Fatigue – or how can I boost my energy?

As many as one in five people feel fatigued at any time. If you’ve been feeling exhausted then you’ll want to know: Why am I so tired all the time; how can I get more energy?

Fatigue – what is it?

Fatigue is a symptom of many health conditions and life circumstances. Technically fatigue is one or more of these:

  • Overwhelming exhaustion that lingers beyond a good night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness and a lack of motivation to move about that doesn’t go away if you rest
  • A limiting lack of energy that prevents you from getting normal tasks done
  • Feeling like your muscles are too heavy and moving about takes energy you don’t have
  • Foggy achy head, finding it difficult to think or concentrate
  • Apathy and disinterest – everything feels too much

If you feel like this for more than a few days, for a reason that’s not clear, then you must see your doctor.

Is fatigue common?

Yes! Numerous studies across different populations show fatigue is common. You can find many studies, such as this one https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5557471/ which illustrate that women tend to report fatigue more than men, and those of lower socioeconomic status also experience more fatigue. Across populations it appears above 20% of people report fatigue. 

What causes fatigue?

Excessive tiredness can be caused by simple or serious health conditions. Common deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have tiredness as a symptom. There are many life circumstances which can leave you feeling exhausted. Let’s look at a few in more detail:

Life Stage : A new baby, a new job, grief or a crisis, moving house, caring responsibilities, overwork, stress at home or in the workplace.

Medical conditions: commonly, as you can see on the NHS website, and the Mayo Clinic , conditions causing fatigue include diabetes, depression, cancer, thyroid, coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, liver problems, MS, hormonal changes, heart disease and sleep apnoea, and so many more. This is why it is so important to receive a diagnosis if you experience fatigue which doesn’t let up over time. 

Deficiencies: Iron deficiency (experienced by many women with heavy or prolonged periods), Vitamin D deficiency (common if you live in the northern hemisphere where we aren’t exposed to strong sunlight which generates vitamin D), magnesium (particularly common in women), and an imbalance in good nutrition generally. Some people have metabolic conditions which prevent them from absorbing nutrients well and this can result in multiple deficiencies.

Poor choice of foods which attack energy levels: Food high in sugar or refined carbohydrates provide instant energy. Your body will then have a crash in blood sugar which will make you feel exhausted. Wholegrains, plant based proteins, and wholefoods containing natural sugars will balance your energy levels and make you feel a whole lot better. A high intake of caffeine may also leave you struggling later in the day. (For more about the pro’s and cons of caffeine read this).

A combination of the above!

Unpicking the causes of your fatigue is really important. You must rule out serious health problems, working with your Dr.

Does Gilbert’s Syndrome cause fatigue?

For people with Gilbert’s Syndrome lack of energy is a really commonly reported symptom. I hear all the time from people desperate with debilitating exhaustion, with energy levels that are unpredictable.

There are a number of reasons why people with Gilbert’s Syndrome may feel exhausted. 

  • Reduced liver function. If you eat highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread or sugary things, your blood sugar will rise and fall a lot. This means the enzyme we’re deficient in cannot work as well as it needs blood sugar. The result is your liver won’t do its cleaning job effectively and certain toxins and bilirubin will build up in your body. Typically feelings of exhaustion, jaundice, itching and nausea are reported. You may feel a bit like you have a persistent hangover.  Of course consuming toxins may add to that effect, eg alcohol.
  • Delayed gastric emptying. Food takes longer to leave your stomach if you have Gilbert’s Syndrome. I’m sure many recognise the abdominal discomfort that entails! This has been linked to fatigue .  It is also worth noting that it is also linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Which itself has often been linked to Gilbert’s Syndrome.
  • Excess serotonin. People with Gilbert’s Syndrome have defective processing of certain neurotransmitters (chemicals that send messages around the brain and nervous system). This can lead to raised levels of Serotonin for example, which is linked to feelings of lethargy and lack of motivation as well as anxiety.

How do I get more energy?

Assuming you don’t have a particular condition or issue that is causing you to feel exhausted, then there are four simple foundations to build your energy on

  1. Good Nutrition
  2. Exercise 
  3. Good Sleep
  4. Mental resilience

The great thing about these four things is that they support each other. 

Eat well and be properly nourished and you’ll exercise better and get better sleep. Better sleep will help you be mentally resilient and give you more muscle energy for exercise. Exercise will help you be more mentally resilient etc etc 

