Gallbladder problems are extremely common. Approximately 750,000 Americans have their gallbladder removed each year. In most cases, the pain of a malfunctioning gallbladder becomes so bad, that surgery is the only viable option. Most people are under the impression that once their gallbladder is taken out, the pain and discomfort they’ve been living with will be gone. Sadly that’s often not the case. It is common to have just as much discomfort after the gallbladder is removed.
The function of the gallbladder
Your gallbladder is important. Your liver continually manufactures bile, which travels to your gallbladder, where it is stored and concentrated. Bile helps you to digest fat; therefore your gallbladder secretes a lot of bile into your intestines after you’ve eaten a fatty meal. Bile is also your body’s way of excreting wastes and toxins. Bile contains cholesterol and other fats that your liver has broken down and wants to excrete. A well functioning gallbladder helps your body excrete cholesterol, other fats and fat soluble toxins.
What happens when you don’t have a gallbladder?
Your liver continues to manufacture bile, but there is no longer a place to store it or concentrate it. Therefore bile continually slowly trickles into intestines. If you eat a fatty meal, you will not be able to secrete a large enough amount of bile into your intestines, therefore the fat will be poorly digested. This means many people experience diarrhea, bloating, nausea or indigestion.Not digesting fat well means you will not be able to digest essential fatty acids, including omega 3 and omega 6 fats. It also means you’ll have a hard time absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins D, E, A and K. These nutrients are vital for good health, and you will probably need to take a supplement.
How to have a healthy liver and good digestion without a gallbladder
First of all it’s important to realise that you developed a gallbladder problem in the first place because you had an unhealthy liver. If your liver is not healthy, it will make poor quality bile. The bile will be prone to forming sludge and stones. Just whipping the gallbladder out doesn’t solve that problem, and in fact sludge and stones can form within the liver, compromising its function.Here are some vital tips to follow:
- Keep your intake of dairy products and grains to a minimum or avoid them altogether. Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice-cream, yoghurt) worsen all cases of gallbladder disease, liver disease and they are very difficult to digest. Food intolerance is a common cause of gallbladder problems, and there is research that links gluten intolerance with gallstones. A good reason to keep your intake of grains low is to reduce the risk of developing a fatty liver. There is an easy to follow eating plan in my book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It.
- Take a good quality liver tonic such as Livatone. The herbs St Mary’s thistle, dandelion root and globe artichoke leaves all increase bile production and bile flow. Taurine is an amino acid necessary for bile production. This should help to make you feel more comfortable after a meal, and should reduce the risk of stones forming inside your liver.
- Eat some good fats and avoid the bad fats. Your doctor may have recommended you follow a low fat diet after having your gallbladder removed. This is not necessary and in fact it is harmful. Your body desperately needs good fats and I recommend you include moderate quantities of extra virgin olive oil, avocados, coconut milk and oil, nuts and seeds in your diet.
- Take a good quality digestive enzyme supplement. The natural bile salts in this product will help you digest fats and fat soluble vitamins more thoroughly.
- You may need a vitamin D3 supplement. People with compromised liver or digestive function are often vitamin D deficient. Exposure of your skin to the sun’s UVB rays enables your body to manufacture vitamin D. However, this process occurs in your liver and kidneys. People with a sluggish liver often do not manufacture vitamin D adequately. Therefore it’s a good idea to get a blood test and take a supplement. 5000 IU of vitamin D3 is a safe and effective dose for most people, but it’s best to be guided by your own doctor.
- Include some bitter and sour foods in your diet. They should help to improve your digestion and make it easier to tolerate good fats in your diet. Suitable bitter and sour foods include lemons, limes, radicchio lettuce, chicory, endive and dandelion leaves. These leaves are fairly easy to grow at home if you are lucky enough to have your own veggie patch.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.