Category Archives: hints & tips

Interesting links and notes that might help people with Gilbert’s Syndrome

Find out more about how Milk Thistle works. The effective ingredient is sylmarin, and you need enough of a dose for it to have an impact. Read more here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/138.html

Diet plays a really important part in managing your health and wellbeing, and especially in helping your liver. However, there is an industry out there just waiting to push the latest ‘superfood’ your way. NHS ‘Choices’ gives the latest lowdown on the claims and offers the evidence to counter / support them here

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The liver, the body’s largest solid organ, is responsible for detoxifying many of the potentially harmful substances that can pollute the body.

The liver also plays a critical role in many other body processes including energy production, digestion, and nutrient storage.

The cornerstone of any liver-friendly programme is a diet that makes relatively light work for this organ. The diet should contain an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Not only do these foods tend not to tax and stress the liver, they also contain an abundance of nutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene) which can support liver function.

Organic produce is best as this is relatively free of potentially toxic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.

Foods that contain artificial additives such as sweeteners, colourings, flavourings and preservatives should be also be minimised in the diet.

Drinking plenty of water (about one and-a-half to two litres a day) should also help to reduce toxicity in your body and help take the load off your liver.

In addition, you might also benefit from taking something to ‘strengthen’ your liver. Perhaps most widely used as a general liver tonic is the herb Milk thistle. This herb has a traditional use that dates back more than 2000 years.

The herb contains a complex of bioflavonoid molecules known collectively as silymarin. Silymarin appears to have the ability to protect the liver cells by reducing the take-up and enhancing the removal of harmful toxins.Try 200 mg of standardised extract of Milk thistle, twice a day, throughout the festive season.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-202018/Can-I-prepare-liver-Christmas-parties.html#ixzz2GcEQAheY

Detox diets and Gilbert’s Syndrome

I’ve been monitoring the ‘de-tox diet’ phenomenon for many years, and each year my scepticism grows. Avid marketers have spotted a desire for many people to find a solution to the modern malaise of feeling tired and sluggish, and there is a proliferation of products – powders / pills / soups /  excercises / regimes / books / websites / treatments etc that claim to help powerfully cleanse the body and leave you lighter, fresher, and generally bright eyed and bushy tailed.

However, on the one hand many run of the mill Doctors will tell you that the liver does a perfectly good job of dealing with toxins. On the other hand many people feel generally under par much of the time. Although I agree that the liver generally does an excellent job, some of us may need a wee bit more help for our liver to do the job we want it to.  Given the disadvantage that those with Gilbert’s Syndrome experience, with a reduced capacity to process certain toxins, it makes sense to me to look after my diet so that I can help my liver. But I don’t want to burden my body with the shock of suddenly changing my diet to all fruit or liquid or pureed broccoli or whatever. My message would be to make a lifestyle choice to ensure you feel better EVERY day.

So, what can we all agree on?  Well, water is good for you. Drink plenty of it. Alcohol may be ok in small quantities, but personally it makes me feel awful so I avoid it. Caffeine can mess up your blood sugar levels and so reduce your ability to maintain consistent energy, particularly because those with Gilbert’s Syndrome are lacking in an enzyme that needs stable blood sugar levels for it to work properly. Eat little and often to keep your energy up, but make sure you stick to wholefoods such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, crackers, jacket potatoes etc and plenty of vegetables and fruit and not high fat food. This will help you maintain a steady weight, not experience hunger pangs, as well as avoiding over burdening your liver with fat processing. Protein is supposed to help with extra energy. I avoid eating animals and animal products for environmental reasons as well as health and compassionate reasons, so my sources of protein tend to be marmite (full of an awesome range of vitamins), and nut butters, such as peanut butter and cashew butter (high in fat but replace margarine and used as my only source of fat– don’t rule it out completely as your body does need fat), avocado, hemp powder added to soups and dressings, plus lots of soya milk.

Star liver foods include: broccoli, garlic, turmeric, avocado, beetroot, apples, lemons, walnuts.

If you need caffeine then try swapping to green tea which is better at cleansing the liver, and more gentle to your system than coffee.

Don’t forget a little naughty treat is ok. But use it as a reward for staying generally more liver conscious and once a week rather than every day. I like the 80 / 20 rule – stay 80% within a good diet, then the other 20% ain’t so bad.

