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Got a gallbladder problem? There are natural alternatives to surgery

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.

 

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Products Related to this Article

Digestive Enzymes
Vitamin D Caps
Ox Bile 500mg
Livatone Liver Tonic 240

30 comments

  1. Hi,
    I had extreme pain which sent me to the ER. No signs of stones anywhere. My PCP sent me for an ultrasound which showed small polyps on my gallbladder. Since I was so concerned, I went to see a specialist and he ordered a HIDA scan which showed minimal fuction (12). The doctor recommends surgery for removal of gallbladder. I usually dont experience pain after eating and only had one very severe attack. Is surgery the way to go? Thank you!

    • Hi Nancy,

      If you are in a lot of pain, removal may be the best.
      We recommend you eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, processed food and takeout meals.
      Dr Cabot recommends these supplements if you lose your gallbladder or keep it:
      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps in the middle of meals to replace the bile that can no longer come from the gallbladder for essential fat absorption.
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function.
      N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 2 caps twice daily at least 2 hours away from food, if any upset occurs please take with meals. NAC is the precursor to glutathione; the body’s most potent antioxidant. This supplement works well with Livatone Plus to get the liver better faster.
      These supplements can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

    • hi Nancy,
      i went and got an ultra sound and they found gallstones in my GB 8mm . I now control the pain by not eating or drinking anything from 4pm. before 4pm i eat less and more healthy. green smoothies,no processed sugar, no oily stuff, small portions,no more fast food, no soda, drink lots of water and pure apple juice not from concentrate. the secret is 4pm. (this is very hard to do because the only thing that will make you stick to it is not wanting that stupid gallbladder attack pain…its a nightmare) you will loose weight fast by doing this so make sure you choose the healthiest food to eat before 4pm…start your day early 6-7am) so you can eat 3 meals. p.s. this advise is for woman that are breastfeeding and cannot take pain medicines. i’m going to flush the stones out once i’m done feeding my baby.

      • Hi Melissa,

        We recommend you get a HIDA scan of your gallbladder to see how it’s functioning.
        We recommend you read this article for further information on diet advice for gallstones: https://www.liverdoctor.com/natural-remedies-for-gallstones/
        Please avoid processed foods, margarine and large quantities of oily foods such as cheese and cream.
        There is some great information in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.
        After you have finished breast feeding, there are some supplements we can recommend.

        Kind Regards,
        Jessah Robinson
        Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  2. Hi, I’ve been having pain for 7 months. Started with an intense pain under my right ribs at the bottom. This pain started at midnight and was constant until 5pm the following day. I’ve had several tests done including a HIDA scan showing my gallbladder functioning at 72%. They said this was normal. I’ve had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan, MRI and numerous ultrasounds. All come back normal. I have been eating a very strict diet with lean meats, lots of vegetables (especially green leafy). I am gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and egg-free. I eat all whole foods that are prepared and cooked by myself only. I have been losing weight within these months and I am now extremely underweight. My doctor told me to try Ox Bile along with my enzymes (enzymes have never given me any issues) but after I took a very small amount of Ox Bile I had really intense gas pain in my pelvis up into my ribs for 9 hours!! I could not relieve wind, I tried yoga, meditation, walking, etc. Nothing worked. Now a day later I wake with pain under my right and left ribs, I cannot lift my right leg up all the way without pain under my right rib. This always happens when I eat something fatty- olive oil, fatty meat, etc. I’m a little confused why I am reacting so badly to Ox Bile when it’s supposed to help my gallbladder. Does this mean it’s not my gallbladder? Is this pain from my liver? Thanks.

    • Hi Felicia,

      We recommend you get a liver function test.
      Your diet sounds very good, we recommend you try raw juicing. There’s some great recipes in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.
      To gain weight in a healthy way we recommend you eat more healthy fats such as coconut milk, flesh, oil, hemp seeds and nuts.
      Also, eat more healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, quinoa, etc.
      Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function.
      N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 2 caps twice daily at least 2 hours away from meals, if any upset occurs please take with meals. NAC is the precursor to glutathione; the body’s most potent antioxidant. This supplement works well with Livatone Plus to get the liver better faster.
      These supplements can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  3. I had a second HIDA scan to compare with the first . The first one said it is functioning at 14% and I’m waiting on the results of the second. Also the first one I also had an ultrasound that did not show evidence of gallstones. I also did an ultrasound with this second HIDA scan but again waiting on results. How can they tell if you have sludge. I’ve never had a problem with pain after eating anything but would always get pain in my upper right quadrant in the abdomen for a few days a few days after I converted from afib to NSR. Now for the past six months I’ve had this dull pain in the center of my back between my shoulder blades, and twice within those six months I’ve had two separate days where I’ve had severe pain behind my right shoulder blade down my right back to around the kidney area accompanied by severe headache. Each time during those two times every time I would breath in deeply the pain would intensify.