  1. Good Nutrition. A plant based whole food diet has been overwhelmingly shown to provide you with the most sustained energy, lifespan and wellbeing. Eating a variety of plants, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains will ensure you don’t need any vitamin supplements. With all food patterns you need to make sure you aren’t missing anything out. For vegans that means ensuring you get Vitamin B12. Things that will suck your energy and not enhance your wellbeing include refined sugar, other refined and processed foods. If you want the ultimate nutrition facts then dig in here nutritionfacts.org and buy the book ‘How not to die’ . I offer other thoughts on foods to eat here https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/the-liver-diet/ https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/detox-diets-and-gilberts-syndrome/ https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/sesame-magic-for-your-liver/ The How Not to Die cookbook has lots of tasty recipes and you can see from the reviews that many readers report increased energy.
  2. Exercise should ideally be a mix of activities that raise your heart rate and which challenge your posture and muscles both in terms of flexibility and density. Walking briskly combined with pilates (plenty free videos on youtube) are simple cost free and energising. If you aren’t up to a great deal of exercise, then just start with walking a small distance and build up. Even standing up for a while engages muscles. Adding in exercise is something that needs to become a habit or you won’t stick to it. Stand up whilst you are on the phone or watching a favourite programme, take a 20 minute walk at lunchtime, do squats in the shower or whilst brushing your teeth, dance to a favourite song for 5 minutes when you get home from work. Every bit of movement is helping you stay fit and well.
  3. Good quality sleep is vital. Research shows that our circadian rhythm (our body clock) is really important to when we feel awake and when we sleep well. Just making sure your bedroom is really dark can make a big difference to your body clock. Getting plenty of light in the morning will also help you feel alert and awake during the day and sleep better in the morning. There are lots of ways to deal with bad sleep – which I won’t go into here. It’s enough to say that regular sleep hours in a dark room without interruption are fundamental to good quality sleep. There are many books on the subject. Try the popular ‘Sleep Smarter’ by Shawn Stevenson  
  4. Mental resilience is a quality many of us feel we could develop more. It enables you to put the ups and downs of life into perspective. With mental resilience you will better cope when something bad happens in your day or your life, and will worry less about it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t worry, be upset, grieve or be without feelings. It means you can do those natural things and then move on in time. If you want to understand more about living without anxiety you can buy ‘The Anxiety Solution’ by Chloe Brotheridge or find resources at www.calmer-you.com and Chloe’s podcast. You can also find out more about mental resilience and ‘grit’ here https://positivepsychology.com/5-ways-develop-grit-resilience/ Another great way to build up your mental resilience is through meditation. If it isn’t something you have considered or have found difficult in the past, then you could try these simple and effective tools from Mind Cards:

If you are doing the right things and are still feeling fatigued then you really need your doctor’s help to look into underlying medical conditions. 

Your personal biology will need a personalised response so that it works the best way it can for you and your circumstances. 

Sometimes this may mean prescription medication or balancing up other elements of your nutrition, supplements or lifestyle. 

Beating fatigue in Gilbert’s Syndrome

So, let’s take a look at what this might mean if you have Gilbert’s Syndrome. As mentioned, there are specific reasons you’ll feel fatigued. Everyone with Gilbert’s Syndrome will have other things going on for them too – other chronic conditions, lifestyle or life stage issues, hormonal changes etc. This means that some things may work some of the time and you may need to adjust because of what is going on for you right now. 

What you put in is key to what you get out

Many people with Gilbert’s Syndrome steer clear of alcohol as it really messes with their wellbeing and energy levels. You may want to consider this for other chemicals and potential toxins to lighten the load on your liver. This would mean a plant based wholefood diet which avoids processed and refined foods. Ideally organic! Particularly good foods include broccoli, nuts and seeds. https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/the-liver-diet/ . Keep it low in refined sugar and make sure to include limited good fats of plant origin. 

Drinking plenty of water will also ensure you stay hydrated and support the removal of toxins from your body. 

Eat little and often. For a couple of reasons. 

1) to maintain stable blood sugar levels 

2) with delayed gastric emptying a large meal will make you feel uncomfortable and make it harder to move about. 

This isn’t an excuse to pack in more food, unless that means eating more vegetables! Look at what you would like to eat over the day or week and portion it out. If you do it ahead of time you won’t have to think about it. 

Antidepressants in the form of SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) can help for some people. If you feel your anxiety or low mood are overwhelming then you must speak to your doctor and get their advice and diagnosis. These are also prescribed for IBS (again, something that people with Gilbert’s Syndrome have a high rate of) and may be a useful treatment option to consider – in dialogue with your doctor. This may improve your sleep, mental resilience and energy levels. However, as some people with Gilbert’s Syndrome may have raised levels of serotonin, as mentioned above, then you need to be cautious of side effects. Some brands may work better than others.

Supplements. Extra ingredients that can give you a boost or added support to your system are basically just plants in powdered form in a capsule. Some of the supplements offering additional energy balancing and support include types of ginseng, rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha etc available at Approved Vitamins and have been used safely for thousands of years. I list some supplements you can try in the Resources section. https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/resources/

I use rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha and have seen an impressive improvement in my ability to function. I occasionally add in gotu kola towards the end of the week or if I’ve not had a great night’s sleep, or have extra physical or mental demands. It works like a really gentle caffeine that doesn’t have the come-down effects.

Some people find caffeine works well at the right points of the day – find out more about caffeine here and let us know how it makes you feel https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/gilberts-syndrome-and-caffeine/

Sleep appears to be a really important factor in feeling well, when you have Gilbert’s Syndrome. A good 8 hours can make a world of difference. Some of the supplements I mention above can help sleep. Follow the suggestions in the four foundations section above. Resist the temptation to lie in bed and doze or rest without sleep. This won’t help you sleep later. Keep bed for specific night time hours if you can, and keep your sleep routine and hours regular. Being active during the day will help you sleep better later.