Helping you deal better with toxins

Good news! The de-tox process of the liver which won’t work as well for people with Gilbert’s Syndrome is called Glucuronidation and this process can be helped with Calcium D-Glucarate, glycine, magnesium, and b vitamins.

  • Calcium D Glucarate can be taken as tablets or capsules, but is also available in apples, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and bean sprouts.
  • Glycine is an amino acid and in high-protein foods, such as fish, meat, beans, milk, and cheese. Glycine is also available in capsule and powder forms, and as part of many combination amino acid supplements.
  • Spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are also rich in magnesium as they contain chlorophyll. Magnesium supplements are widely available and often with calcium and vitamin c which help its absorption. The best absorbed types of magnesium are citrate and malate, rather than the cheaper form of oxide.
  • B vitamins are available in many different foods (see the NHS website), but the easiest ways of accessing them are through yeast extracts such as Marmite, and fortified cereals.

So why not help yourself and make sure your diet contains a good balance of foods that may help your liver to work better.

Milk Thistle (Sylbum marianum )

The medicinal use of milk thistle can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome.  Today researchers around the world have completed more than 300 scientific studies that attest to the benefits of this herb, particularly in the treatment of liver ailments.

Common uses:

  •        Protects liver from toxins, including drugs, poisons and chemicals.
  •        Treats liver disorders such as cirrhosis and hepatitis
  •        Reduces liver damage from excessive alcohol.
  •        Aids in the treatment and prevention of gallstones
  •        Helps to clear psoriasis.

Forms : capsule, tablet, tincture.

What it is.

Know by its botanical name, Silybum marianum, as well as by its main active ingredient, sylmarin, milk thistle is a member of the sunflower family, with purple flowers and milky white leaf veins.  The herb blooms from June to August, and the shiny black seeds used for medicinal purposes are collected at the end of the summer.

What it does.

Milk thistle is one of the most extensively studied and document herbs in use today.  Scientific research continues to validate its healing powers, particularly for the treatment of liver-related disorders.  Most of its effectiveness stems from a complex of three liver-protecting compounds, collectively know as silymarin, which constitutes 4% to 6% of the ripe seeds.

Major benefits.

Among the benefits of milk thistle is its ability to fortify the liver, one of the body’s most important organs.  The liver processes nutrients, including fats and other foods.  In addition it neutralises, or detoxifies many drugs, chemical pollutants and alcohol.  Milk thistle helps to enhance and strengthen the liver by preventing the depletion of glutathione, an amino acid-like compound that is essential to the detoxifying process.  Moreover, studies have shown that it can increase glutathione concentration by up to 35%.  Milk thistle is an effective gatekeeper, limiting the number of toxins which the liver processes at any given time.  The herb is also a powerful antioxidant.  Even more potent than vitamins C and E, it helps to prevent damage from highly reactive free-radical molecules.  It promotes the regeneration of new liver cells which replace old and damaged one.  Milk thistle eases a range of serious liver ailments, including viral infections (hepatitis) and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).  The herb is so potent that it is sometimes given in an injectable form in hospital resuscitation rooms to combat the life-threatening, liver-obliterating effects of poisonous mushrooms.  In addition, because excessive alcohol depletes glutathione, milk thistle can aid in protecting the livers of alcoholics or those recovering from alcohol abuse.

 Additional benefits.

In cancer patients, milk thistle limits the potential for drug-induced damage to the liver after chemotherapy, and it speeds recovery by hastening the removal of toxic substances that can accumulate in the body.  The herb also reduces the inflammation and may slow the skin-cell proliferation associated with psoriasis.  It may be useful for endometriosis (the most common cause of infertility in women) because it helps the liver to process the hormone oestrogen, which at high levels can make pain and other symptoms worse.  Finally, milk thistle can be beneficial in preventing or treating gallstones by improving the flow of bile, the cholesterol-laden digestive juice that travels from the liver through the gall bladder and into the intestine, where it helps to digest fats.

How to take it.

