Irritable Bile Syndrome
I think the liver is the most underestimated organ of the body when it comes to disease. The heart pumps but it doesn’t clean and it can only work with the materials it is given, i.e. blood, which is of poor quality if it isn’t being cleaned properly. One way or another, every cell in our body is nourished by blood so poor quality blood means poor quality cells, which in turn can lead to a myriad of malfunctions in our biochemistry.
Our poor liver is so overworked and we really don’t seem to spare it a second thought. When we are constipated, we immediately think of the gut, if we are depressed, we like to blame it on life, or hormones, (especially when pre-menstrual), but the liver plays a vital part in most of our bodily functions because it cleans (or attempts to clean) the mess that is made in our blood from such simple actions as eating and breathing. When our liver limps along, so do we.
Interestingly, the word melancholy can be traced back to the liver via the word “melancholia”. Melancholia (according to old medical belief) described a disease caused by an imbalance in one of the four humors (the 4 humors referred to 4 body fluids which were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood). Personality was determined by the dominant humor in a particular person. According to Hippocrates, melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile, hence the name, which means, in Ancient Greek, melas, “dark, black”, and kholé, “bile”. A person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition. We now know melancholic to mean sadness, gloom or depression of the spirits. Frankly, I can see where Hippocrates was coming from!
How can the liver contribute towards such conditions as depression? If you look at how the liver works, it is easy to see how malfunctions can occur! The simple process of eating generates a multitude of toxins which are either taken in from the outside (exogenously) eg, pesticides from foods or are created from within the body (endogenously). Weirdly, some endogenous toxins are those that are produced by the liver. It seems odd that an organ responsible for detoxification can actually produce toxins but this is a very integral part of the detoxification process and if you don’t have enough antioxidants to mop up the resulting mess, then you could suffer with digestive problems such as bloating, gas, acid reflux or even depression. Think about how alcohol – basically a toxin – affects the body. Whilst you are drinking alcohol, you can feel great but if you over whelm your liver and so compromise the detoxification process, you can end up feeling very sorry for yourself (melancholy, even) with a cracking headache to boot!
Every morsel of food you consume will eventually be broken down by various processes, such as chewing, hydrochloric acid, enzymes etc, until it becomes digestive fluid. This fluid is picked up by your portal vein and delivered to your liver to be further broken down and detoxified. Problems arise if there are more toxins present than your liver can handle (common) or if your detoxification enzymes are not up to speed. These escapee toxins have to be dumped into your bile which can then result in the digestive problems mentioned above.
At the most basic level, your liver has 2 main sets of enzymes and 2 main processes for detoxification, which are referred to as Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 uses P450 enzymes which specialise in adding oxygen to fatty substances to make them into water-soluble intermediaries called epoxides. Unfortunately these epoxides can be more toxic than their fatty precursors and have to be neutralised by the Phase 2 conjugation enzymes. Epoxides have the potential to damage DNA which can then cause a whole host of problems. During Phase 1, free radicals (reactive oxygen species) are a by-product and must immediately be quenched by superoxide dismutase (SOD) which changes them into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide (Bleach!) comes with its own problems but fortunately Phase 2 quickly binds these toxins with glutathione, methionine, glycine, glucuronic acid and sulphur. Catalase also chips in to break up peroxides but it is glutathione that does the main job of neutralising the peroxides, epoxides and other toxic mischief-makers. Problems arise when phase 2 can’t keep up with Phase 1 and a build-up of hydrogen peroxide results. Hydrogen peroxide then binds to your fatty acids and cholesterol as they come in through the portal vein creating fatty acid peroxides and cholesterol peroxides, collectively called lipid peroxides – dangerous stuff which can destroy cell membranes. Vitamin E has its uses in neutralising free radicals but it is the glorious, selenium powered glutathione peroxidase that grabs hydrogen peroxide by the throat, before it binds to your fats and breaks it down into harmless water. I do love glutathione peroxidase – what an amazing compound! Lily the Pink would be proud!
If glutathione peroxidase or selenium are lacking and the peroxides build up, then soluble bioflavonoids or other antioxidants can help but if the toxins start flooding out of the liver cells into the sinusoids there’s only one thing for it – the toxins are dumped into the bile! Toxic bile will irritate your duodenum, bile and pancreatic ducts resulting in spasms, not to mention disruption of your fat metabolism – carnage.
When a toxic bile-irritated stomach/oesophagus muscle spasms, it shortens, pulling up into the diaphragm which can force open the top valve of the stomach allowing hydrochloric acid to reflux, generating heartburn and even a burning sensation under your breastbone which can even lead to sore throats. If the diaphragm tears, the spasmed stomach can pop up through the diaphragm into your chest cavity and cause hiatal hernia, which can then allow even more acid to escape from your stomach, especially when you are lying down or bending over. Food may find its way back up rather than down, resulting in burping, belching, nausea or even vomiting – sound familiar? Secretion of toxic bile can weaken the duodenal membrane allowing helicobacter to penetrate it (H-pylori is airborne and is carried by house flies). Even the smallest changes in pH can interfere with the operation of digestive juices and enzymes and if these are compromised, unwanted bacteria may get through where they will have ample opportunity to do more fermenting of food which in turn creates more of the dreaded, but oh so common, gas!
Fermentative bacteria feed on sugars from which they make alcohol, eat fats and minerals, steal b12 and tryptophan and other amino acids and overwhelm glutathione enzymes. I see many people who have turned their insides into mini beer-making factories – literally. Eat a sandwich followed by a banana and some fruit juice, mix it all up in that glorious food processor we refer to as the stomach, send it into the small intestine with a sprinkling of the right (or wrong, as the case may be) bacteria, and hey presto, you have the potential to power yourself around on your own gas. World fuel crisis – solved!
As you can see, toxins are unavoidable but can certainly be controlled with the correct antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are big news and have been for a while. We desperately need them but the majority of us are neither getting enough nor making enough. (This was certainly apparent when I hired a biophotonic scanner for a day – controversial in itself but I loved it.) I bang on about glutathione because I think it is so important and because many of us have compromised digestive systems, as well as compromised diets, it really is in short supply. Not only is Glutathione a powerful antioxidant in its own right, it also recycles other antioxidants such as vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Glutathione is a fragile, three amino acid peptide (made from cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine) I say fragile, because when taken orally as a supplement, most of it is broken down into these 3 components with very little glutathione remaining, unless it is in lypospheric form. Liposome encapsulation, the newish kid on the block, is where phosphatidylcholine (ppc) is used as the carrier. This technology delivers glutathione, preventing it from succumbing to gastrointestinal degradation and assures high absorption into the blood. Ppc protects against oxidation and has been proven to be a strong anti-atherosclerotic agent. In lypospheric glutathione, you get the combined benefits of glutathione and ppc – good news for your liver as ppc is vital for normal liver function. Research indicates ppc’s most beneficial role is in the prevention and treatment of various forms of liver disease and toxicity. It protects liver cells from viral damage, reduces fibrosis, and prevents cell death from drugs, alcohol and other chemical toxins. Several studies have also shown ppc’s protective and healing effect on patients with hepatitis A, B and C.
Anything that can help the liver gets my vote so I love the double-whammy antioxidant activity that is delivered by lypospheric glutathione! Wallop!