I’ll give you a hint…Yes!
If you’ve never had problems with your gallbladder, it’s unlikely you’ve ever thought much about the small organ by your liver. But if it has given you trouble in the form of pain, sometimes debilitating, on your right side just under your ribs, you may have thought, “Get this thing out of me, please!” You would be in good company. Some statistics quote cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) rates as high as 700,000 per year in the United States, making it one of the top 10 most common surgeries. In my opinion, high surgery rates are a problem. The various parts of our bodies should last for 120 years. Having them “go bad” is not normal. Let’s investigate what’s going on with all of these gallbladders.
Why is the gallbladder important?
The gallbladder is indeed a type of bladder. The liver continually creates bile, which drips into the gallbladder for storage. Under normal conditions, when a meal containing fat enters the small intestine, the gallbladder is triggered to release the stored bile. This burst of bile enters the small intestine through a duct and breaks down all of the fats in the meal. (Remember from an earlier article how essential fats are to health: they control inflammation and healing, keep every cell in our body functioning properly, and protect nerves, among other functions). Without a gallbladder, the bile is rerouted from the liver directly into the small intestine where it drips continually. With this process in place, there is never enough bile available to digest fats in a meal fully, leading to systemic fatty acid deficiencies. Additionally, the constant drip is irritating to the small intestine.
What leads to cholecystectomy?
The most common justification for gallbladder removal is pain due to stones. Stones form when the bile, which should be thin and free-flowing, becomes thick and viscous. Many factors contribute to this change, including an overburdened liver, a diet high in processed foods, a low-fat diet (which fails to trigger the gallbladder to release bile), or a diet high in hydrogenated fats (which also fail to trigger the gallbladder).
How can a gallbladder stay healthy or regain health?
The most beneficial move to support the health of the gallbladder is to make permanent dietary changes. This includes removing all processed and fried foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods. Making up each plate with mostly vegetables, both cooked and raw, a moderately-sized portion of animal protein, and healthy fats is a good starting place. These healthy fats include raw nuts and seeds, avocado, salmon, unheated olive oil, unheated flax oil, coconut products, and even natural lard or tallow. Avoid at all costs polyunsaturated fats that have been cooked at high heat. That means foods cooked or fried in canola, corn, soy, sunflower, or peanut oil. It’s safe to assume that all restaurant foods fall into this category.
One food in particular, the noble beet, is a real powerhouse for supporting gallbladder health. Beets contain compounds that thin the bile and promote its unrestricted flow. Beets can even help dissolve stones. They may be eaten raw and shredded with lemon juice and flax oil or made into juice or kvass (fermented beet juice). There are supplemental beet juice concentrate tablets also available. Adding taurine and whole food vitamin C to the supplement selection is also supportive of healthy bile production and flow.
What if my gallbladder has already been removed?
If you have been part of that 700,000-per-year-strong group of cholecystectomies, please don’t assume your gallbladder issues are over! Now that you are missing what is really an essential organ, you need to pay even closer attention to your fat digestion than ever before. Shiny, greasy stools that float are a big indicator of poor fat digestion. You should follow the same dietary advice I mentioned above but also includes a fat-emulsifying agent. You may utilize beets as a bile thinner, but it is essential to include supplemental ox-bile salts, and take them before every meal, for the rest of your life.
The gallbladder is, after all, not an expendable organ! Your whole-body health truly depends on your ability to digest and assimilate fats. Be sure to take care of it while you have it to avoid a lifetime of compensation and compromised health.
The information presented here is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.
Weatherby, D. Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. (2004). Bear Mountain Publishing, Jacksonville.