the missing gallbladder.
Causes of gallbladder dysfunction.
Gallbladder dysfunction occurs as a bodily reaction to excess of dietary “junk.” Basically, it is the result of poor nutrition, likely over a long period of time. The consumption of soda and other sugary products, gluten, excess saturated fats, trans fats, and other acidic foods all contribute to gallbladder issues. In addition, pent up anger, resentment, and frustration can contribute to poor gallbladder health.
Gallbladder / liver connection.
The liver and the gallbladder are connected and both need to be healthy to ensure proper balance. In fact, in Chinese Medicine, the gallbladder and liver compose the “liver network,” where the gallbladder is head of decision-making and the liver is in control of action. Poor function of the liver network can lead to a host of problems such as difficulty with digestion, discomfort in chest, stomach, eyes, or head, emotional suppression, agitation, frustration, nervousness, and the inability to make decisions.
Function of the gallbladder.
The gallbladder, while sometimes is given a “practically useless” status from Western medicine (at least when there is any significant dysfunction), is actually highly critical in the functioning and wellness of our bodies. The gallbladder is attached to the liver, which is the organ that creates the bile that we need to break down fatty foods. The bile drips down from the liver to the gallbladder, and upon eating, the gallbladder releases a steady amount of bile to aid in digestion in the small intestine. Without a gallbladder, the bile drips down directly to the small intestine and can be highly irritating.
Oftentimes when people experience problems with gallbladder functioning, Western medicine will recommend that it be removed (aka: a cholecystectomy). If you ever receive a recommendation for a cholecystectomy, do consult with a naturopathic doctor as quickly as you can for a second opinion, as functioning in wellness without your gallbladder takes some special attention and care. However, if you’ve already had this essential organ removed, there are things you can do to be well.
What to do if you’ve had your gallbladder removed.
Here are some basic tips that you should consider in order to stay well without your gallbladder. (Disclaimer – always check in with your healthcare provider before making changes to your wellness regimen).
- What to take for supplements:
- A digestive enzyme with ox bile/hydrochloric acid to help break down dietary fats. Many avoid dietary fats post-cholecystectomy; however, we need fats for a variety of reasons (e.g. healthy brain functioning, healthy nervous system, healthy cardiovascular system, less irritability, better attention and concentration, balanced blood sugar, reduced inflammation, et cetera). Taking a quality digestive enzyme prior to eating, and mid-meal if a larger quantity is being consumed, will ensure that you can still process a balanced fatty acid ratio.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
- A high-quality probiotic
- A high-quality, molecularly distilled fish oil with lipase (the lipase part is important as it is the enzyme that helps break down fat in the digestive system)
- What to include in your diet:
- Eat small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day rather than three larger meals
- Chew food very well
- Bitter herbs, dandelion
- Choline (found in foods like organic egg yolks, lentils, cauliflower, sesame seeds, flax seeds – which must be ground up in order to be digested and stored in the fridge to prevent spoilage)
- Sea salt (as opposed to poisonous table salt)
- Beet, apple, and/or carrot juice
- Whole apples
- Fats – pumpkin oil, coconut oil, avocados, peanuts/peanut butter/peanut oil (these fats all have a high amount of lipase, which is the enzyme that breaks down fat in your digestive system)
- Eat as much organic food as possible to reduce your toxic load (the liver is likely weakened without it’s gallbladder companion, so this is important!)
- What to avoid (food , drugs, and toxins – all these listed are MUST-avoids!):
- Gluten (sometimes gallbladder dysfunction can even be a result of undiagnosed gluten intolerance – do yourself a favor and ditch this inflammatory protein)
- Pasteurized, non-organic dairy
- Sugar, fake sugar, HFCS
- Trans fats
- Genetically modified foods (your body is going to have a difficult time dealing with toxins due to a potentially weakened liver, and an irritated small intestine – don’t disturb it more with GMOs that will leave toxins in your system, and a further irritated gut)
- Prescription drugs
- Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Other toxic substances (cosmetic products like soaps, shaving creams, lotions, deodorants and colognes), alcohol, cleaning products, et cetera – click on the link to find low-to-no toxin alternatives (for the same rationale as why you should be sure to never consume GMOs)
- There is a higher likelihood of overweight and obesity post-cholecystectomy, so exercise is important
- Exercise will also help rid your body of toxins that are dangerous to the liver and other organs
- Practice tai chi (can also be considered exercise!)
- Practice yoga (can also be considered exercise!)
- Practice slow, diaphragmatic breathing
- Try acupuncture (there are also a number of other benefits to this treatment)
- Emotional balance
- The liver is likely weakened post-cholecystectomy, which can lead to depressive symptoms. Do be sure to take care of your emotional health by being mindful of how you are feeling, and addressing your needs as they arise. Should you feel an overwhelming sense of depression, do seek help from a psychologist in addition to doing all of the above-mentioned tips for keeping the liver as free of toxins as possible, keeping stress levels down, and consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids.