Tonawanda News

June 30, 2013

NATURAL HEALTH: Be kind to your gallbladder

By Catherine Stack
The Tonawanda News

— Fair, fat and 40 used to be the common scenario for those suffering gallbladder disease. It was the classic description of the gallbladder patient and no one in medicine would deny it. Because we are fatter at earlier ages, it is now common to see gallbladder disease in those in their late teens and early twenties.

Many individuals will accept the doom of their gallbladder and will agree to its removal, never questioning why. Removing organs without addressing why it happened in the first place, is, in my opinion, broken medicine. Yes, the painful and sluggish gallbladder will be gone, but you have fixed nothing. Eventually there will be other organ failures as no one has addressed the cause: your diet.

Gallbladder disease and gallstones are almost always the result of poor nutrition. For example, consuming a lot of soft drinks, sugar products, highly acidic foods like red meat and products made with white/wheat flour all contribute to the formation of gallstones. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts are aggravating factors as well.

Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.

Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something — usually a gallstone — blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. Gallstone attacks usually happen after you eat. Signs of a gallstone attack may include nausea, vomiting or pain in the upper right abdomen that radiates to the back, or just under the right arm.

Gallstones can be reversed, but it’s something that takes quite a bit of time. After all, they have been formed in your body over a period of decades, so it’s not something you can get rid of overnight from a nutritional standpoint. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, gallbladder disease affects more than 20 million people each year (2004). More than 700,000 people each year have this organ removed. Unfortunately, once removed, you may have compromised your digestive health for the rest of your life and no traditional health professional seems to know how to buffer the blow.

For example, you’re not going to get the same quality of digestion you would have had if your gallbladder were in place. You’re not going to get the excretion of the bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine, and as a result, you’re not going to efficiently digest foods that are moving through your digestive tract.

This means that if you don’t take specific supplements to help you digest healthy fats, you’ll miss out on all-important omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy oils. Classic signs of essential fatty acid deficiencies: poor nervous system function, irritability, learning difficulties, heart disease, poor blood sugar control and so on.

A sad scenario is that many people never change their diet after the surgery and this accelerates the downward spiral of their health. Trans fats (hydrogenated fats) should be avoided at all costs.

How can you prevent or reverse gallbladder disease? Diet and exercise! Keep your body moving. This helps keep all organs functioning well. 

Eating foods without an ingredient list will go a long way, especially if you eat five to nine servings of vegetables daily. Bread should not be a daily staple, as it supports a sluggish digestive system. Digestive enzymes, that minimally include lipase, amylase and protease, will help you digest your food better and help to prevent difficulty down the road.

There are gallbladder flush recipes that work very well. I do not recommend them in a sick person who is in pain, but rather in someone who knows they have gallstones and want to avoid surgery.

For those who have already lost their gallbladder, bile salts would help your body digest the ever-important omega-3 fatty acids. Diarrhea is a possible side effect, but with more than half the population constipated, I do not believe this would be a big deal. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, betaine HCL and choline also help to make up for the missing organ, in helping to absorb protective fats that are anti-inflammatory as well as anti-aging.

Eat well, exercise and supplement the areas that you are lacking. This will go a long way when it comes to preventing surgeries that may not be necessary.

Catherine Stack is a doctor of naturopathy and a certified nurse midwife. Her practice is located at Journey II Health in Niagara Falls. Contact her at 298-8603 or at her website at