The Gallbladder and Gallstones
Gallstones affect an estimated 20 million people per year in the United States alone.¹ While many people can have gallstones and not know it, severe cases can lead to the eventual rupturing of the gallbladder and possibly even death. Understanding your gallbladder (and how to help the body flush out gallstones and avoid them in the future) is imperative for a healthy lifestyle free of these painful annoyances.
Gallbladder: Location, Description & Function
Located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen and situated beneath the liver, the gallbladder is a kidney bean-shaped organ connected to the liver by the hepatic duct. The gallbladder works as a storage facility for the pint or so of bile produced by the liver daily. The cells of the intestinal walls secrete the hormone cholecystokinin. This hormone causes the gallbladder to contract, thus sending the bile into the common bile duct.
Bile is essential for aiding the lipase enzyme in digesting fat by breaking it down into smaller particles (which, in turn increases the surface area of the lipids for the lipase to act upon). The gallbladder stores bile until it’s needed, whereupon bile is secreted into the intestines after you consume fatty foods.
What is the Purpose of Digestive Bile?
After the bile breaks down the fats, other toxins, and dead blood cells, the intestines move along the mixture to aid in normal digestion and elimination. In fact, bile encourages the peristaltic action that eventually leads to you having a bowel movement. It can be said, in this regard, bile production helps prevent constipation and the natural elimination of toxins and other organic debris within the intestines. Some research indicates bile possesses some antimicrobial benefits as well.²
Bile also breaks down the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K while promoting the assimilation of fatty acids. Many people believe the brownish color of a normal bowel movement is caused by what they eat. While abnormal stool color can be achieved from foods and beverages (and certain digestive disorders), in fact, the processed hemoglobin from the aforementioned blood cells gives bile its yellow-green hue which in turn mixes with food to create the distinctive color of human waste.³
How Do Gallstones Develop?
Gallstones form when too much cholesterol is stored in the gallbladder. Thus, poor diet is the main contributor to gallstones about 80% of the time.4 However, scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany recently discovered a gene within the body that significantly improves the chances of gallstone production.5 Therefore, both heredity and diet may play an important role in the production of gallstones.
The Composition of Gallstones
Bile is formed primarily of dissolved cholesterol but an excess of cholesterol can lead to it becoming crystallized, thus forming small, hard stones within the gallbladder.6 Stones can also be formed by excessive bilirubin or calcium salt buildup in the gallbladder, but these are commonly referred to as pigment stones. Several demographic groups are at higher risk of developing gallstones: women (especially if pregnant or elderly), Native Americans, and anyone that is overweight. Of course, as mentioned, genetics and diet contribute to this condition as well.
General Statistics About Gallstones
- Each year in the United States, approximately 1 million people are newly diagnosed with gallstones.
- In the United States alone, over 500,000 gallbladder removals (cholecystectomies) or related operations occur each year, making it one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. The majority of gallbladder removals are related to the onset of stones.7
- Up to 42 million Americans (about 14% of the population) suffer from gallstones. Many of these people remain unaware they have this condition.8
Symptoms Of Gallstones
It’s quite common to live with these stones every day without apparent symptoms. However, when a gallstone attack surfaces, the result can be a crippling pain lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours or more. The pain usually starts in the abdomen and radiates to the chest, the back, and between the shoulder blades and may be accompanied by gas, heartburn, and indigestion.
If gallstones block the bile duct, the risk of infection increases. If the pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills, then infection is already occurring. Once the infection spreads to the liver, the victim will have jaundiced skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
Gallstones may also block the cystic duct which can inflame the gallbladder. When this happens, pain in the upper right abdomen and left shoulder will be evident and a fever will occur. This condition is called Cholecystitis. Another condition, gallstone ileus, is caused by a gallstone slipping into the small intestine to block entry to the large intestine. Gallstone ileus can be corrected only by surgery. However, proactive measures, such as taking high quality herbal supplements, can promote optimal liver health so this should not occur.
What Herbs Aid in Removing Gallstones?
Organic Chicory Root
Cultivated from the Nile river for thousands of years, Organic Chicory Root (Chichorium intybus) has a long and well-documented history of assisting with liver problems. In fact, documentation exists that ancient Romans used this herb to help cleanse the blood. Similarly, ancient Egyptians were known to consume Chicory Root in large amounts to aid in purifying the liver and the blood. Especially during periods of scarcity for traditional coffee beans, roasted Chicory Roots have often served as a natural caffeine-free alternative.
Learn more about Organic Chicory Root!
Organic Dandelion Leaf
Dandelion Leaf (Taraxacum officinale) helps promote bile excretion from the liver. As such, the body can more efficiently process foods and liquids while purging harmful toxins. In addition, improved bile flow makes it possible for the body to better metabolize fat, which helps optimize the body’s cholesterol levels.
Dandelion Leaf is also effective at stimulating a sluggish gallbladder, which is responsible for storing and excreting bile as the body needs it. As such, this natural substance is effective at promoting blood purity which helps reduce the burden placed on the liver to filter out toxins.
Learn more about Organic Dandelion Leaf!
Organic Dandelion Root
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a perennial herb native to North America and Europe. You may consider dandelions as a type of weed, but their roots have been used for many years to aid the body in purifying the blood and helping to avoid liver problems. For people suffering from excess water in the liver due to health problems (a condition known as edema), Dandelion Root can help remove the water and improve overall liver function.
Learn more about Organic Dandelion Root!
Organic Greater Celandine
Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is often used to assist with liver and gallbladder cleansing programs for various disorders directly and indirectly associated with the liver. In addition, this valuable herb is often used to help prevent the accumulation of foreign particles in the liver.
