This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Donna Gates on Healing the Liver

Donna Gates is the woman behind the Body Ecology Diet (BED), which is a healing diet that has many similarities to the GAPS diet.  It is a diet that is intended to heal many health issues, including neurological symptoms and autism, by healing the gut and balancing the gut flora.  While I personally chose the GAPS diet over the BED and do not agree with every aspect of the BED, Donna Gates is a very knowledgeable woman and an excellent resource for healing.  Her book, also called The Body Ecology Diet, is a good reference book with a lot of great information. 

Now that I've had so much healing from the GAPS diet I feel that it's time to look at a few of the specific organs and systems in my body that may need additional support to function at their potential.  I have been suspecting that my liver in particular needs special attention as I feel that liver problems are at the root of many of my problems.  I still have some chemical sensitivities, weight management issues, energy regulation problems, hormone imbalances, and immune challenges.  I turned to Donna's book for more information about the liver and how to heal it and this is what she has to say:

What the liver does- "The liver is not just a large filter, but also a biliary organ and an endocrine gland.  It plays a key role in digestion, in the formation of blood, and in defending our bodies against infection".  (note- Pyroluria seems to have it's roots in blood formation, as according to some sources kryptopyrrole is produced as a side product of hemoglobin formation, so could Pyroluria ultimately be about liver health as well?)

On the importance of bile- "During digestion, your liver secretes bile into your small intestine lubricating your intestinal walls.  Bile regulates the level of your friendly bacteria, destroys unwanted and dangerous organisms as they invade your body, stimulates the peristaltic activity that forces your fecal material to move through adn out of your body".  (note- it would seem then that having had my gallbladder removed, which is part of this process, may predispose me to poor regulation of gut flora?  This may also be an important factor in people with constipation- inadequate bile flow.)

A significant cause of leaky gut is what she calls "toxic bile" that is excreted when the liver is overworked, weak, or otherwise injured.  (note-since bile is an essential part of breaking down our food into usable nutrients, toxic bile could result in both more food for pathogens and fewer available nutrients for us).

The liver stores excess carbohydrate as fat.  It also "portions out cholesterol according to need and neutralizes its excess". 

What else does it do?  It regulates body temperature, breaks down old red blood cells and produces new ones, supplies the amino acids necessary to make white blood cells, and regulates the "fluidity" of the blood and how much it coagulates.  (note- difficulty regulating body temperature and thick blood are both common traits of people with ME/CFS.  Thick blood may be connected with a lowered ability of blood to carry oxygen and also seems to be common n people with autism.  Thicker blood also apparently allows pathogens to grow more in it because of the lowered oxygen content.)

Signs of poo liver function include- poor tolerance of cold in winter and possibly poor tolerance of heat in summer, small red flecks that come and go on the body, puffiness between the eyes, anemia, hemorrhoids, inability to maintain average weight, diabetes, jaundice, hormonal imbalances (including problems with menstruation and fertility), headaches and dizziness, alternating constipation and diarrhea, dark or insufficient urine.  Also, skin disorders such as eczema, acne, rashes, and hives.  Eye problems can occur "loss of elasticity of lens and atrophy of cells within eye lead to sensitivity to light, conjunctivitis, far-sightedness, myopia, cataracts, astigmatism, moving spots, double vision."  (note- this is especially important to me as I have most of those vision problems.  I am significantly visually impaired.)

If the liver isn't healthy it can't process toxins adequately, which then go on to affect the brain and central nervous system.  Symptoms can include depression, spaciness, difficulty concentrating and focusing, and mental health can be affected.  I would personally add anxiety and panic to that list.

Some additional signs of liver distress include more frequent urination, difficulty sleeping although being tired during the day, and digestive discomfort at night.

The liver processes everything we take in, and is hurt by the preservatives in our food, the vaccines and other medicines we take, including birth control pills.  She says that if a mother has a congested liver during pregnancy that her baby will be born with a congested liver.  (note- that may be one of the reasons why kids with autism tend to be born to mothers with health issues already).

To heal the liver, she suggests changing the way we eat, exercising more (her suggestions are gentle though like yoga and walking), taking probiotics, acupuncture, and processing anger.  She says that in eastern medical practice, the liver is associated with anger and that holding in anger can damage it.  She also says that while healing the liver, anger may appear suddenly.  She also suggests cleansing the colon.

She points out that the liver has trouble handling ammonia when it is not well.  She advises eating a vegan diet because she assumes that eating animal foods will always overproduce ammonia.  This is one are that I disagree with her about.  The more I research this claim, the less it makes sense.  Also, people who do the GAPS diet, which includes many animal proteins and fats, see great improvement in liver function.  Saturated fats seem to be essential for a healthy liver.  This will be a future blog post.

 Lastly, she emphasized how important it is to have regular bowel movements in order to cleanse the liver.  The liver dumps toxins into the colon, and if a person is constipated, those toxins are re-absorbed and sent right back to the liver.  I think this may be a major source of overwork for the liver.