People urged to check their feet for 'subtle' warning sign of liver disease

Massage of female feet. Pedicures. Isolated on white background.
-Credit: (Image: Staras/Getty)

People are being encouraged to inspect their feet for a potential sign of liver disease that could be easily overlooked. According to Dr Mindy Pelz, the condition of your foot's skin can say a lot about your overall health.

While rough skin on the feet is not unusual and could indicate a vitamin deficiency or use of ill-fitting footwear, it might also signal a more serious underlying issue. In a recent episode of the popular podcast, Diary Of A CEO, Dr Pelz suggested that dry and cracked skin could be an early warning sign of liver disease.

In a conversation with podcast host Steven Bartlett, the fasting and women's wellbeing expert advised that if you notice dry and cracked skin on your feet, it might be worth consulting your doctor. She explained: "Dry and cracking is showing that you're not getting proper circulation down to your feet.

"So it can be a possibility that the liver is not doing a good job of detoxing and getting toxins out... Your circulation isn't freely getting down to the bottom of your feet."

As Bartlett removed his sock to examine his own foot, he queried: "What is a sign that my liver is not healthy, looking at the bottom of my feet? " To which the doctor responded: "It's the real dry cracks."

The liver has four primary functions, including digestion, blood cleaning, immune support, and blood clotting. Warning signs of liver damage or failure often emerge when the liver is unable to perform these functions - symptoms can vary from person to person.

Individuals with chronic liver disease may experience, pruritus, also known as itchy skin. This itchiness can be localised to a specific area, such as the feet, or affect the entire body.

The skin in these areas may appear red and rough, with bumps or cracks. Scratching typically does not alleviate the discomfort, and the itching often intensifies at night, disrupting sleep.

Dry and cracked woman's heel on white background.
Look out for dry and cracked skin -Credit:Getty

However, dry and cracked heels could also indicate a deficiency in vitamin B3 or omega-3. The liver produces bile, which aids in the breakdown and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients.

If the liver is not functioning optimally, it may struggle to produce sufficient bile to extract these essential vitamins and nutrients. A deficiency in vitamin B3 could lead to pellagra, a condition characterised by diarrhoea, dermatitis, and dementia.

Food sources rich in vitamin B3 include: red meat like beef, beef liver, pork, poultry, fish, brown rice, fortified cereals and breads, nuts, seeds, legumes and bananas. While foods rich in omega-3 are: fish, oysters, sardines, anchovies, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans.

Severe dry skin could be a symptom of cirrhosis, resulting from the liver's inability to metabolise vitamin A, a vital nutrient for maintaining skin health. A 2021 study involving 125 participants diagnosed with cirrhosis found that 93.5% had a vitamin A deficiency.

Additional signs of poor liver function include jaundice, characterised by yellowing of the eyes and skin, swollen feet, fluid retention around your middle, sudden change in weight, red palms and decreased brain function.