Anxiety can stop you sleeping and suck your energy whilst awake. If it’s overwhelming then seek help from your Dr. I mention Chloe Brotheridge’s work above, but also Mind and other websites have many pointers for help. Mindfulness is a well founded technique for calming your mind and should guarantee better sleep and more energy. You can find some free apps here. As mentioned above, these are also a really simple and effective tool to help try mediation:

I’d really like to hear what your experience is. If you follow the lifestyle above has it changed your energy levels? I found becoming vegan, eating plant based, adding in supplements and building mental resilience transformed my energy levels. What’s worked for you? Please comment. 

Remember – many people feel fatigued. There are basic principles to seize more energy. Plus – there’s the magic ingredient of you and your physiology to consider. Get medical support where needed, and understand your health conditions. You’ll then be in control of your energy and your life. 

Sesame – magic for your liver!

Can you take a moment to help with a survey on caffeine use? It won’t take a minute or two and the information could help us all live better with Gilbert’ Syndrome.

These small seeds pack a protein punch and produce more oil than most nuts or seeds. They bundle in calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin B1. Sesame seeds have properties that protect the liver, reduce inflammation and pain, level out blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. They are purported to be anti-cancer, anti-aging, and are antioxidant. 

A 2013 study by researchers from the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences reported that 40 grams of sesame seeds were better than Tylenol when it came to alleviating the pain caused by knee arthritis.’

Wow! With that much going on – why not get the wok out and start stir frying with a dash of sesame seed oil, ginger, garlic and some sliced veg right now! 

Studies indicate that sesame could be a ‘hepatoprotectant’ or liver protector. 

So what does sesame do?

Your liver faces stresses from toxins all around us: pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fumes and particulates in the environment, additives in food and overindulging in alcohol or other toxic stimulants and relaxants. It seems that sesame could be a much needed support for the liver, struggling with modern toxic impacts.

The technical bit: sesame maintains levels of glutathione (a potent antioxidant), reducing free radicals and inhibiting the oxidation of fats. (Antioxidants fight free radicals which damage the cells of your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced because of environmental pressures on your system). 

So, in more straightforward terms – sesame helps the good stuff in your body fight off the damage to your body caused by those toxins that we’re swallowing and surrounded by. 

Sesame also appears to be safe for you. As sesame can change blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure, then do be careful if you have diabetes or already low blood pressure. 

If you want to protect your liver, boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, reduce cancer risk and boost vital nutrients, then adding sesame into your diet is a great choice. Tahini (sesame seed paste) and sesame seed oil, as well as the seeds themselves, are available in all supermarkets, and can be used in cooking, spread on toast, added to dressings, used to make hummus, stir frys and so much more. 

To buy :

For recipes try this : ‘the magic of tahini’
Whilst you’re at The Vegan Kind Supermarket, you can stock up on these store cupboard essentials:

Meridian organic sesame oil 
Suma organic sesame seeds 
Al Fez tahini

Or from Amazon: Hatton Hill 1kg of sesame seeds

For more resources, food and supplements go here: https://gilbertssyndrome.org.uk/resources/

Sources:

https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/sesame-oil-may-heal-liver-damage

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1514/sesame

Hack your liver to improve your mental health

We’re all talking more about mental health and that’s really important for people with liver conditions. Liver condition or not – looking after your liver and your mental health will lead to a happier healthier life. 

There’s a ton of evidence that liver disease relates to mental health:

These are serious clinical problems, but whether or not you have a liver condition,  if you aren’t looking after the organ that cleans all the rubbish out of your system (yes, that’s your liver), then you will feel like the bottom of a well used cat litter tray!

This is a two-sided coin – look after one and the other improves. Great! That means you’ve twice the opportunity to feel better. 

There are signs that your liver is stressed, and you should always go to your doctor if you experience jaundice, aches and pains, digestive problems, fatigues, darker urine, mood swings, weight loss, etc https://pharmeasy.in/blog/7-signs-you-suffer-from-liver-stress/

I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice, this information is from research I’ve linked to (if you want to dig deeper) and curated with additional resources from well regarded books by scientists, doctors and other reputable authors. Links to those books will give me a small commission if you choose to make a purchase – just so we’re clear 😊

Diet

Everything you eat or drink passes through your liver – so let’s start there. 

Alcohol is a well known liver toxin. It’s also an emotional crutch and widely abused. You feel bad so you drink more, it harms your liver, you feel worse, you drink more – it’s a vicious downward spiral. Any alcohol will stress the liver, and if you have a liver condition it will do so even more. If you want to save your liver, and your mental health, save the alcohol for never if you have a liver condition, or in moderation if you are otherwise healthy. Here’s more on that:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad#section15

Good food feels great! There are tons of wonderful foods that will help your liver and you feel great! Eat more of the good things and you will also keep a healthy weight which will prevent you from getting a fatty liver too.

