Gallbladder problems are incredibly common. They often go hand in hand with liver conditions such as fatty liver, being overweight or being a diabetic. They are also much more common in women than in men. This is mostly because of the effects of the female hormone estrogen on the bile within the gallbladder. It makes bile thicker and more prone to forming sludge. Sludge in the gallbladder can eventually form into stones.
There is a lot of information about gallbladder problems on the internet. Some of it is very good, while other information is entirely incorrect, and can even be harmful.
Having treated several hundred patients with gallbladder problems, I would like to share with you the most common gallbladder myths and truths that I’ve encountered. It’s possible that what you think will help your gallbladder, could actually do it harm.
Myth – You need to follow a low fat diet to prevent or shrink gallstones.
Fact – The opposite is true. A low fat diet actually encourages the formation of stones for three reasons:
- Excess carbohydrate is converted into fat in your liver
- Low fat diets promote bile stasis
- Gluten can interfere with gallbladder contractions;
thus all three factors promote gallstones. You need to eat some fat in order to flush the gallbladder clean and avoid stagnation of bile. Sugar is a bigger problem for the gallbladder than fat is.
Myth – People with gallbladder disease should avoid saturated fat.
Fact – Many commonly consumed saturated fats are composed of short and medium chain fatty acids. These fats do not require bile for their digestion therefore do not place a strain on the gallbladder. For example coconut oil and ghee are saturated fats predominantly composed of medium and short chain fatty acids respectively, and are okay to eat.
Myth – A gallbladder flush is the best way to get rid of gallstones.
Fact – A gallbladder flush is not for everyone. If you are already in pain, it can make the pain significantly worse, and even lead to an emergency trip to hospital where you’d likely return without your gallbladder.
Myth – It doesn’t matter if your gallbladder is removed. It’s not an important organ and you can be perfectly healthy without it.
Fact – Yes, it’s true that you can survive quite well without a gallbladder, but you are at greater risk of developing certain liver conditions. You will also have impaired fat digestion and probable deficiency of fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins including vitamins D, K, E and A, as well as essential fatty acids. Taking an can largely help to counteract this problem.
Myth – Having your gallbladder removed will stop the pain and then you can eat whatever you like.
Fact – This is not the case for many people. Some people experience even worse symptoms after their gallbladder is taken out. Either way, removing the gallbladder does not address the underlying metabolic abnormalities that caused a person to develop stones in the first place.
Myth – You can’t do a liver detox if you don’t have a gallbladder.
Fact – Yes, you can do a liver detox and it is critical to take good care of your liver in order to avoid developing stones within the liver and other liver disorders. Fatty liver disease is very common in those who have had their gallbladder removed, and a good liver tonic like can help to reduce this risk.
Myth – It is normal and expected that you’ll have digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea after having your gallbladder removed and it’s just something you’ll have to live with.
Fact – No it isn’t. There are ways to ensure good digestion and help you be symptom free.
Gallstones are not always caused by an abnormality of the gallbladder; they are caused by problems with the liver and digestive system, which promote the production of unhealthy bile, which is then more likely to form stones. Digestive problems can also interfere with the ability of the gallbladder to contract, thus further encouraging stone formation and inflammation of the gallbladder.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.