What’s wrong with my liver?! What is this Gilbert’s Syndrome?!
A French Dr Gilbert discovered Gilbert’s Syndrome in the early 1900’s and so it was named after him. There’s a technical name for it too : ‘Unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia’, but that just describes how it works in medical words.
You have Gilbert’s Syndrome because you have a gene that is different from most people’s (mutated). The gene is called: uridine-diphosphate – glucuronosyltransferase, which which means you’ve got less of the enzyme (called UGT for short) that is linked to it. An enzyme is a chemical substance in your body that causes a chemical reaction to happen. Because you have less of this UGT stuff your body works slightly differently from most people’s. Ta da ! Gilbert’s Syndrome symptoms! Here are some of the Gilbert’s Syndrome symptoms you might recognise:
Gilbert’s Syndrome and Jaundice –
Red blood cells release ‘bilirubin’ into the bloodstream, which the liver should pick up and convert to bile, and then flush from the body. In Gilbert’s Syndrome, without the enzyme needed to do this properly, the bilirubin builds up and and can make you look yellow. It’s also key in diagnosing Gilbert’s Syndrome, through blood tests which identify fluctuating levels of bilirubin in the blood. Gilbert’s Syndrome is also known by this symptom as Unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia.
Gilbert’s Syndrome and toxins –
Parts of the liver, called the ‘Phase II’ pathways, process certain toxins, for example: pollution; chemical fumes; and chemicals in some drugs. This process, called glucuronidation, has been reported to be 31% slower in the typical person with Gilbert’s Syndrome. Numerous studies have shown various drugs are processed less well by people with Gilbert’s Syndrome.
Many of the resulting symptoms of our liver’s reduced ability to do the cleaning it’s designed to – jaundice, nausea, fatigue, shakiness, bowel complaints, vomiting, ‘brain-fog’ or difficulty concentrating, are experienced in varying degrees by those with Gilbert’s Syndrome.
Doing some particular things may make these symptoms worse, by placing extra stress on your liver. Missing meals, lack of sleep, vigorous exercise, illness and stress can all bring on the symptoms.
Most important in keeping your liver working as well as possible is keeping your blood sugar level stable. This is because the enzyme we don’t have much of uses sugar to help get rid of the toxins it is supposed to deal with. We can also fool the liver into making more of the enzyme by eating certain foods and diet and Gilbert’s Syndrome is important in managing your symptoms.