Liver Cleanse and Stones
From a reader:
“What is your take on the prevalence of intrahepatic stones in the Western world, especially as revealed by post-mortem examination (uncalcified ones apparently don’t show in radiography – not sure about ultrasound)? According to authors Dr. Hulda Clark (http://www.drclark.net) and Andreas Moritz (http://www.ener-chi.com), these are of significance. If they are, any thoughts on how to best clear them in the context of yoga/ayurveda?”
When I was Rishikesh, India studying Yoga several years ago, there was a 72 year old Theravada Buddhist nun in my class who was convinced that we needed to do this liver cleanse at the time. She wanted us to do the liver detox together, drink a cup of oil mixed with a cup of lemon juice and some salt on an empty stomach.
My friend had done this cleanse several times and was absolutely convinced that it was cleaning her out because of the small round ” liver stones” that came out the other end. Now, I loved this woman immensely and I had a great respect for her and her deep spiritual path, but my Western training just wouldn’t let me get on board with her liver cleanse.
It seemed obvious to me that she was getting something out the other end because of some kind of chemical reaction of the ingredients with other things such as digestive enzymes and bile acids that her body produced. Everything I had ever been taught about the liver, the gallbladder, and stones from that part of the digestive system just didn’t jive with what she believed to be true.
When I got home from India, I remembered my friend who has since passed on and I did a little research. I like to keep an open mind, and I realize that there is some brainwashing within any organized system and that includes western medicine.
And I still don’t buy into my friend’s interpretation of her liver cleanse.
To one who understands the anatomy and physiology of the digestive tract, the chemistry is fairly clear. Drinking oil causes the release of bile from the gallbladder into the intestine. The job of the bile is to form a coat around fat droplets to aid in their digestion. Little spherical balls are created, and given the large amount of oil consumed all at once, the spheres may be larger than usual.
Because such a large amount of oil is ingested on an empty stomach, the ability of the body to digest it all is overwhelmed. Couple that with the fact that many of these cleanses add Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or high concentrations of table salt which act as laxatives to speed the transit time through the intestine allowing for even less digestion of the bile-oil complexes. The end result is little yellowish-greenish balls that float in the toilet.
There’s an academic pathologist at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Ed Friedlander, MD, who blogs about some alternative medicine topics at pathguy.com. He’s a bit inflammatory, but it comes from a real feeling of indignation that people have been manipulated and misled. I agree with what he says here about the liver cleanse:
“interesting things will appear in the toilet bowl soon after. But I’m afraid that they’re not your gallstones. Here’s why:
- Real gallstones are faceted polyhedra, like the ones in the picture on the links below, or else shaped like mulberries. What you’ll get from the recipe are spheres. One of my correspondents describes a friend who saved the spheres and displayed them to his friends.
- Real gallstones hurt bad when they pass through the cystic and common bile ducts.
- Real gallstones sink in water. (As an autopsy pathologist, I’m very familiar with this.) The “gallstones” you’ll produce from this recipe will float, as the “alternative thinkers” themselves point out. (They claim that real gallstones float, too. Liars.)”
And he goes on to say:
“Hulda Regehr Clark, the author of “The Cure for all Cancers” and “The Cure For HIV/AIDS” promotes this. Since she claims to have both a doctorate in naturopathy and a Ph.D. in something (the latter implying having done substantial original lab research), one would think she would have made an experiment with a real gallstone and discovered that it sinks. There’s a nice photo, which she stole from my friend, pathologist Ed Klatt MD. She calls them “such small stones” though they’re obviously 7-10 mm across. She thinks the stones she displayed formed in the liver and “rolled” into the gallbladder, which is silly. You see many more stones in the gallbladder because that’s where bile is concentrated and stored; if they all “rolled” there from the liver, we’d see much more biliary colic. She says gallstones “can be of any color”, which is a hoot. She also claims that the major cause of gallstones is wearing shoes.
“My notes on the gallstone flush have generated considerable “controversy”. I look forward to a real surgeon taking these people on a visit to the surgical ward to see whether it’s really true that 99% of people who pass a gallstone have no pain, or whether most gallstones sink or float in water. (The impurities make them heavy. They sink. If you have any doubts about who is massively ignorant, go ask any general surgeon or pathologist.) There are also photos, some of which appear to be real smooth faceted gallstones, and others showing shaggy surfaces that are obviously not gallstones. Instead of continuing to sling mud at me, these people should take somebody with ultrasonographically-proven gallstones, administer the “flush”, and repeat the ultrasonogram. If there are now no gallstones, publish the finding in a non-refereed junk journal. The fact that nobody’s done this invites the obvious conclusion. If you are presented with the physical results of a “gallstone flush”, cut it in half. Real gallstones have concentric layers of colors often varying from pale yellow through black, sometimes with a center of radiating crystals.”
“Follow-up: August 2007. My cyberfriend Marlene Curyer, who tells me she’s not at all hostile to alternative health claims, decided to try the gallstone flush, complete with Chinese herbs. She also decided to take my challenge and get an ultrasound before and after a gallstone flush. “To say I was disappointed is vastly understating the case. There appeared to be more stones (my surgeon concurred). On top of that, I immediately felt worse… I have had pain and nausea on a daily basis since the last flush. Previously, these episodes had been uncomfortable but infrequent.” Of course, to date no one has written me about a gallstone flush shown to have worked by real imaging. The mud-slinging on the message boards has also stopped.”