Gilbert's Syndrome Is Common. You May Not Know You Have It
Gilbert’s syndrome is a condition typically detected on a liver blood test result. It is seen when the bilirubin level is elevated. Most doctors don’t even mention the result to their patient because they consider it insignificant.
It is an inherited condition and results from a genetic mutation. It is more common in men than women. It causes a mildly elevated level of bilirubin in the bloodstream. The level is not usually high enough to cause jaundice. If a person with Gilbert’s syndrome becomes run down, eats poorly, drinks too much alcohol or suffers from an illness, they may develop mild jaundice.
Gilbert’s syndrome is an inherited deficiency of the liver enzyme that conjugates bilirubin. (It is called UDP-glucuronosyl transferase). The enzyme involved in Gilbert’s Syndrome has a normal structure but its levels are reduced by 65% to 90% because of a mutation in the upstream regulatory DNA sequence. Laboratories can test for this DNA mutation in patients with suspected Gilbert’s Syndrome and this can be worthwhile if the diagnosis is in doubt. Mild jaundice can be caused by more serious liver issues, so it is important to be certain of the diagnosis.
Bilirubin is the pigment that is produced in the blood from the breakdown of old red blood cells and this is a normal physiological process. If the enzyme that conjugates bilirubin is deficient, then the levels of unconjugated bilirubin rise and the elevated bilirubin pigment produces a yellow color to the skin and eyes (jaundice).
In a patient with Gilbert’s Syndrome the level of bilirubin will be slightly elevated but may vary from levels less than 35micromol/L but up to 70micromol/L. Sometimes the bilirubin levels will even be normal depending upon the individual’s diet and lifestyle. In Gilbert’s Syndrome liver enzyme results are normal and there is no liver damage.
Gilbert’s Syndrome is not generally considered to be a liver disease and most patients can be reassured that they have an inherited condition that will not cause significant harm. If a patient with Gilbert’s Syndrome suffers with an infection or another illness, takes certain drugs or medications, participates in intense exercise, becomes very sleep deprived or drinks excess alcohol, they may develop significantly elevated bilirubin.
How to care for your liver if you have Gilbert’s syndrome
My advice to anyone with Gilbert’s Syndrome is to take extra care of their liver to avoid excess fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivities or jaundice. Raw juicing and an antioxidant supplement containing selenium and vitamin C are essential.
Livatone is my liver tonic that supports healthy bile production in the liver and bile secretion by the gallbladder. Bilirubin is a main component of bile.
People with Gilbert’s syndrome are more susceptible to abdominal bloating, gas and discomfort after meals if they are not eating well. This is because of insufficient production of digestive enzymes. Taking a Digestive Enzymes supplement with each meal can help relieve these symptoms.
Some medications are best avoided by people with Gilbert’s syndrome. They include:
- Atazanavir and indinavir, which are used to treat HIV infection
- Irinotecan, used to treat bowel cancer
- Nilotinib, which is used for the treatment of some blood cancers
- Gemfibrozil, for lowering cholesterol
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.