Some of the foods that work best for supporting the liver include broccoli (and other ‘cruciferous’ veg such as cabbage, cauliflower and radishes), avocados, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, fruits (apples, lemons, grapefruits) and nuts (Nuts are a good source of glutathione, omega-3 fatty acids that help the liver evacuate ammonia, the substance responsible for certain diseases. They also promote blood oxygenation https://www.myliverexam.com/en/detoxification-some-food-to-cleanse-your-liver/), garlic and turmeric. If you eat healthy food I guarantee you’ll feel better all round. I’m vegan and totally advocate for a completely plant based diet if you want to feel great, full of energy and bright-eyed (yup, helps with the jaundice). You can find out more about food and diets in the books below. 

Sugar – sorry, but it really does make you feel rubbish. Especially if you have a liver condition, such as Gilbert’s Syndrome, your liver will work better if you have a steady blood sugar level https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390583/. This is because the chemicals used by liver processes need steady blood sugar levels to be able to work. Plus, your liver does the hard work in managing your blood sugar levels when they’re high or you need to draw on energy for your muscles http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2012/feb/the-liver-s-role-how-it-processes-fats-and-carbs.html Too much sugar means your liver bgins to store it as fat and ultimately damages the liver. Keeping steady blood sugar levels can be achieved by  eating little and often, and not going long periods without food, plus not relying on high sugar snacks when you feel lethargic. For those of us with liver conditions who have trained their body to love good food just looking at a piece of cake can make me feel sick. If it’s a real treat for you though, don’t deny yourself completely, just don’t make it a daily crutch that keeps you on the uphill treadmill of feeling knackered and rough. 

Read this :

Oh my gosh – Dr Greger is just the most-evidenced expert in nutrition I have ever come across. Honestly, this should be your bible for living a healthy life and feeling great. It’s so persuasive you will be completely convinced and so much more likely to stick to a healthy way of eating: How Not To Die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease by Dr Michael Greger

The Dalai Lama and Daily Mail both think Dr Greger is on the money!

This book may help those who are susceptible to illnesses that can be prevented with proper nutrition. — His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dr Michael Greger reveals the foods that will help you live longer, Daily Mail

Get the cookbook to go with it: The How Not To Die Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease

#BOSH! Healthy Vegan: Over 80 brand-new recipes with less fat, less sugar and more taste. As seen on ITV’s ‘Living on the Veg’ by Henry Firth, Ian Theasby

Healing Through Nutrition: The Essential Guide to 50 Plant-Based Nutritional Sources by Eliza Savage

Mental wellbeing

There are so many resources that can help your mental health. The less stressed you are the better your liver will work too. ‘Growing scientific evidence has demonstrated the detrimental effects of psychosocial stress on liver diseases in humans and animals ’http://www.ijcem.com/files/ijcem0089076.pdf https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16460474/

You can get pretty much instant results from some simple activities, and longer term calm through regular practice. 

Breathing deeply and slowly has a powerful impact on your nervous system. You feel calm instantly! https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/ways-relieve-stress/

Be kind – just do one kind thing, and your brain actually produces happy hormones! https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind

Meditation has been clinically proven to alter your brain for the better, https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-depression#how-to-try-it

Exercise – a total liver/brain/body hack. Fortunately you don’t have to be a gym bunny or have an olympian body to do this one. Just get outside for a half hour stroll every day for starters. Yes, you WILL feel better. 

Here are some resources to check out to explore this one further. Find what works for you and your lifestyle:

Read this :

The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Chloe Brotheridge is trained in so many disciplines and has a hungry mind for finding ways to live more calmly and confidently. Check out her website and podcasts, at calmer-you.com and buy her book The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You

These are books by scientists who use proven methods to improve your mental wellbeing –

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Includes Free CD with Guided Meditations) by Professor Mark Williams, and Dr Danny Penman

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive by Dr Kristin Neff, a world leading expert in this field

Other resources:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/self-care-for-anxiety/

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/treatments-for-anxiety/anxiety-management-strategies

Meditation and mindfulness websites https://www.calm.com/ / https://www.headspace.com/

For young people https://youngminds.org.uk/

For men https://www.thecalmzone.net/

If you need more help, then you can try these helplines and websites

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Extra Science bit for people with Gilbert’s Syndrome

People with Gilbert’s Syndrome may experience anxiety and IBS / gut symptoms. Findings that may explain this are the relationship between serotonin levels in the blood and your brain / gut. There’s a tendency for people with Gilbert’s Syndrome to have too much serotonin in the blood – something called hyperserotoninaemia http://www.hormones.gr/759/article/non-tumoral-hyperserotoninaemia-responsive-to-octreotide%E2%80%A6.html

Anxiety is a common reported symptom of Gilbert’s Syndrome.At the molecular level, recently emerging data have established the increased frequency of dual genetic polymorphisms in UDP glucuronosyl-transferases 1A1 and 1A6 in approximately 87% of patients with Gilbert’s syndrome, leading to defective glucuronidation not only of bilirubin but of several other endogenous and exogenous substrates, such as serotonin, coumarin and dopamine derivatives.7,8

Increased serotonin levels have been reported in patients with Gilbert’s syndrome, suggesting a possible explanation for the nonspecific symptoms described in these patients that are commonly attributed to anxiety.9,10’

There are also studies showing that this and ‘unconjugated bilirubin’ (associated with Gilbert’s Syndrome) may be more evident in people with bi-polar disorder, autism and schizophrenia. In fact people with those conditions are also more likely to have Gilbert’s Syndrome. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16736395/ https://questioning-answers.blogspot.com/2014/05/neonatal-jaundice-and-risk-of-autism.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5924810/

So, if you’re more likely to have problems with your mental health, then it’s really important to look after yourself. Following the advice above and keeping to a healthy diet, exercise and mental wellbeing routine will absolutely help you lead a better life with Gilbert’s Syndrome.

