Gallbladder problems are common. Every day we receive dozens of calls and emails from people seeking help for their gallbladder condition. Between 10 and 15 percent of Americans will develop a gallbladder problem at some point in their life.
Gallbladder surgery is big business. It is one of the most commonly performed hospital procedures. In many cases, patients are rushed into surgery prematurely, when a more natural solution exists. In many cases, diet changes and nutritional supplements can restore the health of the gallbladder, preventing the need for surgery. Of course this depends on how severe the problem is and how long the gallbladder has been unwell.
Unfortunately gallbladder removal leaves some patients much worse off. Some people experience chronic discomfort and digestive problems after losing their gallbladder. The risk of developing liver problems is also higher in those who have had their gallbladder removed.
Luckily there are ways to overcome these problems, but ideally you would keep your gallbladder and dissolve any stones naturally.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones form when bile stored in the gallbladder hardens into stone-like objects. This process usually takes years. In fact the estimated growth rate of gallstones is approximately 2 millimetres per year.
Normal bile is made up of a combination of water, cholesterol, lecithin, other fats, bile acids, bilirubin, waste products and proteins. If the concentration of cholesterol in the bile becomes too high, relative to bile acids, cholesterol can precipitate out and form stones. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.
There are several types of gallstones:
- Cholesterol stones
- Pigment stones – these are formed from calcium bilirubinate (a component of bilirubin) and appear black or brown.
- Mixed stones – some people have both types of stones in their Gallbladder
Cholesterol stones are by far the most common type, accounting for 80 percent of all gallstones. They are made of hardened cholesterol and look yellow-green in color.
Common symptoms of gallstones
Gallstones are incredibly common, and many people do not realize they have them.
The most common signs and symptoms of gallbladder dysfunction include:
- Indigestion, particularly after eating rich fatty meals or dairy products
- Abdominal bloating or a feeling of excessive fullness after meals.
- Reflux or heartburn, also known as GERD
- Diarrhea or loose, urgent stools after some foods
- Abdominal cramps or other pain after a meal
- Discomfort behind the right shoulder blade, or top of the right shoulder
- Moody, irritable disposition
- Low tolerance to alcohol
- Sweating feet or excess sweating in the body in general
- Bad breath and coated tongue
- Fatigue after eating.
Natural ways to help overcome gallbladder problems
- Include plenty of foods specific for helping the liver and gallbladder function. They include beets and beet leaves, fresh green leafy herbs such as are mint, parsley, cilantro and arugula.
- Increase the amount of sulfur rich foods in your diet, such as garlic, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
- Taking digestive enzymes at the beginning of your meals may reduce symptoms. A good digestive enzyme supplement will combine enzymes with betaine hydrochloride (hydrochloric acid) and ox bile.
- Some people need additional ox bile. If you have several stones in your gallbladder, or very large stones, or if your gallbladder is inflamed, you are probably not secreting enough bile into your intestines each time you eat. That can cause indigestion, feeling unwell after oily meals and it can lead to a deficiency of essential fatty acids. Taking ox bile with each meal can help to reduce these symptoms, and it can help to soften gallstones and reduce their size.
- Take a good liver tonic twice daily; ensure it contains St Mary’s Thistle, dandelion root, globe artichoke and the sulphur bearing amino acid taurine.
- Find out if you have any food sensitivities. In the vast majority of cases, food intolerance aggravates gallbladder problems. The most common problematic foods are gluten, wheat, dairy products, eggs, soy and nuts. You can try an elimination diet or you can see a naturopath or nutritionist to help you identify problem foods and come up with alternatives.
- Sip one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar mixed in a quarter of a glass of warm water before meals.
- Increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids – Suitable sources are oily fish, good quality fish oil supplements, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Keep oils in the fridge.
- Another healthy fat to include in your diet is organic, cold pressed coconut oil. It is mostly comprised of medium chain fatty acids, which do not stress your gallbladder because they do not require bile for their digestion.
There is a great deal more information in our book Save your Gallbladder and what to do if you’ve already lost it.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.