I find it increasingly alarming how many people have had their gallbladder’s removed, or are facing its removal. It all starts with a few nagging symptoms (most of which seem completely unrelated to the gallbladder itself) which quickly escalate into a full blown gallbladder attack, emergency room visit and a diagnosis of gallstones. At that point, the removal of the gallbladder is the most common medically recommended course, as if the gallbladder was no more than an extra appendage that we don’t use.
The problem is that the gallbladder IS a very important organ, one that the body relies on for so many functions. Ranging from digesting food, to operating as an exit pathway for the liver, the gallbladder is an integral part of the body system, one that plays a large role in your health. Without it, the body is forced to continue functioning, and while it can, the stress that is now placed on the other organs can easily lead to long-term health challenges and obstacles. The good news is that there is something that you can do about it. If you are currently deciding whether or not to undergo gallbladder surgery due to gallstones, there are many ways you can help to prevent the surgery and to save your gallbladder. I know that having the surgery seems like the easier option, but consider investing the time and energy to do more for yourself. Having a gallbladder, and a healthy one at that, will change your life… will change your future, so consider my natural treatment for gallstones and gallbladder removal surgery below.
If you are currently dealing with symptoms of gallbladder stress, or have been diagnosed with gallstones I urge you to take action. Take preventative measures to help the gallbladder return to normal functioning and to ease its stress, because it is an organ you will want to keep. While the common western medical viewpoint is that it’s uncertain why some people form gallstones, and that there are no known means to preventing gallstones or clearing them, alternative medical practices have proven otherwise. Through the knowledge and applied therapies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Integrative Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, gallbladder stone prevention and gallstone removal has shown possible. I have seen many people flush gallstones (myself included) from the body, and have seen chronic gallbladder pain and symptoms dissipate. It is all a matter of not giving in, and taking the necessary measures to preserve it.
If you have been unfortunate enough to already have had your gallbladder removed, let’s make one thing clear… this is a big deal, and you still have to “treat” the gallbladder. Just because the gallbladder is no longer there, it does not mean that you can go back to your normal ways of eating and living life. You are currently ONE organ short. You now have the job of assisting the body through food, herbs and lifestyle practices in order to make up for its absence. And why should you care? Because the absence of the gallbladder DOES have an impact on the body, and without proper awareness, it could lead to lifelong digestive issues, weight gain, foggy brain, insomnia, dry skin and potential chronic conditions.
So let’s talk details here. The more informed we are, the more empowered we are to take control of our own health. The great news is that there is a lot you can do whether you are currently dealing with gallstones or gallbladder pain, facing gallbladder removal surgery or don’t have a gallbladder at all. So here is my rundown of Natural Treatment for Gallstones and Gallbladder Removal Surgery.
What does the gallbladder do?
Hollow, muscular and pear-shaped, the gallbladder is a small organ whose main function is to store the bile that is produced at the liver. Bile is produced in the liver and then passes through the bile ducts to the cystic duct. From the cystic duct, bile is pushed into the gallbladder where it is stored until it is needed to digest the next meal. So essentially, the gallbladder is a storage device for the oh-so-important bile. When foods rich in proteins and fats are consumed, the body responds by producing the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). The CCK hormone tells the gallbladder to release its bile, which is then used to break down food, specifically fatty foods.
What is bile? Why do we need it?
The substances that make up bile vary according to the nutritional state of the individual, but the main components include bile acids (also called bile salts), phospholipids (mainly phosphatidylcholine [PC]), cholesterol, bilirubin (a by product of red blood cells), inorganic salts (potassium, sodium and bicarbonate), as well as very small amounts of copper and other metals. Its main function is to digest fatty foods, thus allowing the body to have access to the fats that are consumed.
Bile is not only utilized as a tool for breaking down fatty foods though, it also serves as a solution by which the liver eliminates toxins and waste, including excess hormones. The bile carries these toxins and metabolic byproducts away from the liver so that they can be properly eliminated from the body.
