Your gallbladder aids in your digestive system and is connected by ducts to your liver and small intestine. It rests beside your liver, and stores bile produced by the liver, to aid in digestion. Bile is an alkaline based combination of elements; bilirubin, cholesterol, phospholipids, fatty acids, water, and electrolytes. The liver produces the bile and stores it in the gallbladder to neutralize acidity and fat in foods. The body must have sufficient bile throughout the digestive process for optimal absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and other fat soluble nutrients. Bile also helps eliminate hormones and chemicals processed by the livers’ detoxification process.
To help digest foods and extract vitamins and nutrients the bile is pushed into the small intestine when the gallbladder contracts. Gallstones occur when there is an imbalance in the elements of the bile. Once the imbalance occurs, some of the bile fluid can turn to a solid state, or stone. This can become very painful when the gallbladder contracts to push the stone out of the duct and or at times a stone can get stuck requiring surgery.
You may have a gallstone at this very moment. Many people don’t even know they have them or have passed them. They may have been fortunate enough to pass the stone small enough to get through the duct into the small intestine. Stats show, 20% of women and 8% of men over the age of 40, have gallstones in their gallbladder.
Those at risk are:
- Women; are more likely to get them than men.
- High-fat eaters; having a high-fat diet can increase your cholesterol levels and causing an imbalance in the bile.
- Native American women; 75% of Native American women over the age of 30 are more likely to get them.
- Obesity; cholesterol plays a very important role. Whether you have a high-fat diet or are currently trying to lose a large amount of weight, the influx of cholesterol can help produce gallstones.
- Drugs; there are certain drugs that try to rid the body of unwanted cholesterol. When this happens the exit is usually through the gallbladder, leading to an imbalance in the bile.
- Disease. Those that have an existing digestive disease may be at risk for gallstones since any problems absorbing or secreting bile or cholesterol can be harmful.
Prevention is the best course of action. Otherwise, the alternatives are drug therapy, or surgery to completely remove the gallbladder.
Nutrition is extremely important in preventing gallstones. A diet high in water-soluble fiber, vegetables, and fruits; and low in preservatives, fat, and refined sugar can help your system perform effectively. Clinically, those individuals with either a personal or family history of gallstones should actively identify food allergens and also hidden food sensitivities. The hidden food sensitivities can be identified with a simple 96 food test that can be collected in the convenience of your home and then sent to a nationally licensed lab for analysis. Many health experts believe that the chemical balance and health of the gallbladder is altered by food sensitivities. Getting tested for food allergies can be a very beneficial step in your preventative treatment. On the other hand surgery for taking out the gallbladder is an option. However, surgery can be costly, and recovery time can be detrimental to your lifestyle. Consider doing some research and consulting your physician before taking this step in your treatment. Even if you have succumbed to having your gallbladder removed due to stones, getting tested is prudent. And if you have not yet been forced to have your gallbladder removed, fueling your body optimally is an important first step.
For those who suffer from gallstones or hoping to lessen your chance of getting them, all things being equal here are some helpful hints:
- Limiting your consumption of legumes (beans) is a good idea. Even though legumes are a good source of fiber, they can concentrate the cholesterol.
- Limiting animal fat in your diet can be beneficial.
- Sugar consumption is relative to the formation of gallstones.
- Avoid stimulants; coffee and alcohol, if you know you have gallstones.
- Make sure you take a daily multi-vitamin, many times nutrient deficiency can be contributory.
- An important nutrient to have in your diet is, Lecithin. Lecithin is a component of bile and if you are restricting it in your diet, you may get gallstones. Other nutrients to be aware of are; Vitamin A, E, D, K and C.
- Taking fish oil as a supplement may help with the natural chemical composition in the bile.
If the imbalance of the bile gets out of hand and a stone is formed, sometimes that stone may be too large to push out of the gallbladder. When a blockage occurs, the bile backs up and is not able to perform its function. A symptom that this is happening is jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin. It will be necessary to unblock the bile duct. If you feel an uncomfortable feeling after eating that radiates to your right shoulder or fullness along your lower right ribs; or suffer from indigestion it is prudent to get your liver and gallbladder checked out by your personal physician. Hopefully, the person will be able to pass it themselves, even though it will be quite painful. Otherwise, it will be necessary to have surgery.
Your gallbladder is very important in the production and elimination of cholesterol. It is important to maintain overall health if you know you are prone to gallstones. In today’s world, the American diet is high-fat, high-sugar and both negatively impact the health of your digestion. There are many ways of preventing this condition. Proper nutrition and supplementation can greatly limit the production of the stones. However, depending on the severity and frequency of the gallstones, you may need to seek medical advice.
- May 2013