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The Gallbladder 101

Updated: Jan 31

Your gallbladder is a small sac tucked beside your liver. It acts as a holding tank for the bile the liver has produced. The gallbladder releases that bile into the small intestine at just the right time and in just the right amount after a meal. This delicate mechanism responds to how much fat is in the meal you are digesting.

Bile performs the important function of carrying toxins out of the body. In addition it helps us absorb our fats and fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins D and K. Bile acids also support a heathy gut microbiome.

Gallstones can form when bile flow is sluggish allowing the components of bile to crystalize in the gallbladder. They can then continue to grow, much like a pearl in an oyster. Gallstones can be present without triggering any symptoms. However, in many people they can cause nausea, queasiness and twinges of pain on the right- side by the edge of the ribcage, an hour or two after eating. Fatty meals are more likely to trigger symptoms, and especially if the fats are not healthy ones.

Gallstone problems are so prevalent that gallbladder removal is the most common surgery the world over. Sure, you can live without your gallbladder, but you live better with it! It is important to keep it in good shape.

Some contributors to gallstone formation include:

  • Food sensitivities

  • Low digestive enzyme production

  • Constipation

  • Low fibre, highly processed foods

  • Eating while stressed

  • Insufficient good fats, like fish oil

  • Nutrient deficiencies, especially vitamin C

Simple tips to reduce gallbladder problems:

  • Eat regular meals, but leave 5-6 hours between each meal, without snacking

  • Avoid processed fats, hydrogenated fats, deep fried foods, margarine, poor quality oils

  • Do not cut out fat completely: studies show that very low fat, high carb diets actually increase the risk of gallstones

  • Increase intake of all vegetables, and include some bitter or pungent ones, like radish, arugula and endive

  • Increase dietary fibre from fruits and vegetables, as well as hemp, chia and flaxseeds

  • Very beneficial foods for the gallbladder include beets, cherries, kale, dandelion leaves and artichoke

  • Juicing is great: include raw beet, carrot, ginger and apple or pear in your recipe

  • Consume at least 2 litres of water daily

We now know that the gallbladder contributes to the orchestration of metabolism in relatively subtle, but important, ways. If you’d like to learn more about this, there is a whole session in our Liver Masterclass for a deeper dive into understanding what your gallbladder does for you, and so much more about your miraculous liver!

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