Because your support helps keep this research and website alive, please donate today:

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

Find ordinary household paints make you feel unwell? I’ve been using these for years and they are brilliant! www.ecosorganicpaints.co.uk Odourless, solvent free, totally non-toxic.

Liver help – the basics

The liver is the body’s largest solid organ. It 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.

What will help my liver?

The cornerstone of any liver-friendly programme is a diet that makes it easier for your liver to work. Lots of fruits and vegetables will help you and your liver work better.

Not only do these foods tend not to tax and stress the liver, they also contain an lots 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.

Drinking plenty of water (about one and-a-half to two litres a day) really helps your body and your liver work well.

What won’t help my liver?

Foods that contain artificial additives such as sweeteners, colourings, flavourings and preservatives might cause your liver more problems.

People with Gilbert’s Syndrome often find that drinking alcohol gives them symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and jaundice. Alcohol is hard for your liver to process and the less you drink the less stressed your liver will be. Watch out for hidden alcohol! You might find some herbal tinctures or food contains alcohol – worth avoiding if you are particularly sensitive.

You might also find fatty food makes you feel sick, and carbohydrates like sugar and white bread or pasta leave you drained and feeling rough. In Gilbert’s Syndrome you need to keep balanced blood sugar levels to help your enzymes work as well as possible (check out ‘What is Gilbert’s Syndrome’ for an explanation), so refined carbs are best avoided.

Recipes for your liver

BETTER than a sandwich!

For a quick boost try the following super tasty liver loving lunch:

Quick pitta lunch

Wholemeal pitta bread, sliced open, spread with humous or tahini, add slices of avocado, a handful of watercress and spinach, and season with a dash of lemon juice, salt and black pepper. For extra nutrition and yumminess add sesame seeds or pine nuts or sunflower seeds. Scrumptious.

Wow! Tasty, quick POWER salad.

Puy lentil salad with soy beans, sugar snap peas & broccoli

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 200.0g Puy lentils
  • 1.0l hot vegetable stock
  • 200.0g tenderstem broccoli
  • 140.0g frozen soya beans , thawed
  • 140.0g sugarsnap peas
  • 1 red chilli , deseeded and sliced

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove , chopped
  • 40.0ml reduced-salt soy sauce
  • 3cm piece fresh root ginger , finely grated
  • 1 tbsp clear honey

 Boil lentils in stock until just cooked, about 15 mins. Drain, then tip into a large bowl.

  1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, throw in the broccoli for 1 min, add the beans and peas for 1 min more. Drain, then cool under cold water. Pat dry, then add to the bowl with the lentils.
  2. Mix together the dressing ingredients with some seasoning.
  3. Pour over the lentils and veg, then mix in well with the chopped chilli. Pile onto a serving platter or divide between 4 plates and serve.

Per serving

302 kcalories, protein 22.0g, carbohydrate 42.0g, fat 7.0 g, saturated fat 1.0g, fibre 8.0g, sugar 9.0g, salt 1.41 g

Recipe from Good Food magazine.

Day or night, alone or with friends – tasty goodness.

Avocado and black bean wraps

Serves 4 for a filling meal, or halve the quantities and serve with a leafy salad for a lighter lunch.

Ingredients

  • 8 wholemeal wraps (in world food isle with Mexican stuff, or in bakery section)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves , chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 5 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 3 x 400g cans black beans , rinsed and drained
  • choose a few toppings-  diced avocado, salsa, sliced jalapeño peppers
  • crème fraîche / yoghurt or Tabasco / hot pepper sauce, to serve

Serve with green salad, sliced tomatoes, or green beans and sweetcorn.

  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 5 mins.
  2. Add the spices, vinegar and honey. Cook for 2 mins more.
  3. Add the beans and some salt / pepper, and heat through.
  4. Remove from the heat and mash the beans gently with the back of your spoon to a chunky purée.
  5. Spread some beans over wraps, scatter with your choice of toppings and add a spoonful of crème fraîche / yoghurt to cool down, or a splash of Tabasco / hot pepper sauce to spice it up.
  6. Roll up and YUM!

Sin free sinning!