Learn more about Organic Greater Celandine!
Organic Milk Thistle Seed
A number of studies suggest Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum) supports optimal liver function. For example, Milk Thistle Seed’s can promote the liver’s ability to regenerate new tissue after damage occurs. Milk Thistle Seed even shows promise in stimulating the liver to produce additional bile for improved digestive function.
Learn more about Organic Milk Thistle Seed!
Organic Peppermint Leaf
Organic Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita) helps to improve the flow of bile from your liver to the gallbladder. The volatile oil found in Peppermint (a hybrid of watermint and spearmint) also aids with the overall digestive process. As such, Peppermint helps keep your liver in proper working order and allows it to function more effectively.
Learn more about Organic Peppermint Leaf!
Offering strong antioxidant effects, Organic Turmeric (Curcuma longa) helps remove toxins from the body. As a result of this antioxidant effect, your liver does not have to work as hard to filter blood and keep your body healthy. This creates a healthier liver by allowing it to focus on removing toxins from the body.
Learn more about Organic Turmeric!
Organic Yellow Dock Root
Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus) aids in eliminating foreign substances that can overburden the liver. Other health conditions believed to be indirectly reduced by taking Yellow Dock Root include headaches, mental "fuzziness", general irritability, skin blemishes, and blood and skin disorders—all of these problems are related to the liver not being able to operate efficiently.
Learn more about Organic Yellow Dock Root!
Wildcrafted Chanca Piedra (Grown in Organic Conditions)
With the recent "discovery" of a very well known Amazon rainforest plant, Chanca Piedra (Phyllautus niuri), healthcare practitioners have acquired a powerful plant ally in helping their patients maintain optimal bladder, kidney, gallbladder, and liver health. Chanca Piedra is traditionally regarded as a health supplement that can promote the liver’s normal detoxification efforts for purging harmful substances.†
Learn more about Wildcrafted Chanca Piedra!
What If My Gallbladder Has Been Removed?
When the gallbladder is removed, the human body generally compensates for its absence. The bile duct, found on the visceral side of the liver, will increase in size to take over the task of bile storage. Some patients experience diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other gastrointestinal disorders whereas others exhibit no post-surgery symptoms whatsoever.
One theory is that bile stored in the bile duct will continually "drip" into the small intestine (even when there is no food present) thus causing the intestinal tract to become inflamed. The long-term effect of this irritation is that it may contribute to the onset of colon cancer.
What Diet Is Best For The Gallbladder?
Since cholesterol is a main contributor to the development of gallstones, it makes sense to stick with to low fat, low-cholesterol diet. A diet high in live fiber can help keep the gallbladder and the rest of your digestive system functioning properly. Foods to be avoided include coffee, soda, milk, chocolate, meats, dairy products, and especially those high in sugar.
Can Food Allergies Affect My Gallbladder?
J.C. Breneman, M.D., a pioneer in food allergy research, recently discovered that eliminating allergy-prone foods from the diet can cause gallbladder symptoms to diminish. The allergic reaction to the foods of his patients was found to cause inflammation of the biliary ducts, which in turn restricted the flow of bile and led to increased pain.
How Can I Help Cleanse My Gallbladder?
Having a clean and well-functioning colon is vital to the body’s overall health. For the best health possible, it’s essential to cleanse the liver and the gallbladder to help promote a healthy and strong digestive system. Livatrex®, the amazing liver and gallbladder cleanser from Global Healing Center, is designed aid in the body’s natural cleansing efforts.
Livatrex® contains nine organic ingredients that work together to assist in detoxification and purging the liver and gallbladder of toxins and harmful substances. Livatrex® helps stimulate a sluggish gallbladder and aids in cleansing the blood and liver by improving bile flow and aiding in breaking down gallstones and kidney stones.
†Please Note: Chanca Piedra may increase the effects of certain diabetic, high blood pressure, and diuretic drugs. Do not use if pregnant or nursing due to its purgative action. Please consult your healthcare provider before taking this or any herbal supplement.
- Everhart, J. E., Khare, M., Hill, M. and K. R. Maurer. "Prevalence and ethnic differences in gallbladder disease in the United States." Gastroenterology. Pub. Sept 1999. Vol. 117, Issue 3. (632-9). Available: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=10464139&dopt=AbstractPlus PMID ID=10464139
- Begley, M., Gahan, C. G. and C. Hill. "The interaction between bacteria and bile." FEMS microbiology reviews. pub. Sept 2005. Vol. 29, Issue 4. (625-51). Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=16102595&dopt=AbstractPlus PMID: 16102595
- University of Chicago Medical Center. "Biliary System - Anatomy, Functions." Online. Accessed 25 Sept 2007. Available: http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-library/content=P00659
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Gallstones." Online. Accessed 25 Sept 2007. Available: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gallstones/index.htm
- Lammert, F., Grünhage, F., Walier, M. and T. Wienker. "Research team discovers gallstone gene." Pub. in Hepatology. 11 July 2007. Issue 46. DOI 10.1002/hep.21847. Online. Accessed 25 Sept 2007. Available: http://www.uni-bonn.de/en/News/93_2007.html
- T. S. Low-Beer. "Nutrition and cholesterol gallstones." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Pub. Feb 1985. Vol. 44, Issue 1. (127-134 ). Available by Subscription: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cabi/pns/1985/00000044/00000001/art00026;jsessionid=2ow2ghpr7eaaw.alexandra
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Dieting and Gallstones." Online. Accessed 25 Sept 2007. Available: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/gallstones.htm#whatare
- Breneman, J. C., "Allergy elimination diet as the most effective gallbladder diet." Annals of allergy. Pub. 1968. Vol. 26. (83-7).