Dosage :  The recommended dose for milk thistle is up to 200mg of standardised extract (containing 70% to 80% silymarin) three times a day; lower doses are often very effective.  It is often combined with other herbs and nutrients, such as dandelion, choline, methionine and inositol.  This combination may be labelled ‘liver complex’ or ‘lipotropic factors’.  For proper dosage follow the instructions on the packet.

Guidelines for use : Milk thistle extract seems most effective when taken between meals.  However, if you want to take the herb itself, a tablespoon of ground milk thistle can be sprinkled over breakfast cereal once daily.  Milk thistle’s benefits may be noticeable within a week or two.  The herb appears to be safe, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.  No interactions with other medications have been noted.

Possible side effects : Virtually no side effects have been attributed to the use of milk thistle which is considered one of the safest herbs on the market.  However in some people it may have a slight laxative effect for a day or two.

Buying guide.

To ensure you are getting the right dose buy products made from standardised extracts that contain 70% to 80% silymarin, milk thistle’s active ingredient. Studies show that preparations containing milk thistle bound to phosphatidylcholine, a constituent of the natural fatty compound lecithin, may be better absorbed than ordinary milk thistle.

When taking milk thistle to alleviate liver damage from excessive alcohol, avoid alcohol based tinctures as they can weaken the resolve to break the addiction.

Recent Findings.

Milk thistle may be a weapon in the fight against skin cancer.  Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, found that when the active ingredient, silymarin, was applied to the skin of mice, 75% fewer skin tumours resulted after the mice were exposed to ultra violet radiation.  More studies are needed to see if it has a similar effect in humans.

Final fact.

The components of milk thistle are not soluble in water, so teas made from the seeds usually contain few of the herb’s liver-protecting ingredients.

Gilbert’s Syndrome in Young People

It is possible that the reason for the syptoms of Gilbert’s Syndrome becoming obvious at puberty could be similar to the reason they can become more obvious at  the onset of the menopause – hormones.  One of the major roles of the liver is to process and metabolise hormones.

At the onset of puberty the hypothalamus (part of the brain) produces gonadotrophin-releasing hormone.  This stimulates the pituitary gland (also in the brain) to emit follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone.  In boys, when these hormones arrive at the testes they trigger production of testosterone.  This travels round the body and initiates puberty.  In girls when the follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone reach the ovaries they trigger the release of oestrogen and progesterone.  The oestrogen initiates puberty whilst the progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy.  This means there is a major shift in the balance of hormones in the body, which the liver has to process.

These hormonal changes have a huge effect on the whole person, from changes in the appearance of the body to mood swings, and also the emotional aspect of dealing with sudden bodily changes.  With the hormones having such a massive affect on anyone going through puberty it is not difficult to imagine that the changes stress the liver as well, making Gilbert’s Syndrome symptoms more obvious and harder to deal with along with everything else that is happening at this time.

For children and teenagers with Gilbert’s Syndrome it is an unfortunate reality that they have to be emotionally mature more quickly than others.  The key to controlling Gilbert’s Syndrome is to be sensible, which isn’t really what being a child or a teenager is all about.  It is possible to carry on with activitites and sports but this may have to be balanced off against other things.  The best way to do this and ensure that the syptoms of Gilbert’s Syndrome are not suffered, is not to stress the liver in any way.  The more controlled the lifestyle the more active it is possible be.

This responsibility will fall to parents in the case of younger children and may involve having to deny treats, in the form of food/drink and activities and possibly changing all of the famly’s diet.  Having said all that there is no major harm in occasional treats or late nights as long as it is understood and acknowledged that it may have an effect on energy.  More planning may be required as to when treats are given.

In some ways the earlier the diagnosis of Gilbert’s Syndrome the better the position to cope with it long term compared to someone who has lived in ignorance for years and has a lot of bad work to undo.  It may be useful to give the child as much information as they can  understand and explain that they are a bit different to peers in some ways, but its quite painlessly controlable compared to other differences (most children know someone with epilepsy/diabetes etc).

