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What causes slightly elevated GGT levels in an occasional drinker?

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Posted on Tue, 19 May 2015
Question: Yes, I have a GGT reading of 74 U/L. Should I be concerned?. I do partake of alcohol at evening time only. On average I would consume about 6 standard drinks every night. I find this time very relaxing and it relieves my stress levels markedly. Also I am not a good sleeper and I find it helps me get a reasonable sleep time of about 4 hours initially and then dozing spasmodically thereafter. Some years ago I was taking sleeping pills (Diazepam) with dire consequences. After spending considerable time in hospital trying different medications I am now coping without any sleep or stress related tablets. I know I should be having some alcohol free days (say 2) weekly but will find that difficult considering the benefits hereby described. Given my GGT level is not far out of the normal range 0-65 U/L I would very much appreciate your advice. Thanking you, XXXXXX.
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Answered by Dr. Matt Wachsman (40 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
depends on many factors.

Detailed Answer:
It's a reason to get all the other liver tests and a panel of other tests to see if there are reasons for liver injury
AND
moderate alcohol use will often increase GGT to about double the normal value and this does NOT usually mean the liver damage is going to EVER be significant.
Or... could be hepatitis (and other liver enzymes that high or higher).
And.. some thoughts on alcohol.
It changes sleep patterns. This change can take a very long time to come back. Substituting other drugs for alcohol (valium, other benzodiazepines) isn't really going to be helpful. Substuting drugs that work differently (melatonin) might be better.
Alcohol is often taken in very high amounts and this can be plain poisonous. The rule of thumb (more of a guideline.. a guess ) from the Addiction Board is that about 4 drinks a week for a woman and about 6 for a man isn't going to be harmful and 1ish at a time/ per day is probably the limit for women and about 2 in a sitting is a limit for a guy.
AND..... seeing how it fits with overall life functioning matters as much or more.
If it is causing job/relationship/legal/monetary problems.... its a problem no matter how little alcohol is involved. Then.. if someone is about the guideline amount and never had anything bad ever happen in life from the alcohol, never really felt guilty about drinking never felt one had to cut down or been embarrassed by the drinking... then... hard to say there's a problem if there isn't a problem.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Matt Wachsman (1 hour later)
Thank you Dr XXXXXXX Just a few more queries with GGT. I understand the U/L level can go as high as 1000, at what level would you consider the count becoming a serious problem? As you have indicated other liver tests are advisable in my situation, I do have other readings here that may be helpful. Not knowing which are specific to liver I list: Tot.Bili 10, Tot.Protein 68, Albumin 37, Globulin 31,
AST 25, ALT 26, Alk.Phos 91, GGT 74, LD 185, Chol. 5.2, AnionGap 17. Hoping these may help with your advice, kind regards, XXXX
doctor
Answered by Dr. Matt Wachsman (3 hours later)
Brief Answer:
I really hope your decimal is off

Detailed Answer:
a Total Bilirubin of 10 would make you the color of Kermit. a Total Bilirubin of 1.0 is normal. You may check in the mirror. All the other numbers are normal, so, doubtful that one is very very bad. Sticking with previous statements (I almost always do!).

And, it's mostly the overall context on the severity... wow, there's this whole epistemologic issue on information only being comprehensible in relation and association with all other facts. So:
1) only one number abnormal (and it is the most sensitive to alcohol.. often being elevated when there is very little/no actual liver damage.
2) other health problems/symptoms/etc.
3) how messed up is someone's life otherwise... if alcohol doesn't intrude badly into any other facets of living, then.. not much of a problem.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Matt Wachsman (17 hours later)
Thanks again Dr XXXXXXX for your epistemological advice! I will monitor my GGT levels and my alcohol consumption but take some comfort in your final comment
of there most probably is "not much of a problem". Kind regards, XXXXXX
doctor
Answered by Dr. Matt Wachsman (16 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
very welcome

Detailed Answer:
you're very welcome. wouldn't mind directed questions at any time!
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Dr. Matt Wachsman

Addiction Medicine Specialist

Practicing since :1985

Answered : 4171 Questions

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What causes slightly elevated GGT levels in an occasional drinker?

Brief Answer: depends on many factors. Detailed Answer: It's a reason to get all the other liver tests and a panel of other tests to see if there are reasons for liver injury AND moderate alcohol use will often increase GGT to about double the normal value and this does NOT usually mean the liver damage is going to EVER be significant. Or... could be hepatitis (and other liver enzymes that high or higher). And.. some thoughts on alcohol. It changes sleep patterns. This change can take a very long time to come back. Substituting other drugs for alcohol (valium, other benzodiazepines) isn't really going to be helpful. Substuting drugs that work differently (melatonin) might be better. Alcohol is often taken in very high amounts and this can be plain poisonous. The rule of thumb (more of a guideline.. a guess ) from the Addiction Board is that about 4 drinks a week for a woman and about 6 for a man isn't going to be harmful and 1ish at a time/ per day is probably the limit for women and about 2 in a sitting is a limit for a guy. AND..... seeing how it fits with overall life functioning matters as much or more. If it is causing job/relationship/legal/monetary problems.... its a problem no matter how little alcohol is involved. Then.. if someone is about the guideline amount and never had anything bad ever happen in life from the alcohol, never really felt guilty about drinking never felt one had to cut down or been embarrassed by the drinking... then... hard to say there's a problem if there isn't a problem.