body, you’ll notice a yellow tinge to your skin, dark (almost orange) colored urine, and yellowing of the whites of the eyes. 

4. Bleeding

When your liver is severely damaged, blood is unable to pass through it as rapidly as it normally would. When the blood is obstructed by scar tissue and inflammation, it naturally looks for an easier route to exit the liver. 

This can cause blood to enter the spleen, stomach, and intestines. You might notice blood in your stool or, in severe cases, begin vomiting blood. You should seek immediate medical attention if you begin to vomit blood. 

Bleeding can also cause varicose veins in the stomach and esophagus. 

5. Pale Stool

The absence of a darker, brown-colored stool is a symptom of liver disease. Bile released from the liver gives your stool its brown color. If your liver isn’t producing enough bile, your stool will be pale in color, indicating your liver isn’t well. 

On top of these five indications, you may also notice a loss of appetite, itchy skin, dark urine, abdominal pain, and an increase in viral infections. 

How To Help the Liver

The liver is the body’s only regenerative organ. This means when it is damaged it can regenerate cells and repair itself. Some liver damage is not reversible. Some types of alcoholic cirrhosis may have caused too much scarring for the liver to function properly and regenerate new cells.

However, in many cases, the damage done to your liver can be reversed with lifestyle changes. 

Consume Less Alcohol

Less alcohol and other harmful substancesmeans less damage to your liver. If you’re at risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease, speak to your doctor about your alcohol consumption. Avoiding alcohol may be a better way for you to take care of your liver. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight places a strain on your entire body, and places you at risk for liver disease, like NAFLD. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing many diseases, including liver disease. 

Clean Up Your Diet

If you aren’t eating a balanced, nutritious diet, start now. The foods you eat have a huge impact on your liver health (and your total health). Limit your sugar and trans fat intake, and ensure you’re getting the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals you need to stay well. 

Consider a Supplement

Supplements are great additions to a healthy lifestyle to support our wellness. If you’re looking for a supplement to support your liver function, a little-known fatty acid may just be your best option. 

Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid that research shows is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered in over 90 years.† C15:0 helps support your liver health and encourages liver function at the cellular level.†* 

C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that get integrated into the cell membranes of your liver cells to help keep them strong and resistant to cellular breakdown.†* When your liver cells are healthy, your liver is healthy. 

  • C15:0 supports your liver cells by integrating into the cell membranes to offer support, fortifying them and keeping them strong. This fatty acid protects cell membranes by improving cellular strength by 80%. 
  • C15:0 helps support mitochondrial function. Aging cells in the liver lose some of their mitochondrial function, decreasing cellular energy and increasing cellular stress, both of which can lead to a decrease in liver function. C15:0 increases cell energy output, and decreases damaging reactive oxygen species by 45%. 
  • C15:0 removes damaged cells. C15:0 activates AMPK, an enzyme that clears out damaged cells. 
  • C15:0 regulates your body’s immune response helps manage proinflammatory cytokine levels, which can lead to premature aging. 
  • C15:0 increases cellular energy by increasing ATP levels in cells by 350%.
  • C15:0 has 36+ dose-dependent benefits in human cell systems, including managing immune responses and decreasing tissue fibrosis relevant to liver health
  • As a PPAR-ɑ/δ agonist, C15:0 can regulate metabolism and calming liver immune responses

    Fatty15 is the only supplement to offer your body the daily dose of this necessary fat. Fatty15 contains pure, vegan FA15™, a pure powder and vegan-friendly form of C15:0. Just one tiny capsule a day is all you need to support your liver health, and your total body health. 

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    For the Love of Your Liver

    We aren’t in college anymore, and liver health is no joke. Taking care of our bodies and our most vital organs is important. If your liver is struggling, talk to your doctor. The combination of lifestyle changes and fatty15 can help encourage your liver to function like it did when you were younger.

    Get started with your trial order of fatty15 here and give your cells a fighting chance. 


    Liver: Anatomy and Functions|Hopkins Medicine.org

    4 Signs Your Liver Is in Trouble + Tips to Protect It|Cleveland Clinic

    Fatigue in liver disease: Pathophysiology and clinical management|NCBI|

    Liver problems - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

    Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

    Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

    Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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