This wonderful recipe is from a very good friend:

Fat free fudgy wudgy brownies

Preheat the oven to 180C

Dry ingredients:

¾ cup of wholemeal flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup white flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup Demerara sugar (or brown sugar)

¾ cup broken walnuts (optional)

Handful dark chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Wet ingredients:

1 ½ cups black beans (one tin drained and rinsed well)

1 cup pitted medjool dates (this can be anywhere from 7-10 dates depending on their size, or just use ordinary dried dates if you don’t want to fork out for medjool)

¼ cup maple syrup (or date syrup, which is particularly tasty, or indeed any other kind of syrup)

Whiz the wet ingredients together in a food processor until completely smooth.

Then add:

1 TB balsamic vinegar (or cider vinegar)

3 tsp instant coffee (optional but enhances the flavour)

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 TB flax meal (ground flax seeds) or other ground seeds such as hemp powder

1 cup water

Whiz that all up until it is smooth, then mix in with the dry ingredients.

Spoon into a greased 9×12 or 9×13 pan.

Bake for 14 minutes then take the pan out and rotate it and put it back in for another 14 minutes. Test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. If not put it in for 2 more minutes.

Let cool before you slice. Slice it into 16 brownies-4 by 4.

Store in an airtight tin. I think they taste better the next day. Yum!

 

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 your liver deal better with toxins

Good news! The detox 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.

The Liver Diet

Think Raw
Eat plentiful amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and orange, yellow, purple and red colored fruits and vegetables. Thirty to forty percent of the diet should consist of raw fruits and vegetables. Try to eat some raw fruits or vegetables with EVERY meal as they contain living enzymes, vitamin C, natural antibiotic substances and anti-cancer phytonutrients.

Oil but Don’t Grease Your Body
Avoid the fats that present a high workload for the liver and gall bladder. These are full-cream dairy products, margarines, processed vegetable oils (hydrogenated fats), deep fried foods, foods that are not fresh and contain rancid fats, preserved meats, animal skins and fatty meats. In those with a dysfunctional liver, I recommend avoiding all animal milks and substituting them with oat, rice, almond or soymilks. Eat the “good fats” which contain essential fatty acids in their natural unprocessed form.

These are found in cold pressed vegetable and seed oils, avocados, fish (especially oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, sablefish, flounder, trout, bass and mackerel), shrimp, prawns and crayfish, raw fresh nuts, raw fresh seeds such as flaxseeds (linseeds), sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, alfalfa seeds, pumpkin seeds and legumes (beans, peas and lentils). Seeds such as flaxseeds can be ground freshly everyday (in a regular coffee grinder or food processor) and can be added to cereals, smoothies, fruit salads and vegetables. Spirulina, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, borage oil and lecithin also contain healthy oils to help the liver. Do not use butter and/or margarine on your breads and crackers. Replace them with tahini, humus, pesto, tomato paste or relish, freshly minced garlic and cold pressed oil (chilli or other natural spices can be added if enjoyed), nut-spreads, fresh avocado, cold pressed olive oil or honey. The good fats are essential to build healthy cell membranes around the liver cells. As we get older we need to “oil” our bodies and not “grease” our bodies.

Think Natural
Avoid artificial chemicals and toxins such as insecticides, pesticides, and artificial sweeteners and colorings, (especially aspartame), flavorings and preservatives. Excess alcohol, particularly spirits, should be avoided.

Be Diverse
Consume a diverse range of proteins from grains, raw nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, seafood, and if desired, free range chicken (without the skin), and lean fresh red meats. If you do not want to eat red meat or poultry this is quite acceptable as there are many other sources of protein. It is safe to be a strict vegetarian, however you may need to take supplements of vitamin B 12, iron, taurine and carnitine to avoid poor metabolism and fatigue. To obtain first class protein, strict vegetarians need to combine 3 of the following 4 food classes at one meal – grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, otherwise valuable essential amino acids may be deficient. If your body is lacking amino acids you will be fatigued and you may suffer with mood changes, reduced cognitive function, hypoglycaemia, poor immune and liver function and hair loss. I have met many strict vegans who felt unwell because they were lacking amino acids, iron and vitamin B 12, and after supplementing with these nutrients and modifying their diets they quickly regained excellent health.

Let Food Be Your Medicine
Many diseases can be overcome by eating healing foods that contain powerful medicinal properties. Optimal health and the prevention of disease is only possible by including these healing foods regularly in the diet. The healing substances found in certain foods or therapeutically active chemicals are known as phytochemicals. The culinary habits of different cultures have been recognised for decades as being influential in the incidence of diseases. Mediterranean countries have a lower prevalence of cardiovascular diseases because of the protective effect of traditional Mediterranean foods, such as olive oil, tomatoes and legumes. Broccoli and other vegetables in the cruciferous family are known to reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but it is only recently that scientists have isolated the phytochemicals which confer this protection. Broccoli has been found to contain a phytochemical called sulphoraphane, which enhances the phase two-detoxification pathway in the liver.

Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which according to a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1997:66:116-22), is the most powerful of all the dietary carotenoids. The researchers found that the dietary intake of lycopene was linked to a lower risk of prostate problems. They also found that higher levels of lycopene in the blood lowered the risk of cell proliferation, which would theoretically exert a powerful anti-cancer effect. Cooking or chopping tomatoes increases the absorption of lycopene into the body. Cooking tomatoes in oil increases the availability of the lycopene to the body, which is another reason that Mediterranean cuisine confers health benefits.

