People tend not to think about their gallbladder unless gallstones become a painful and debilitating problem requiring surgery. However, your gallbladder could be causing gut problems or chronic inflammatory issues, even if you have no overt gallbladder symptoms.
In fact, gallbladder issues are one of the most common reasons people have chronic gastrointestinal symptoms that are difficult to treat. This is because people rarely consider gallbladder health.
The gallbladder is reservoir for bile, which it secretes to emulsify fats in the diet.
The issue with many cases of poor gallbladder health isn’t gallbladder stones but instead biliary stasis. This is a condition in which the bile becomes overly thick and doesn’t secrete well to help digest fats.
Gallstones are obvious and easy to diagnose. Symptoms of gallstones include:
- Severe and sudden pain in the upper right abdomen and possibly extending to the upper back.
- Fever and shivering.
- Severe nausea and vomiting.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Clay colored stools or dark urine.
Typically, gallstones include a trip to the emergency room and gallbladder removal surgery, one of the most commonly performed surgeries today.
However, by paying attention to your gallbladder health, you can not only avoid an unnecessary surgery that raises the risks of developing other health problems, but also you can improve your gut function and lower inflammation.
Sometimes in cases of biliary stasis, an ultrasound can show gallstones that have formed but not yet obstructed the gallbladder. However, for many people, overly thick bile is the problem. This can be identified via symptoms.
Symptoms of biliary stasis include:
- Bloating after meals
- Burping after meals
- Fish oil burps from fish oil capsules
- Fatty foods make you feel worse
- Floating stools
- Chronic constipation
These are symptoms that a conventional doctor may dismiss altogether, and that can also be caused by other imbalances.
Biliary stasis is especially common in overweight women over 40 who have had children due to the effects of hormonal shifts on the gallbladder.
It’s important to address gallbladder function and biliary stasis as sufficient bile flow is necessary to digest fats. When fats aren’t digested, the undigested fats cause imbalances elsewhere in the body.
Undigested fats can lead to poor sphincter function in the digestive tract, which facilitates the transport of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine, causing a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO causes myriad symptoms, including chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, or both. Bloating is also common with SIBO.
Biliary stasis also backs up the liver’s detoxification pathways. As a result, the liver cannot effectively detoxify hormones, toxins, and other metabolites. This increases the toxic burden on your system, which in turn increases inflammation.
Many people with poor gallbladder function and biliary stasis naturally start avoiding fats, even healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil. They also may avoid fish or fish oils because they get “fishy burps.” This increases health risks, particularly for the brain and the hormones, because we need ample healthy fats for optimal function. It also leads to deficiencies in the vital fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
If you are taking all the right GI supplements and doing the right gut health diets but still not improving, your gallbladder health is one thing you may want to consider.
How to improve your gallbladder health
Fortunately, various nutritional compounds support gallbladder health, fat digestion, and liver detoxification, including dandelion root, milk thistle seed extract, ginger root, phosphatidylcholine, and taurine.
These compounds can also help if your gallbladder has been removed, along with ox bile.
In order to improve and maintain your gallbladder health, also include these practices:
- Eat 25–38 grams of fiber a day.
- Avoid processed and excess starchy carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, potatoes, pasta, etc.).
- Avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and processed vegetable oils.
- Get plenty of essential fatty acids and omega 3s.
- Eliminate foods to which you have an immune response; gluten and dairy are the two most common.
- Support low thyroid function or autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Ask my office for more advice on how to support your gallbladder health or your general health if your gallbladder has been removed.