Elevated Bilirubin in Adults

When red blood cells become old, the hemoglobin within them will break down and produce a byproduct called bilirubin. As bilirubin travels through your system, the liver turns most of it into bile and then either stores it in your gallbladder or eliminates it through your stool. However, a little bit will remain circulating in your blood. The normal total bilirubin level in your blood is 0.3 to 1.9 milligrams per deciliter, while the normal direct bilirubin level is 0-0.3 milligrams per deciliter. There are many types of diseases that can cause high bilirubin levels including gallbladder, liver or red blood cells conditions.

Causes of Elevated Bilirubin in Adults

Liver Illustration

1.   Liver Disease

Normally your liver converts bilirubin into a soluble state that can be removed from your body. If your liver is not functioning right, a buildup of bilirubin will occur in your system. Conditions like viral hepatitis, cirrhosis and Gilbert syndrome can affect the liver function and cause elevated bilirubin levels.

2.   Bile Duct and Gallbladder Disease

When you suffer from a condition that blocks or damages your bile ducts, you can also have elevated blood bilirubin. Cholestasis occurs when the flow of bile decreased due to reduced bile secretion or blocked bile duct, which will cause high bilirubin levels. Other conditions that can cause elevated levels include gallstones, and tumors of the gallbladder, pancreas or bile duct.

3.   Hemolytic Anemia

A condition called hemolytic anemia can make your red blood cells die prematurely. This condition can result in a greater destruction of red cells, thus producing more bilirubin and causing increased levels. There are several conditions that can cause hemolytic anemia including lupus, sickle cell anemia, lymphoma or leukemia.

4.   Medications

Some medications can cause side effects that lead to high bilirubin levels. Drugs that lower the uptake of bilirubin into the liver, like probenecid and mycobutin can cause elevated levels. Some medications such as chlorpromazine and estrogens can affect the secretion of bile, which also can elevate the bilirubin level in the bloodstream. What's more, high dose of acetaminophen can do harm to the liver, thus may increase the bilirubin level.

5.   Transfusion Reaction

You may have an allergic reaction during a blood transfusion, causing your immune system to destroy the red blood cells transferred to you. When this happens, a large amount of cells are destroyed and lots of bilirubin are produced, causing elevated bilirubin in adults.

Home Remedies for Elevated Bilirubin Level

1.   Eat Nutritious Foods


Nutritious foods are good for you as they can boost energy and help your liver remove toxins from your blood. When your liver works properly, it does a better job of processing bilirubin and keeping bilirubin levels at optimum ranges. Consider adding nutritious foods like fish, beans, poultry, fruits, whole grain, olive oil and low fat dairy to your diet.

2.   Add More Fiber

Kidney beans

A high fiber diet helps your liver by assisting its regeneration of cells. It is recommended that men eat about 35 grams of fiber a day and women about 25 grams. Studies have shown that elevated bilirubin levels in adults can be reduced by adding 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day to your diet. Beans are rich in fiber, so adding as little as ½ a cup of them to soup or salad will also increase your fiber intake.

3.   Choose Red Vegetables and Fruits


Red vegetables and fruits are naturally rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant beneficial for your liver, therefore eating more of them can help reduce the bilirubin level. In fact, this nutrient is what gives many foods their red color. Cooked tomatoes such as tomato paste or tomato juice have the highest levels of lycopene, up to 6,000 micro grams per serving. Other lycopene-rich sources are red peppers, watermelon, guava, grapefruit and papayas.

4.   Limit Unhealthy Foods Consumption

Sugar Cubes

Foods that contain a lot of unhealthy fats and added sugar can increase fat deposits in your liver and cause inflammation of the vital organ, causing increased levels of bilirubin. Thus try to avoid foods such as fried food, fast food, cookies, sodas and processed sweets. Besides, monitor your salt intake and keep your alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two per day for men.

5.   Eat Barley

Harvested Barley

Barley can help with elevated bilirubin in adults by assisting in the elimination of toxins in your system. The grain acts as a natural diuretic and can be easily prepared for consumption. For barley water, simmer one cup of barley in 6 pints of water. Cook for about three hours. You can also add lemon juice, sugar and salt to enhance the flavor. An easier way to add barley water to your diet is buying roasted barley powder and adding one teaspoon to one cup of water along with a teaspoon of honey. Mix and drink up twice a day.

6.   Spice It Up with Turmeric


Turmeric is considered a medicinal spice, known for its healing and cleansing properties. It aids in the detoxification of your liver and assists in the elimination of bilirubin from your system. To add it to your diet, put one-fourth teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of warm water. Drink this mixture about three time a week.

7.   Try Ginger

Ginger Root

As a naturally antidote, ginger assists in the protection of your liver from toxins. Adding this spice to your diet can help your liver function properly and efficiently, therefore decrease bilirubin levels. You can make a ginger juice by using a garlic press. Add the juice to one teaspoon of lime juice, one tablespoon of honey and one teaspoon of mint juice. Drink the mixture four times a day for 14 days.

8.   Eat Radishes


Radishes are also natural antidote. It helps reduce elevated bilirubin in adults by improving your liver functions. Besides, this root vegetable has been used quite frequently for treating jaundice. You can add radishes to your diet by putting fresh ones in your soup or salad. You can also get radish juice from fresh radish leaves and drink a six-ounce serving twice a day for two weeks to help your recovery.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you have been diagnosed with elevated bilirubin, and have any of the following symptoms, see medical help immediately:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin color changes
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