Beetroot is a beautiful deep purple colour because it contains the antioxidant anthocyanidin. Constituents of beetroot have been shown to exert anti-viral and anti-tumour effects in animal studies. Other foods, which also exert these properties, although to a lesser degree, are red and green peppers, red onion skins, paprika and cranberry. These foods contain healing phytonutrients such as carotenoids, capsanthin and anthocyanins.

Certain foods have high concentrations of plant hormones, which are known as phytoestrogens. Examples of these are the isoflavones genistein and daidzein (found in soya beans and red clover), and lignans (found in flaxseed). Asian communities consume a high intake of soy (approximately 25 – 50 grams daily), and have a significantly lower incidence of hormone dependent cancers of the prostate, uterus and breast. All legumes such as beans, peas and lentils contain beneficial phytoestrogens.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1990, looked at a group of postmenopausal women who were given 45 grams of soy flour for 2 weeks, followed by 25 grams of flaxseed meal for 2 weeks, and then 10 grams of red clover sprouts. This produced improvements in various blood hormone levels and menopausal symptoms.
Asian and Mediterranean cuisines are now integrating themselves into the old fashioned Western diet consisting of meat, bread and 4 vegetables. This culinary multiculturalism has enormous and proven benefits for our health and also for our enjoyment. We all know that variety is the spice of life, and Asian and Mediterranean foods can add spice to our often-bland ways of eating. A wide range of Asian foods is now available from supermarkets and greengrocers as well as Chinese grocery stores. Typical Asian foods and vegetables such as ginger root, chilli, garlic, Chinese water spinach, bok choy, lemongrass, coconut, tumeric, curry, Chinese mushrooms and many others can be experimented with, and gradually introduced into the diet if you want to expand the horizons of your taste buds.

Watch That Sweet Tooth
Use natural sugars from fresh fruits and juices, dried fruits, honey, molasses, fruit sorbets, fruit cakes, fruit jams, carob, date sugar, maple sugar or syrup or rice syrup. Avoid refined white sugar and candies, fizzy drinks, cakes and biscuits made with refined sugars. If you find you crave these foods on a regular basis you may have the very common metabolic imbalance known as Syndrome X. By following the eating principles and taking nutrients to rebalance the metabolism you can get cravings under control making weight loss and maintenance of energy much easier. See ‘Syndrome X’

Rehydrate Your Body
Drink large amounts of fluids such as water, raw juices and teas (green tea, herbal and regular weak tea is fine). Aim for 2 liters of fluid daily and this will avoid constipation problems and help your kidneys to eliminate the toxins that the liver has broken down. Use a household water filter. Water filters with sub-micron, solid carbon block filters are able to remove parasites and many toxic chemicals. Shop around and take a look at different types of filters before you buy and get professional advice as technology is improving rapidly.

The liver is the major organ involved in detoxification, however it is still important to support the other body organs of elimination. The skin and the kidneys eliminate toxins through sweating and urine and this is why saunas and a high intake of filtered water can reduce symptoms of toxic overload.

Go Organic
ALTHOUGH IT IS IDEAL TO BE ABLE TO PURCHASE AND CONSUME ORGANIC PRODUCTS, THIS MAY NOT ALWAYS BE FEASIBLE OR POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL OR LOGISTICAL REASONS. PLEASE DO NOT BECOME TOO STRESSED BY THIS, AS EVEN IF THE FOOD YOU CONSUME IS NOT ORGANIC, THE TYPES OF FOODS YOU EAT ARE EVEN MORE IMPORTANT !!!

Not many people want to eat fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed repeatedly with insecticides and fungicides, ripened with ethylene gas and perhaps waxed with an insect secretion. It is a little off putting while biting into your lovely red juicy steak to think that this animal may have been fed antibiotics and the ground-up remains of thousands of dead animals, and had potent sex hormones implanted into it to accelerate its growth.

Organic food is sometimes called biodynamic food and is produced without synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fertilisers, post-harvest fungicides, antibiotic growth-promoters, or size enhancing hormones. It relies upon Mother Nature’s forces, recycling of nutrients and sustainable methods of production. Foods certified as organic must be grown on farms that are inspected and fully certified according to a stringent set of standards. Packaged and/or processed organic foods are free from artificial preservatives, colourings, flavourings or additives, and should not contain irradiated or genetically modified ingredients.

Pamper Your Liver
Eat foods to increase nutrients beneficial to liver function.These are:
Vitamin K – green leafy vegetables and alfalfa sprouts. Arginine – this helps the liver to detoxify ammonia, which is a toxic waste product of protein metabolism. Arginine is found in legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), carob, oats, walnuts, wheatgerm and seeds.
Antioxidants – found in fresh raw juices such as carrot, celery, beetroot, dandelion, apple, pear and green drinks like wheatgrass and barley-grass juice, and fresh fruits, particularly citrus and kiwi fruit.

Selenium – sources of the antioxidant selenium are brazil nuts, brewers yeast, designer yeast powders (very good source), kelp, brown rice, molasses, seafood, wheatgerm, whole-grains, garlic and onions.