Here are some practical suggestions for older children or teenagers that I have found beneficial:-sleeping teenager

  • On school nights go to bed early but record any programmes you want to watch.  Then set aside Sunday afternoon to watch them– ensures early nights without missing out on anything and ensures a rest at the weekend.  Also, weekend omnibuses are a cracker!
  • do your homework as soon as you get in from school, maybe after a healthy snack, that way the hard stuff is done before you get too study when your energy levels are highesttired (meaning it’s done more quickly and to a better standard too) then whatever energy is left can be spent with friends or watching TV, whatever you enjoy doing, whilst ensuring there is no pressing reason not to have an early night.
  • Priorities – when I was at secondary school, even though we didn’t know about the Gilbert’s Syndrome, my parents felt my priority was my school work, as did I, and so I wasn’t expected to do anything around the house as long as I was working hard at school.  I also had my weekends and holidays to myself to relax and have fun.  Every child/teen’s priorities are different but if they are agreed, maybe concessions could be made in other areas.
  • During A levels (still undiagnosed with Gilbert’s Syndrome) I had a lot of time off 6th form, this may have been avoided had I known that, staying up late to get academic work done, whilst chugging gallons of coffee through the day and evening to try and keep me going, along with sugar hits here and there were actually making me less able to cope because I was majorly stresing my liver (and going clubbing and drinking at the weekends wasn’t helping either!).  If I had been aware of Gilbert’s Syndrome I could have done more work in free periods at school while I was still alert, had early nights, eaten healthily, gone out maybe every other weekend and avioded alcohol and sugary drinks.  This may have resulted in less time off school and better health.

I hope this article hasn’t made life with Gilbert’s Syndrome sound too difficult to deal with, everyone finds their own balance and in my own experience it’s worth the initial effort to change to a very healthy diet and think more about balancing activities and rest in order to feel more alive.

(by contributor Nicola Southworth)

The Liver Fortifying Diet

The liver fortifying diet:

Cut down on the alcohol, salt, caffeine, tobacco, medication, sugar, and fat and stock up on these goodies.  Your liver will love you.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins C and E and minerals zinc and selenium are ‘antioxidants’ shown to aid liver healing. Sources include carrots, tomatoes, peppers, watercress, citrus fruits, berries, wholegrains seeds and oils.

B vitamins and choline are found in egg yolks, liver, legumes and brewer’s yeast and can help liver function.  Make sure your diet contains plenty of green leafy veg rich in folic acid, wholegrains and shellfish rich in vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 foods such as fortified cereals, seafood and seaweed.

 Cruciferous Veg.

Members of the cabbage family have been shown to activate the liver’s cytochrome P450 detoxification process and glutathione conjugation.  In plain English – a process that converts fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble ones, more easy for your body to get rid of.

broccoli cauliflower cabbage

food good for Gilbert's Syndrome

Try include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, radish, brussel sprouts and cabbage in your diet.

Sulphur rich foods.

Garlic, onions, eggs and legumes are rich in sulphur.  They can enhance the sulphuration detoxification process performed by the liver.

Detoxing superfoods.

You should add red fruits, berries, beetroot, and grapes to your diet, as these all help the liver to detoxify and are high in toxin fighting anthrocyanidines.  Papayas and pineapple contain useful enzymes to improve digestion and lemons have a strong cleansing effect.

Helpful Herbs.

Milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric and liquorice have all been shown to aid liver function.  Ginger is also an excellent cleanser.

Good Protein.

The liver needs protein to repair itself, and a diet high in protein gives some people with Gilbert’s Syndrome more energy.  Choose healthy alternatives to red meat such as fish, nuts, pulses and seeds as they are easier to break down and place less of a burden on your liver.

Water.

Once your liver has removed the toxins from your body, you must flush them out of your body.  The only way to do this is to drink lots of water.  Three pints or eight glasses a day minimum!  Although you may find this no problem as some sufferers have expressed how thirsty they seem these days.

itchy skin

Do you find a side of effect of your GS is itchy skin?  A lot of us experience it.  One suggestion why this might happen is that your skin, as the bodies 2nd largest detoxification organ after your liver, is trying to help your ailing liver in the detox process.  Here’s a couple of tips that might help – 1) Skin brushing before your morning shower or bath helps to stimulate circulation and encourage detoxification.  Brush towards your heart using firm strokes. 2) If you’ve over indulged and your liver is struggling, swapping your morning-after coffee with a cup of nettle or dandelion tea will replace lost minerals and support your liver’s detoxification process.