    • Hi Brian,

      It sounds like you have an inflamed gallbladder as well as inflammation of the liver.
      We recommend you get a liver function test and/or ultrasound scan of the liver.
      Please eliminate grains, sugar, processed foods and takeout meals from your diet.
      Try to base your diet on good protein sources (poultry,seafood,lean meat,eggs), good fats (avocadoes, cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds), fresh fruits and vegetables.
      There is an excellent eating plan and raw juicing recipes in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.
      Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function and improve bile flow.
      Super Digestive Enzymes 1 to 2 caps with a glass of water at each meal. This will improve fat metabolism, nutrient absorption, carbohydrate breakdown and reduce digestive symptoms.
      These can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  4. Hello there
    I have had the HIDA scan and my doctor told me my gallbladder isn’t functioning and my liver enzymes are high and my bioduct is inflamed this is so painful the surgery sounds good but is there another way to keep my gallbladder and also be pain free
    Thank you kindly for your time

    • Hi Amy,

      Do you know what percentage your gallbladder is functioning at?
      If you have pain and several gallstones we would recommend you have it removed.
      Whether you decide to get the surgery or not, Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps in the middle of meals to replace the bile that can no longer come from your gallbladder for essential fat absorption.
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function.
      N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 2 caps twice daily at least 2 hours away from food, if any upset occurs please take with meals. NAC is the precursor to glutathione; the body’s most potent antioxidant. This supplement works well with Livatone Plus to get the liver better faster.
      These supplements are available here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      We recommend you eliminate grains, sugar, dairy and processed foods from your diet.
      There is an excellent eating plan in Dr Cabot’s free e-book on fatty liver.
      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  5. I just came from the doctor today actually my 2nd opinion both of them told me to remove my gallbladder as the result of my ultasound is normal but only have 1 gallstone 15mm I don’t want to remove my gallbladder is there any method or other option to save my gallbladder?

    • Hi Dana,

      There are ways you can break the gallstone up and improve your gallbladder function.
      We recommend you get a HIDA scan to check how your gallbladder is functioning.
      There is an excellent eating plan in Dr Cabot’s book:’Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.
      Raw juices are excellent for helping to break up gallstones.
      Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function and increase bile flow.
      N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 2 caps twice daily at least 2 hours away from food, if any upset occurs please take with meals. NAC is the precursor to glutathione; the body’s most potent antioxidant. This supplement works well with Livatone Plus to get the liver better faster.
      These supplements are available here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      NUtritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  6. Hi Jessah, I had 2 gallbladder attacks within 5 days of each other about a 1.5 months ago. Those two attacks were the first ones I’ve ever had. I have been feeling fine now since taking out eggs and oily/fatty foods out of my diet (I’ve been gluten-free for 7 years). Ultrasound shows several (at least 5) that are about 5-11mm. I have a scheduled laparoscopic gallbladder surgery in 2 weeks. However, I really don’t want surgery and I’m looking for any way not to have surgery. I’m otherwise very healthy and fit. I’m 45 yrs old and female.

    • Hi Dahlia,

      It is possible to shrink gallbladder stones by avoiding fried foods, margarine and large amounts of oily foods such as cheese and cream.
      We recommend you follow the eating principles in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Healthy Bowel, Healthy Body’ or ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.
      Raw juicing is excellent and there are specific recipes to help break down gallstones in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.
      We suggest you get a HIDA scan to check your gallbladder function.
      Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to increase the production and flow of bile through your liver and gallbladder.
      The books and supplement mentioned can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com/
      There is further information in this article: https://www.liverdoctor.com/natural-remedies-for-gallstones/
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

      • Hi Jessah, Thank you for your quick reply and recommendations. I will read both books and ask for a HIDA scan to check my gallbladder function. And I will look into the supplements and try them. Thank you, again. I will keep you apprised.

  7. Due to have my gallbladder removed. I get painful attacks lasting six to eight weeks about once a year. In between i feel absolutely fine. Not sure wether to go ahead.

    • Hi Linda,

      Have you had an ultrasound scan of your abdomen or a HIDA scan?
      Please let us know your results.
      In the meantime Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function
      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps in the middle of meals three times daily to improve bile flow.
      These supplements can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com
      We recommend you avoid grains, dairy, processed food and take out meals.
      There is an excellent eating plan in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  8. Thank you for the excellent advice on this website. Both my mother and my uncle had their gallbladders removed. I’d rather keep mine.

    Infrequently, I have pain around the gallbladder area after eating a meal that has more fat than I usually consume. If I eat celery, either raw or stewed (remember Ogden Nash’s couplet—‘Celery raw develops the jaw, but celery stewed is more quietly chewed’ ?), the pain subsides. I am including the leaves of the celery stalk in my snack. Any idea why this seems to work for me? Is it the bitter leaves? Is it some compound in the entire plant?