Methionine – is essential for detoxification. Is found in legumes, eggs, fish, garlic, onions, seeds and meat.

Essential fatty acids – Seafood, cod liver oil, and fish oil. Seafood may be fresh, canned or frozen such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, mullet, blue mussels, calamari, tailor, herring, blue eye cod, gemfish. Fresh avocado, fresh raw nuts and seeds, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), wholegrain, wheatgerm, green vegetables such as spinach, green peas and green beans, eggplant, cold pressed fresh vegetable and seed oils, freshly ground seeds, especially flaxseeds (linseed), evening primrose oil, black-currant seed oil, star flower oil. Essential fatty acids are required for healthy membranes in every cell of the body and plentiful amounts are required for healthy liver function. This is why strict low fat diets are not beneficial for general health, weight control or liver function.
Natural sulphur compounds – are found in eggs (preferably free range), garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage andBrussels sprouts.

Practice Good Hygiene
The liver filter removes microorganisms from the blood stream, which prevents them from getting deeper into the body where they may cause serious infections. To avoid overloading the liver filter it is important to avoid eating foods that are contaminated with high loads of unfriendly or dangerous (pathogenic) microorganisms.
Although standards of living and sanitation have improved, cases of food poisoning from parasites, bacteria and viruses have been gradually increasing. This is often due to poor hygiene, such as inadequate cleansing of areas where food is prepared and stored, and lack of hand washing before preparing and eating food. This is more common today because people have a false sense of security brought about from antibiotic drugs, however many new viruses and pathogenic bacteria resistant to antibiotics are emerging.

The excessive practise of feeding antibiotics to animals is contributing to the rising incidence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria such as E.coli, Staphylococcus and Salmonella. Other microorganisms that can cause food poisoning are Campylobacter, Listeria, Yersinia, Clostridium Botulinum and Shigella. Food poisoning can also occur from the toxins produced by some bacteria, algae and moulds. Shellfish grown in waters polluted with toxic algae bloom can accumulate their toxins, which can cause severe neurological dysfunction. Foods contaminated by certain moulds or fungi, which produce their own mycotoxins, can make you sick. The fungus Aspergillus flavus produces the dangerous mycotoxin called aflotoxin. This can grow on damp maize, wheat, corn, peanuts and some other crops.

People are eating out more and there is less cooking done in the home so it is difficult to control standards of food preparation for your family. People purchase foods from supermarkets where food may have travelled long distances and be stored or refrigerated for long periods, picking up microorganisms along the way. Many processed foods contain

preservatives, which do not eradicate microorganisms, but merely keep them in a dormant state. When this food gets into your intestines the preservatives are diluted and the bugs start to multiply. This is why it is important to purchase only fresh high quality foods. The risk of food contamination is increased by long storage times, the number of people who handle and package food, and inadequate cooling and re-heating temperatures.

The intensive mass production of animal meats has helped to spread infections in food supplies. Chickens fed stock-feed infected with the bacteria Salmonella (sometimes from the remains of other chickens), allow bacteria to recycle and multiply in the same way that cow cannibalism caused the epidemic of mad cow disease (BSE). Chickens infected with Salmonella or viruses, and other animals reared in crowded conditions, can easily cross-infect each other while alive or at the abattoir.

Tips For Good Hygiene
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before preparing and eating food, and after handling any raw meat or seafood.

Only purchase fresh foods and avoid foods that are mouldy or look too old. Avoid processed or preserved meats such as hamburger meat, ham, smoked and pickled meats and fish, beef jerky, bacon, sausages, fritz, cabanossi, pizza meats, corned beef, meat loaf, rolled meats as found in delicatessens, and sea food that has been mishandled or poorly stored.

Do not let food stand in warm temperatures for more than two hours. Hot foods should be cooled quickly at room temperature and then refrigerated, because gradual cooling allows microorganisms to grow. For the same reasons, do not eat food that has been cooked, cooled and reheated more than once.

Refrigerate raw meat, seafood or chicken as soon as possible to reduce bacterial multiplication. Defrost poultry, seafood or meat in a microwave oven or overnight in the refrigerator and not on a counter. Cook all poultry, seafood and meat thoroughly because the centre of the food must reach 70°C (158°F) to kill bacteria.
Store raw meat and poultry at a lower level in the refrigerator to avoid their juices contaminating other foods. Always refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs, and discard eggs with cracks.

Avoid nuts with mould on their shell or kernel, or those with a bitter taste.
Use antiseptics when cleaning the toilet, bath and shower recess. Antiseptic soaps can be used in large households or share type accommodation. Tea tree oil has useful antiseptic properties, and effective antiseptics are easily found in supermarkets and pharmacies at reasonable prices.

Avoid sharing toothbrushes and razor blades as serious blood borne infections can be transmitted this way.e nails with a nailbrush can remove inaccessible bacteria.
Wash kitchen utensils such as cutting boards, grinders, juicers, and blenders and can openers thoroughly after each use. Replace cloths and brushes regularly.

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.