The gallbladder is one of the three primary organs of digestion.

Lunch Hour Lesson #25

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Before we talk about the gallbladder, we have to talk about bile.

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The word “bile” has only negative connotations – a mean person is said to be full of bile, like bitterness. You may say that bile rose in your throat if you were particularly angry. A bilious person has a peevish, ill-natured disposition.

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If I told you that you had an organ that stored all your body’s bile, and that this organ had a tendency to get congested with gallstones and could even attack you, most people would say, “Get rid of it! I don’t need something horrible like that lying around in my body!”

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I’m exaggerating, but this organ I’m talking about is, yes, the gallbladder. And the surgery to remove it has become very routine. Seems that most people agree that it’s best to just get it out.

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But I’m here to say no! Let’s look at this more carefully and understand why bile is actually a great substance, and why we need an organ to store it.

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First, where is the gallbladder, anyway? It sits tucked up under the liver on the right side of our abdomen, and it is one of three primary organs of digestion (along with the stomach and pancreas).

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The gallbladder’s job is to store and release the bile that the liver manufactures. And bile is what our body uses to digest fats. Without bile, no fat digestion. Think of bile as a soapy substance, which breaks the fat globules into tiny molecules that can be digested easily.

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If food moving from the stomach to the small intestine contains fats, a special hormone is sent to the gallbladder to prompt bile to be released at just the right time.

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The liver cannot receive this hormone, so without the gallbladder to store the bile until the right time, the liver just drips bile into the small intestine randomly, instead of being timed to release in the presence of food.

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A person without a gallbladder will experience inflammation in the small intestine from this constant drip of bile, and this person will not be able to digest fats.

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The “solution” given is to not eat foods with fat, but this is advice that doesn’t honor the important roles that fat plays in our health. It is used to build hormones, strengthen cell membranes, and gives us a stable source of clean-burning energy. Healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow, olive oil, and avocado oil are critical in the diet.

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If you still have a gallbladder, the best way to keep it healthy is to eat plenty of these healthy fats so the bile in the gallbladder is excreted and replenished regularly. Otherwise it can sit for too long and become thick and sluggish. That’s what leads to gallstones.

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Also, some types of fat actually irritate and cause inflammation in the gallbladder. These are trans fats and vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and corn oil, which are used in most processed foods and are the worst offenders for the gallbladder.

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The combination of anti-fat messaging for the past 50 years along with the rise of processed foods using inflammatory vegetable oils has lead to significant gallbladder dysfunction in our population.

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If you don’t have a gallbladder anymore, this is one of the few times where you will need to take a supplement indefinitely. Choose a high quality ox-bile supplement, and take it with meals. Also, keep your meal times regular. The liver will be a little better at releasing bile at the right times if you eat at the same time every day.

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To sum up: Yes, the gallbladder is a crucial organ of digestion and you need it. Keep it healthy by eating healthy fats. And if it has already been removed, take an ox bile supplement with meals. If you have been told you need gallbladder removal surgery, please reach out to me on my website and we can create a plan to try to save it with nutritional therapy.

Weekend Tip

Check the food labels in your refrigerator and your pantry. Throw out anything that lists the inflammatory vegetable oils: canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and corn oil. This includes cooking oils like Wesson. Stock your pantry with good quality olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, and your fridge with butter and pastured lard. Your gallbladder (and heart – but that’s a different story) will thank you. Plus, everything will taste more delicious.

Lunch Hour Lesson #25: Do I Really Need My Gallbladder?

Posted by Allison Mädl Nutritional Therapy and Education on Wednesday, April 24, 2019