    • Hi Donna,

      This symptom can indicate liver inflammation and/or sluggish bile flow.
      To check liver function we recommend you get an ultrasound scan and/or liver function test.
      Dr Cabot recommends you take
      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps in the middle of meals three times daily to improve bile flow.
      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function.
      These supplements can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com
      If this symptom continues we recommend you eliminate gluten, dairy and processed foods.
      Celery is a good liver healing food, along with other green vegetables.
      Let us know how you get on.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  9. So excited I found this article as it made things much quicekr!

  10. Hi, I had my gallstones removed but the doctor still insist removing my gallbladder because my eyes are still kinda yellow under the eyelids but I’m not in any pain but he says to remove it will save us dangers of more stones being developed’ please advice.

    • Hi Edian,

      Sometimes the gallbladder has to be removed to prevent a medical emergency which can occur eg. if gallstones obstruct the bile duct. Jaundice (yellow colour in the sclera of the eyes) may be an indication of bile duct obstruction. We recommend you ask your doctor for an ultrasound scan of the liver and gallbladder to check for any abnormalities or a HIDA scan to check the function and identify any abnormalities of the gallbladder and bile ducts. Following the advice in the Save Your Gallbladder book – changing your diet and taking LivaTone Plus and NAC to reduce inflammation and improve bile quality to prevent bile sludge and stones forming is recommended for long term health. If it is necessary for the gallbladder to be removed, the book has advice to help you live a healthy life without a gallbladder.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  11. I have gallbladder issues. I will be seeing a surgeon about my options. I am not excited about surgery.

    • Hi John,

      We suggest you read Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’. It contains an excellent diet plan for people with gallbladder issues.

      Have you had a HIDA scan?

      Dr Cabot recommends

      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps at the beginning of each meal to enhance bile flow.

      Livatone Liver Tonic 2 caps twice daily to tone and boost the gallbladder’s function.

      NAC 2 caps twice daily at least two hours away from food, if any upset occurs take with meals. This supplement works well with Livatone Liver Tonic to get your liver better faster.

      We also recommend a diet free of gluten, dairy, processed food and take-out meals. Low sugar is encouraged and definitely no high fructose corn syrup.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  12. just came from the hospital . no gallstones but full of sludge is there a diet I can do to avoid surgery ? in a lot of pain.

    • Hi Duane,

      Firstly, we recommend you have a HIDA scan done to check your gallbladder function.

      We recommend you follow the eating guidelines in Dr Cabot’s book: ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally’.

      Dr Cabot recommends

      Livatone Plus 2 caps twice daily to improve liver function

      Ox Bile 1 to 2 caps in the middle of meals three times daily to improve bile flow

      These supplements can be purchased here: https://shop.liverdoctor.com

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant

  13. My doctor said my gall bladder is only functioning at 25%. Is there any coming back from that or is surgery the only option? Several women in my family have had theirs removed, I was hoping to keep mine if possible. I’ve been dealing with attacks for close to 15 years, and I have managed to lessen the frequency and the amount of pain by (mostly) watching my diet. Is there any hope? I also have IBS with annoyingly frequent diarrhea almost immediately after meals, did I mention it’s annoying? I’ll do what I have to do, but I thought I would ask someone whos not just in it for the sole purpose of surgery. Thank you! :}

    • Hi Yolanda,

      Dr Cabot says that 25% gallbladder function is able to be function adequately and it’s function may be improved.

      Please avoid all gluten, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods and especially highly treated fats and oils.

      Good fats are encouraged, like avocadoes, cold pressed olive and nut oils in dark glass bottles.

      Dr Cabot recommends you begin taking

      Livatone Plus – 2 capsules twice daily, to improve liver function.

      N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC 600mg) – 2 capsules twice daily well away from food, if any upset occurs take at the beginning of your meals. As you will see from the attached pamphlet this supplement works well with Livatone Plus to get your liver better faster. This supplement hastens liver healing. This supplement is the precursor nutrient of glutathione; the body’s strongest anti-oxidant.

      Glutamine Powder – 1 teaspoon in water twice daily to calm, soothe, and heal your gut lining and resolve Leaky Gut in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant for Liverdoctor.com

  14. Linda lee Martinez

    Had my galbader removed but still have pain after eating and feel sluggish

    • Dear Linda,

      I recommend you follow the guidelines in the above article and this article: https://www.liverdoctor.com/what-to-do-if-you-dont-have-a-gallbladder/
      You should take Ox Bile 1 – 2 capsules at the beginning of each meal to replace the bile that can no longer be delivered from your gallbladder to help essential fat absorption. Take Livatone Plus caps 2 twice daily to improve liver function.
      These can be purchased from http://www.liverdoctor.com.
      You need to eliminate or reduce grains, dairy and processed foods.
      For more information see our book: ‘Save Your Gallbladder Naturally and What to Do If You’ve Already Lost It’.

      Kind Regards,
      Jessah Robinson
      Nutritional Consultant

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THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FDA AND ARE NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT OR CURE ANY DISEASES.