Fibromyalgia and Liver Toxicity
Located on the right side of the abdomen, the liver is first to process the nutrients delivered by way of the blood stream. The liver also releases substances to neutralize harmful chemicals, viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, in the process of rendering these toxins harmless, free radicals are generated (see free radicals). The liver is the largest organ in the body. It filters two quarts of blood every minute and secretes a quart of bile each day.
It removes about 99% of all unwanted toxins and bacteria during this filtration process. Each day the liver releases about 1 liter of bile. Bile is necessary for absorbing fat-soluble substances, including certain vitamins. The bile also helps eliminate toxic chemicals. Bile is mixed with dietary fiber and voided through daily bowel movements.
We are constantly being exposed to potentially dangerous toxins through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. An optimally functioning detoxification system is necessary for providing good health and preventing disease.
A poorly functioning detoxification system also contributes to allergic disorders, asthma, hives, psoriasis, eczema, and is associated with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The liver uses a two-step approach in detoxifying toxins (xenobiotics). Unwanted chemicals, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, alcohol, pesticides, herbicides, and metabolic waste products are neutralized by the liver’s enzymes. There are two enzymatic pathways, Phase I and Phase II.
Phase I detoxification enzymes are collectively known as Cytochrome P450. The Cytochrome P450 system is made up of 50-100 enzymes. Each enzyme is specially suited to for certain types of toxins. Phase I enzymes attempt to neutralize toxic chemicals by transforming them into a less toxic form. Chemicals that are unable to be neutralized are changed into a more active intermediate form. As the phase I enzymes neutralize toxins they also spin off free radicals. If there aren’t enough antioxidants to counter these free radicals the liver may be compromised.
Phase II detoxification enzymes now go to work on these intermediates and use a process called conjugation, in which liver enzymes attach minute chemicals to the toxic structure. Phase II neutralizes the toxins or makes them more likely to be excreted through urination or defecation. Unfortunately, many of these intermediate forms are more toxic and potentially more damaging than in their original state. An inadequate Phase II detoxification system can cause all sorts of chronic illnesses. A person suffering from poorly functioning Phase II and over active Phase I detoxification is known as a pathological detoxifier. These individuals fill up doctors’ offices on a regular basis. They suffer from a variety of ailments that seem to never go away. This is so true for those with fibromyalgia, who often have difficulty taking prescription drugs in the first place. Neither their doctor, nor the patient realizes that a compromised detoxification system is further aggravated by toxic prescription medications.
The Phase I detoxification process is inhibited by taking anti-histamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (aspirin, Daypro, Naprosyn, Tylenol, etc.;), azoles drugs (anti-fungals), and anti-depressants, including Valium, Klonopin, Prozac, and Celexa. Is it any wonder that Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue patients are told their condition is -all in their head- and are then prescribed anti-depressants, get sicker?
Phase II is responsible for neutralizing acetaminophen, nicotine, and insecticides.
Free Radicals We are a social experiment in the making. We are subjected to hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals everyday. The body disposes of these toxins by neutralizing them or by voiding them in the urine or feces. Our lungs and skin also eliminate toxins through respiration and sweat respectively. Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules that have an unpaired electron in their outer ring. They react by taking an electron from another molecule, which then becomes unstable. This sets up a destructive cycle. Free radicals may be formed in our bodies or may come from the outside. Internal metabolic activities, including immune and detoxification processes, generate free radical molecules. External sources of free radical production include radiation, alcohol, tobacco, smog, medications, and pesticides. Oxygen is responsible for most of the toxic free radicals. Just like the rust on a car, excessive oxygenation to the body can cause premature aging and dysfunction. Free radicals have been implicated in such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease.
Preservatives We are a social experiment in the making. Never in the history of mankind have we been exposed to so many man made chemicals. We have traded good, wholesome foods for grocery store convenience. I don’t deny the convenience of walking into a store and purchasing next week’s dinner, but to be oblivious to the damaging chemical preservatives in our foods is myopic. Try setting a lump of margarine on your back porch. It’s still there one-week later- nothing will touch it! Do the same with any live food, like a fruit, or vegetable, and notice it will be consumed in a matter of days.1
Food additives Artificial dyes and preservatives are used in most of our processed foods. Allergic symptoms associated with these foreign chemicals include, hives, angioedema, asthma, sinusitis, headaches, anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue. Many of these dyes and preservatives are in both prescription and non-prescription drugs. Asthmatics are often extremely allergic to sulfites. Some asthma inhalant medications actually have sulfites in them as a preservative! Benzoates, yellow dye [tartrazine], nitrites, sorbic acid, sulfites, Aspartame, monosodium glutamate, hydroxytoluene, and butylated hydroxyanisole are the most notorious culprits in causing the above-mentioned illnesses.
Monosodium glutamine is often added to Chinese food, soups and stews. Pickles, jams, jellies, some sodas, and cakes contain benzoates, toluenes and butylated hydroxyanisole. Sulfites are added to salad bars, beer, frozen French fries, dried fruit, shampoos, conditioners, and some cosmetics. Nitrites are used to preserve luncheon meats, hot dogs and other ready-to-eat meats.
