Can Food Allergies Cause Elevated Liver Enzymes

People who have food allergies and sensitivities may develop high serum liver enzymes. Liver enzymes support the function of the liver by helping it perform many important, biochemical, and metabolic functions. The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and is responsible for about 500 functions. Among many others, liver helps in digestion, metabolism, storage of vitamins, protein synthesis and processing of detoxifying substances.

Food Allergy Causes

Food allergies are one of the most common conditions seen in children, but there’s a lot of confusion about what they are, who has them and how to treat them.

The most common type of food allergy is one that occurs when your body mistakenly identifies a specific protein as harmful and mounts an immune response against it. When eaten, the protein triggers an allergic reaction that can include a wide range of symptoms, including hives, eczema and wheezing. The severity varies widely from person to person.

Food allergies affect between 2% and 8% of children under 18 years old in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of those children outgrow their allergies by age 5 or 6; however, others continue to have problems into adulthood.

Many Different Ailments Can Cause a Person’s Liver Enzymes To Increase.

Many different ailments can cause a person’s liver enzymes to increase. Some of the most common are:

  • Liver disease. Any kind of liver disease will cause liver enzymes to rise. This includes hepatitis, cancer, and other conditions such as autoimmune diseases where the body attacks its own tissues.
  • Alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol abuse can lead to several health problems, including an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) and high levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT).


Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver due to chronic alcohol abuse or chronic hepatitis C infection. The scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and prevents proper function of the organ. It can take years before cirrhosis causes noticeable symptoms, but when it does, they include fatigue, weakness, weight loss and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Food allergies are not the most common cause.

There are many different ailments that can cause a person’s liver enzymes to increase. Some of these ailments include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Cirrhosis (the scarring of tissue in the liver)

Foods Such as Shellfish and Nuts Can Trigger Allergic Reactions.

Food allergies are the result of a reaction to proteins found in certain foods. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, and may include tingling lips, facial swelling, and itching, sneezing and hives. More serious reactions may cause dizziness, fainting or anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction that causes difficulty breathing, wheezing and loss of consciousness.

The most common food allergies are caused by shellfish (such as shrimp and crab), peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds), milk, eggs and wheat.

Foods such as shellfish and nuts can trigger allergic reactions when they touch the mouth or throat. In some cases, the reaction can be triggered when someone who is allergic ingests even tiny amounts of these foods.

In other cases, eating even small amounts of these foods can trigger an immune system response that leads to stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.

 Elevated Liver Enzyme Causes

Many people are unaware that food allergies can cause elevated liver enzymes.

Elevated liver enzymes, which are also called alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), are common tests ordered by doctors to detect liver disease or injury. The liver is the largest organ in the body, so it’s not surprising that these enzymes can be found in blood work for other conditions besides liver problems.

  • The most common causes of elevated liver enzymes include:
  • Alcoholism
  • Autoimmune disorders such as lupus
  • Bacterial infections such as chlamydia and hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis from chronic alcohol use or other causes
  • Drug abuse (including over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen)
  • Gallstones or bile duct blockages from gallbladder disease or pancreatic cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) during the third trimester when hormones are released into the bloodstream to nourish the baby

 Symptoms of Food Allergy and Elevated Liver Enzymes

Food allergies are a common cause of elevated liver enzymes. The most common symptoms of food allergy include diarrhea, hives, and abdominal pain. Food allergies can also cause vomiting, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Other possible causes of elevated liver enzymes include:

  • Infectious hepatitis (hepatitis A or B)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis (lupus hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis)
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Food allergies are a common cause of elevated liver enzymes. The most common symptoms of food allergy include diarrhea, hives, and abdominal pain. Food allergies can also cause vomiting, wheezing and shortness of breath.

 Diagnosis and Treatment of Food Allergy

A food allergy is a reaction to a food or food ingredient that causes the body’s immune system to produce an allergic reaction. Symptoms vary from person to person, but they can include hives, swelling of the lips and face, difficulty breathing, wheezing and nausea.

Allergic reactions can occur within seconds after eating a food allergen or several hours later. The severity of a reaction also varies from person to person. Some people may only experience mild symptoms while others may experience life-threatening reactions requiring immediate medical attention.

Food allergies are different than food intolerances or sensitivities. Food intolerances often involve digestive problems such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation while sensitivities are usually related to skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis.

Allergic reactions can be triggered by eating certain foods or by touching them. In most cases, an allergic reaction occurs when someone eats a particular food for the first time (primary food allergy). However, some people develop an allergy after ingesting certain foods repeatedly (secondary food allergy).


Remember, though, that liver and blood tests are just one small diagnosis piece. Be sure to visit an allergist to be evaluated from head to toe. Only then can a comprehensive approach be taken toward identifying the real cause of elevated enzymes.

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