Natural health: Gilbert’s syndrome, magnesium/calcium supplements

My daughter, 32, has just been diagnosed with Gilbert’s syndrome. The doctor has told us that it doesn’t require any medical treatment. Is there was any advice you could give to support her?

Natural health: Gilbert’s syndrome, magnesium/calcium supplements

Gilbert’s syndrome is more common than you would expect and, as your doctor has informed you, it doesn’t usually warrant any specific treatment or medication.

What happens with this particular syndrome is the blood serum shows a mild increase in the level of bilirubin, the yellow pigment excreted into bile by the liver.

It is fine to have a small amount of bilirubin present in the serum, although levels are likely to increase with significant reductions in caloric intake (for example, fasting or extreme dieting), large doses of vitamin B3 (niacin), or a decent dose of the ‘flu can cause a transient fluctuation in bilirubin levels. Symptoms of increased bilirubin include mild jaundice.

Liver function tests will typically be in the normal range, despite the increase in bilirubin.However it still helps to provide this all-important organ with naturally supportive remedies.

Milk thistle (also known as St Mary’s Thistle, or Silymarin) extract is the go-to herb when it comes to liver support, and will even help to regenerate damaged liver cells.

Your daughter might also consider taking a herbal tea combination known as the Essiac blend. While this is typically used as part of a natural cancer protocol, it is also very helpful to cleanse and nourish the liver.

The ingredients usually include Slippery Elm bark, Burdock root, Turkey Rhubarb, Red Clover, and Sheep Sorrel.

Taking this tea along with the milk thistle extract for around 12 weeks should assist her body in normalising bilirubin levels in the blood serum.

It is important your daughter has these levels tested regularly, and continues to check that her liver is functioning well, in consultation with her health practitioner.

Simple short-term dietary changes can make a huge difference with any liver-related issue. Avoid supplements containing high levels of vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B3), and high vitamin D.

Fatty fish and shellfish are all rich in these nutrients, so she might want to leave these out of her diet for 3-6 months. Most animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) should be eaten sparingly, as should aged or fermented products such as bread, beer, cheese, wine, cured meats, and tobacco. Aspirin should be avoided altogether.

Including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will help during this period of healing and repair. Juicing may be of assistance, as long as the juices are diluted with water, making it more gentle on her system. Carrots, beetroot, leafy greens, cucumber, and celery are all great choices.

I remember reading about taking magnesium and calcium together for best effect, but was wondering how much of each to take?

Many people routinely supplement with calcium, as this nutrient gets a lot of attention as a bone-building mineral. Magnesium is very important in nerve and muscle function, and is also part of the energy production process within our bodies.

You have remembered correctly, in that the magnesium/calcium ratio is important to get right.

This synergistic action between the two minerals is vital for a number of bodily functions, and often people end up with excess calcium, which throws this ratio off balance — typically resulting in muscle cramping.

The ratio most nutritionists favour is 2:1 in favour of the calcium, so you will need to take 400mg of magnesium and 800mg of calcium.

More in this section

Click and connect: 100 places in Munster to shop locally this Christmas

#HomeAtHeart

We want to help you to connect with the people you love, but may not see, this Christmas.  Every Saturday, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we will publish your messages in print and online, starting November 28.

Say it here, in the Irish Examiner.