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) Aspartame, commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal, is an artificial sweetener. The body breaks it down into methanol and formaldehyde to metabolize it. Formaldehyde is grouped into the same class of drugs as cyanide and arsenic. Alzheimer’s disease is now being linked to methanol toxicity and aspartame. When the temperature of Aspartame exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in Aspartame is turned into formaldehyde and then into formic acid. Formic acid is the poison contained in the sting of a fire ant. It has been shown that methanol toxicity causes depression, brain fog, mood changes, insomnia, seizures and similar symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. There are over 92 symptoms documented from using aspartame. Systemic Lupus has also been associated with methanol toxicity. The amino acid aspartic acid makes up 40 percent of Aspartame. Aspartic Acid is an excitatory amino acid, and often times contribute to children and attention deficit disorder. I always encourage my A.D.D. patients to get off and stay off diet colas.
If You Can’t Pronounce it Don’t Eat it! Avoid all foods that contain artificial dyes and preservatives. Try to consume as many whole, live foods as possible. Fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains [unless you are gluten sensitive] are the healthiest foods to eat. These foods are loaded with anti-oxidants, cancer fighting and immune-boosting phytochemicals. They are easy on the digestive system and allow the body to generate more energy to fight diseases and build immunity. Foods aren’t the only way we are poisoned with toxic chemicals. Many of the products we use on a daily basis in the form of shampoos, conditioners, lotion soaps, deodorants, and cosmetics are contaminated with toxic chemicals, so read labels. Heavy metals such as aluminum, copper, nickel and lead are in many of the above-mentioned products. Start shopping at your local health food store or shop on line to find more natural household products.
Cleaning up the Mess The first course of action is to avoid toxins and toxic environments. Work with your doctor and explore alternatives to taking long-term prescription drugs. Severely reduce or eliminate alcohol, nicotine, allergic foods, and preservative rich foods. Combat free radicals by taking antioxidants. These include vitamins A, E, C, the mineral selenium, and the plant extract, Pycnogenol. Eat more broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which contain phyto-chemicals that stimulate Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways.
Glutathione The amino acids, glutathione (tripeptide), methionine, glycine, and cysteine are needed for proper liver detoxification. Cysteine, glycine and glutamine (glutamic acid) combine to make glutathione. Glutathione is the most abundant and important liver protecting, antioxidant. Although glutathione is readily absorbed from fruits, vegetables and meats, depletion may occur during high or sustained exposure to toxins. Cysteine, methionine and glycine are more absorbable than taking straight glutathione and should be used when possible. Methionine helps produce more cysteine and glutathione in times of stress.
Silybum Marianum The Silymarin Complex, particularly the Silibinin component of milk thistle, protects the liver from free radical damage. It prevents certain toxins from entering liver cells and stimulates regeneration of damaged liver cells. Medical use of milk thistle can be traced back more than 2000 years. Over 30 years ago, intensive research on the liver protecting properties in milk thistle began in Germany. Extensive research also may have led to the approval of a standardized milk thistle extract in Germany for the treatment of alcohol-induced liver disease and other acquainted disease of the liver. Milk thistle extract protects liver cells, both directly and indirectly. It is able to regenerate liver cells that have been injured and to prevent fibrosis or fatty liver. Milk thistle directly aids liver cells by binding to the outside of the cells and blocking entrance of certain toxins. In addition, toxins that have already penetrated the liver cells are neutralized by milk thistle. Silymarin helps the cells produce a powerful antioxidant known as glutathione. Silymarin has been shown in animal studies to raise the glutathione levels in liver cells by as much as 50%. Silymarin also increases the activity in another antioxidant known as supraoxide dismutase (SOD). The normal dose is standardized of 80% Silymarin content with 420 mg in three divided doses.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Alpha Lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant compound that helps recycle glutathione. It is unique in that it is fat and water soluble allowing it to work within both mediums. It is manufactured by the body in small amounts and needs to be obtained through the diet. Mitochondria are vitamin-like substances that play a vital role in mitochondrial energy production. Mitochondria are the spark plugs of the cells. They are responsible for each cells metabolism (energy) and generate 95% of the total energy needed by the human body. Alpha Lipoic acid can help prevent and repair damage to liver cells. It is also being studied for its regenerative properties in neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. To help increase liver detoxification and boost cellular energy Alpha Lipoic Acid – take between 200-400mg a day.
An optimally functioning liver and detoxification system may help reduce some of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia- it will certainly improve one’s health overall.
About Dr. Murphree
Dr. Murphree is a board certified nutritional specialist and chiropractic physician who has been in private practice since 1990. He is the founder and past clinic director for a large integrated medical practice located on the campus of Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham Alabama. The clinic was staffed with medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and massage therapists. The clinic combined prescription and natural medicines for acute and chronic illnesses. He is the author of 5 books for patients and doctors, including “Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” “”Heart Disease What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You’- and “Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression with Orthomolecular Medicine.”
In 2002 Dr. Murphree sold his medical practice and now maintains a busy solo practice specializing in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, mood disorders, and other chronic illnesses. He can be reached toll free 1-888-884-9577 or at 205-879-2383 His website is at www.treatingandbeating.com