The gallbladder is a forgotten organ in many people’s minds. Most people have no idea what it actually does, or even care for that matter. Gallbladder removal surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the US, many of which could be avoided by properly nourishing this vital organ. We DO need our gallbladder, that’s why we, at in2GREAT, wanted to write this blog.
The gallbladder has several critical roles that help your body function at its maximum potential. However, when issues with your gallbladder arise, it can lead to some serious consequences, and removal is usually the first option in conventional medicine- yet, it doesn’t have to be!
This is why it’s vital to know about your gallbladder to keep it healthy. Prevention is key here. We need to take care of our gallbladder in the first place by focusing on lifestyle factors.
What Is The Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that is part of the biliary tract. It’s a hollow structure located under the liver and on the right side of the abdomen. Its primary function is to store and concentrate bile, a yellow-brown digestive enzyme produced by the liver. (Read more on how digestion works).
What Function Does It Serve?
Proper fat digestion relies on several factors such as healthy bile production from the liver. When we eat, this stored bile gets “squeezed”, or released into the first part of your small intestine, called the duodenum. This is where the bile is essential for adequate fat breakdown and absorption. Bile salts break down the larger fat globules in your meal so that they become small droplets of fat. From there, it’s easier for enzymes to break down the fats and for your body to absorb fat soluble antioxidants and vitamins like A, E, D, and K. It also helps eliminate excess cholesterol and toxins from your body. A healthy functioning gallbladder, bile flow, pancreatic function, and hormone balance all contribute to a healthy functioning liver, gallbladder and overall health.
Side Effects Of A Poorly Functioning Gallbladder
Our society went from raving over low-fat diets to praising high-fat diets (Keto) over the past couple of decades. If you tried the keto diet but it didn’t go well for you, it could be because your body can’t digest those fats efficiently.
This could be a sign that you have a poorly functioning gallbladder. Please keep in mind that every body works differently. There is no perfect diet that is right for everyone. Some people may thrive on a high fat diet while others thrive on high protein diets. Here are some other signs and symptoms you may experience with a poorly functioning gallbladder:
- Abdominal Pain
- Right Shoulder Pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Unusual stool or urine
If your gallbladder stays unhealthy, and nothing is done to try to restore it’s health, gallbladder removal may be necessary. However, removal should be the last choice after working with a functional medicine provider who is knowledgeable in helping you restore gallbladder function!
Why Is A Healthy Gallbladder Important?
Since your gallbladder helps digest vital vitamins like vitamin A,E,D, and K, we need to keep it healthy. If your body doesn’t have the ability to fully absorb these nutrients along with omega-3 and omega-6s, then it could affect your overall health. For example, if you aren’t absorbing omegas effectively, it could take a toll on your brain and hormone health.
The relationship between your liver and gallbladder is significant. Your liver and gallbladder also help eliminate toxins (bacteria, viruses, medications, and other foreign substances the body does not want) from the body. So if your liver and gallbladder are not working properly, bile flow can become thick and viscous, allowing toxins to build up. This causes numerous other issues throughout the body, including hormone disruption, inflammation, and inhibition of vital processes.
What Can You Do To Maintain A Healthy Gallbladder?
The best thing you can do for your gallbladder is to look at your diet and lifestyle behaviors. These are what influence the health of your gallbladder. Instead of waiting around to get it removed, there are things you can change to avoid this!
- Support healthy digestion (Learn about your microbiome and digestion connection)
- Increase fiber intake
- Eat foods that promote bile formation such as raw beets
- Eat bitter foods that stimulate the flow of bile in the gallbladder like, lemons, dark leafy greens, and beetroot.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
- Increase fruits and vegetables
- Reduce intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, fried foods, and trans fats
- Be sure you don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities (we can test for those here at in2GREAT)
- Increase consumption of oily fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, to enhance omega-3s and mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
- Take Digestive Enzymes
- Supplement with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Turmeric, and Magnesium
- Address chronic infections which can cause congestion in the liver and therefore the gallbladder
Be careful if you do have SIBO. Some of these recommendations may make your SIBO symptoms worse. This is why it’s vital to work with a functional medicine provider that can help you navigate your health treatment plan.
The gallbladder and the liver are like best friends. They help each other thrive. This is why when we look at the gallbladder’s health, we also want to consider and support liver functioning as well! After all, your liver produces the bile that your gallbladder stores and uses. In fact, the liver produces about 800 to 1,000 milliliters of bile every day! If your liver isn’t functioning well, your gallbladder can’t do its job well.
What If I Already Had My Gallbladder Removed?
If you are reading this and thinking that you are doomed because you already had your gallbladder taken out, don’t freak out. There are still some things you can do to help your health as much as possible. The main problem people experience once their gallbladder is removed is that they can’t digest fats properly, and therefore, can’t benefit from any of those nutrients.
Here’s what you can do:
- Still eat lots of protein and plant based foods to get as many other nutrients to support your body.
- Start incorporating fats slowly over time. See how your body reacts. Some people’s bodies respond and need more or less fat depending on the person.
- Take lipase and ox bile before your meals since your liver will be doing your gallbladders job. This can help the digestion of the fats.
- Eat healthy fats and avoid bad ones (and fried foods!)
- Also avoid gluten, conventionally raised meats and farmed fish, and added sugars
If you want to ensure optimal gallbladder health, or want to ensure that you are getting as many minerals as possible if you don’t have a gallbladder, get in contact with in2GREAT Functional Medicine Clinic in Kansas City. They offer a number of services, including functional lab testing, to see if your body contains heavy metals, toxins, harmful gut bacteria, and more. You can contact them by filling out their contact form or giving them a call at (913) 308-0174.