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.

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2 thoughts on “Hack your liver to improve your mental health

  1. Sue Sanderson

    Thank you for this email. I have learnt a lot more from reading this today than I have from any clinician I have spoken to over the years.

    Reply

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