After the bile breaks down fats, other toxins, and dead blood cells, it travels to the intestines where it aids in normal digestion and elimination. In fact, bile encourages the peristaltic action that is critical for you to have a bowel movement. In this way, bile is very important for constipation prevention and the natural elimination of toxins and other organic debris within the intestines.
Bile also breaks down the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K while promoting the assimilation of fatty acids. This is extremely important because these vitamins play critical roles in the body. Vitamin A plays a role in healthy pregnancy and childbirth, infancy, childhood growth, night vision, red blood cell production, and resistance to infectious disease. Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is essential for healthy bone (prevents osteoporosis), mood (prevents depression), immunity (excellent for preventing cold/flu), helps control blood sugar levels (prevents diabetes), and maintains cardiovascular health. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects all cells, tissues and organs from damage and destruction, and it protects against heart disease by keeping cholesterol levels normal. The body also needs vitamin E to help keep the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria, and for forming red blood cells. Finally, Vitamin K is used for blood clotting, maintaining healthy bones and it may improve insulin resistance. So as you can see, without proper bile flow and the breakdown of these vitamins, all of these functions are impaired and their benefits not received.
Other functions of bile include:
- Eliminating excess cholesterol from the body – keeping cholesterol levels normal
- Clears excess hormones that otherwise can lead to hormone imbalance, estrogen excess
- Supports a healthy liver, improving its ability to detoxify and form important nutrients and hormones
- Keeps harmful bacteria in the small intestine and biliary tract from overgrowing
What happens if you have gallstones and thus poor bile flow?
Without proper bile flow the toxins and byproducts that are released from the liver cannot be properly eliminated. This can lead to further gallstone formation, a congested and poor functioning liver, and an overall toxic body. As a result, the following can occur:
- Hormone imbalance – high estrogen levels
- Chemical sensitivity (hives, allergies, poor immunity)
- Vitamin A, D, E and K deficiency despite supplementation
- Signs of low Omega 3 fatty acid levels (depression, inflammation, dry skin, poor eyesight, poor cardiovascular and brain health, nerve disorders, dementia, Alzheimer’s, high cholesterol + blood pressure, arthritis, lupus, ADHD, menstrual cramps etc.) Learn more here.
- Impaired digestion (gas, burping, loose stool, IBS)
- All other signs and symptoms of poor gallbladder health (seen below)
Signs of gallbladder stress or gallstones:
The following are the main signs that your gallbladder is not functioning properly. If you are experiencing any of these signs, there is a really good chance that gallstones have formed in the gallbladder and/or you have poor bile flow.
- Abdominal distention, bloating, gas
- Pain felt below right nipple (chest area), and right shoulder/behind scapula, between shoulder blades
- Inability to digest fats – floating stool, diarrhea after eating fatty foods, irritable bowel syndrome
- Insomnia, trouble falling asleep
- Irritability, anxiety, anxiousness
- Frequently burping
- Yellow complexion: bile backed up
- Scanty, dark yellow urine
- Fever, chills (not related to a virus or other illness)
- Thirst without desire to drink
- Bitter taste in mouth
- Dry skin
- Bumps on the backs of arms (triceps region)
- Constant feeling of fullness despite meal size
- Pain, indigestion felt after consuming caffeine, chocolate, eggs, dairy products (especially ice cream) and greasy or deep fried foods
Consistently waking up between 11pm and 1am
- Sticky coating on tongue
You have gallstones or signs of gallbladder stress… now what?
Don’t be surprised if you are experiencing one or many of the signs that your gallbladder functioning is less than stellar. I have been there. I personally had to work on my gallbladder for more than a year to get it back into shape. I was experiencing gallbladder pain, insomnia, dry skin and poor digestion, all because of long-term birth control use. And guess what? Most people have cleaning up to do in terms of gallbladder health, even if they have never been officially diagnosed with gallstones.
The factors that cause the development of gallstones, poor bile flow and poor gallbladder functioning affect us all, so much so it is hard to find anyone not affected. That is why gallbladder cleansing should become a part of your health routine, helping to keep the bile flowing, and the gallstones from forming. And if you currently have been diagnosed with gallstones, then the active cleansing of the stones is going to be your goal. The more dedicated you can be to breaking down the stones and flushing them out of the body, the better the chances of avoiding surgery, and restoring health.
So how did you get into this position exactly? The following is a list of risk factors that lead to gallbladder stress, gallstone formation and ultimately to gallbladder removal surgery.
Risk factors that cause gallbladder stress and gallstone formation
1. Birth Control Pills (causes B6 deficiency) and hormone replacement therapy
2. Pharmaceutical and recreational drugs
4. Eating dinner less than 3 hours before bedtime
5. Feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness (holding onto feelings, bottling them up, not releasing them)
6. Chronic dehydration (daily intake of water should be half your weight in ounces of water daily)
7. Low HCL (hydrochloric acid) production – also known as hypochlorhydria
8. Insufficient fiber intake – this prevents toxins including excess fat (cholesterol included) from being properly cleared from the body system
12. Diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, Chron’s disease, high cholesterol (triglycerides/LDL)
13. Poor diet: the regular and long-term consumption of foods that cause gallbladder stress
Worst foods for the Gallbladder: lead to gallstones, poor gallbladder functioning
What NOT to eat if you have gallstones, poor bile flow or have had gallbladder removal surgery
1. Fried foods
2. Fast foods
3. Red meat
4. Dairy (cream, ice cream, whole milk)
5. Artificial sugars (Splenda, NutraSweet, Sweet N Low, Equal, Sucralose)
6. Unhealthy fats like trans fats (polyunsaturated fat), lard, margarine, shortening (found in almost all processed, packaged and pre-made foods). Go here for more details.
7. Processed foods (packaged, boxed, frozen), pastries, donuts, cakes, pies…
8. White flour
9. White sugar
10. Hot and spicy foods
*Eggs may cause stress in some people. If so, eliminate.
Best foods for the Gallbladder
What to eat if you have gallstones, poor bile flow or have had gallbladder removal surgery
1. Whole fresh fruits (especially lemons and limes)
2. Vegetables (especially cruciferous like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes)
3. Red beets – fresh beet juice
4. Fresh pressed apple juice, organic apples
5. Apple cider vinegar
6. Bitter foods (arugula, dandelion, radicchio, kale, artichokes, dark leafy greens, radish, daikon)
8. Whole grains (non-gluten) including quinoa, brown rice, millet, farro, GF oats
9. Lean proteins like wild salmon, organic poultry, beans, vegan protein powders
11. Herbs and Spices (turmeric, cinnamon, parsley, cilantro, milk thistle, peppermint)
12. Sulfur-rich foods (buckwheat, garlic, onion, shallots, leeks)
13. Monounsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids: Okay in moderation (1-2 servings daily depending on sensitivity) raw nuts/seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, hemp oil, avocado, wild salmon, hemp and chia seeds
14. Raw nuts and seeds (eat in moderation – high in healthy fat but may cause stress in some situations)
I’ve had my gallbladder removed, now what?
As I have mentioned before, although you no longer have a gallbladder, you must still work as if you had one that needed help. Since you have removed the gallbladder, you have removed the storage system for the bile. So, even though you will have the same amount of bile in your body, the bile is constantly being delivered into your intestine instead of being stored.
The bile slowly trickles into the intestine rather than being measured and properly released based on the time, size and type of meal. As a result, if you eat a high fat meal, you most likely are not releasing adequate bile to properly digest it. Gas, bloating, burping and diarrhea may occur, and the food consumed cannot be fully broken down. This prevents the body from grabbing all the nutrients it needs from the food consumed, leading to nutrient deficiency and its related side effects – fatigue, weak hair/nails, dry skin, foggy brain etc. Furthermore, the undigested food can rot in the gut creating toxic matter. This toxic matter can lead to food allergies, skin disorders, a weakened immune system and overall poor health.
Due to the downstream effect that the loss of a gallbladder can cause, I urge you to start following the recommendations listed below. Pay particular attention to the diet, use digestive bitters before each meal, get off BC and HRT, and take HCL with meals. These practices will greatly improve your daily and long-term health, and will help to minimize any symptoms you may be experiencing. Eating smaller meals more frequently is also a good idea, reducing the amount of food the body has to digest.
Natural Treatment for Gallstones and Gallbladder Removal Surgery
1. Avoid all the foods that are the worst for the gallbladder (see list above)
2. Focusing on eating primarily the best foods for the gallbladder (see list above)
3. Use a digestive bitter before each meal (I recommend Urban Moonshine) to stimulate bile flow and to prepare for digestion.
4. Take Gallbladder ND daily (rich in B6, milk thistle, dandelion, cinnamon, turmeric, artichoke) to help stimulate bile flow and to aid in liver/gallbladder cleansing. Vitamin B6 is a critical vitamin for proper bile flow.
5. Use Castor oil packs 3-4x/week over gallbladder area to help restore gallbladder health and ease pain
6. Take Hydrochloric acid (HCL) with meals to aid in food digestion at the stomach, reducing the reliance on the gallbladder and bile. *do not take if you have ulcers or acid reflux
7. Stress management and releasing negative emotions is KEY. Try guided meditation, yoga, Qi gong, Pranayama breathing techniques, and therapy.
8. Start each day with 6-8 ounces of warm filtered water with 1/2 juice of lemon, 1 tbs. apple cider vinegar, and 1 oz. aloe vera juice to stimulate cleansing.
9. Add lecithin into the diet. Goes great in smoothies, nut milks, and hot cereal. Lecithin has proven to emulsify fats and to clear cholesterol thereby reducing gallbladder stress. Choose either a non-GMO soy source, or my personal favorite, sunflower lecithin.
10. Identify food allergies. A majority of people who deal with gallbladder stress and pain have a food allergy to foods such as dairy, gluten or eggs. Follow the food elimination diet plan to determine which foods you have an allergy to and avoid them.
11. Build up to, and perform a Liver Gallbladder Flush. This helps to flush out gallstones while clearing toxins from the liver and gallbladder. Promotes proper flow of bile. This is the main recommendation for avoiding surgery. The ideal time for the liver/gallbladder flush is during the fall or springtime. If you no longer have a gallbladder, still consider doing this flush. The liver develops stones as well that can be eliminated from cleansing.
*I recommend working with a naturopathic doctor and your physician while doing this flush if you have had your gallbladder removed or if you have been diagnosed with gallstones. This is a MAJOR cleanse and should NOT be conducted without medical care in these situations.
13. Drink dandelion root tea and warm water steeped with citrus peels.
14. Drink half your weight in ounces of purified, filtered water daily.
15. Get off birth control pills and HRT. Use my “Getting off Birth Control” article for guidance. Seek alternative forms of birth control, and consult with a Naturopathic doctor for HRT alternatives.
I hope you can find this helpful in taking your health back into your own hands. I want you to know that there are options, you do have the power to change your health, and it can be as simple as starting to follow the list above. If you have the ability to start cleansing the gallbladder now, you can hope to prevent the future formation of gallstones, and if you currently have gallstones, take action and start clearing them out. I have seen numerous people evade gallbladder surgery by taking control and making changes. If your doctor will give you time, take it. I urge you to not jump straight into surgery and to fight back instead. This may just be a blessing in disguise, leading you into a life that you otherwise would have never found yourself in. Besides, being healthy is fun! Promise.
If you are yet to face the diagnosis of gallstones, but fall into any of the risk groups listed above, I highly recommend following the same list of steps. This is especially important for all women who have been on birth control or hormone replacement therapy at one point in their lifetime.
While there are some cases that lead to the unavoidable and immediate removal of the gallbladder (infection, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, acalculous gallbladder disease), don’t allow gallbladder removal surgery to prevent you from taking care of your body. There are numerous tools and lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your overall condition, and to lessen any symptoms that you may be experiencing.
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