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Bile and the Gallbladder

Lately the Gallbladder and Bile has been showing up as a key to why people are not feeling well and not healing. If you have tried high fat diets like paleo or ketogenic or Gaps and not losing weight, then your gallbladder, or lack of one, may be the culprit.

Bile breaks down and emulsifies fats so your body can absorb it, which is important because all cell membranes are made of fat. Bile carries away toxins and hormone metabolites from your body. The liver and gallbladder make up your hepatic system which is a key to clean blood, good circulation and healthy metabolism. The liver is under your right ribcage and is quite large and weighs about 3 pounds. It is the main detox organ. Some things that are hard on the liver are refined sugars, too much grains, unhealthy fats too much alcohol and caffeine and medications, too little fiber, and emotional stress.

The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself, if you cut out 75% it, it would still function and grow back. Today the most common liver disease is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease where fat accumulated in the liver. So the liver has stopped processing fat and is storing it. If you have a roll of belly fat you may have a fatty liver. The liver secretes a quart and a half of bile daily, which is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder. You need healthy bile to absorb healthy fatty acids, like omega 3’s as well as fat soluble vitamins A, E,D and K. Fats are precursor for all the hormones in the body. If fatty acids aren’t broken down they will be stored as fat. Decades on low fat and toxic diets have left our bile thick and sticky so it doesn’t flow. If bile is sick you get sick. Obese people release only half as much bile as thin people. If you have gallstones you have 23% increased change of coronary artery disease.

Bile is detoxifying, it absorbs toxins and releases them into you stool. If it is not flowing the toxins have to go somewhere, so the body intelligence tries to protect the vital organs by storing it in fat cells. Toxic bile has to do with obesity, hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism, autoimmune issue and more. When bile is sluggish stones can begin to form. Some gallbladder symptoms are constipation, nausea, vomiting, right sided rib pain, shoulder pain or occipital headaches up to the eyes, burping, bloating, gas, GERD or acid reflux, bitter taste in the mouth, light colored or floating stool, hemorrhoids, inability to lose weight, fibromyalgia, irritability and depression, dry skin and hair, varicose vein, and getting drunk easily.

If stones get stuck in the ducts on the way out, there can be intense pain and the need to remove the gallbladder which is the number one abdominal surgery in the US. Doctors think it is not big deal to lose your gallbladder, but without the ability to concentrate bile and secrete it in the small intestine after eating fat, then you can’t properly digest fats, absorb nutrient and you easily gain weight.

There is so much out there on intestinal and gut problems, but bile flow is a key to all those conditions and is being overlooked. Bile salts lubricate the intestines, so constipation is a warning sign of a bile issue. Exercise can reduce gallstone by one third, and drink plenty of water. Chewing food slowly gives the body time to make more bile. Acid reflux is supposedly too much acid in the stomach but in reality it is too little hydrochloric acid, which then opens the valve to the esophagus. HCL triggers bile flow, so if you take meds to block acid it blocks bile flow as well.

If you can’t absorb fats, you can’t make thyroid hormone. 80% of women over 40 have poor quality bile. Low quality bile and low thyroid share many symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, digestive issues, constipation and dry skin. One study showed seven times more hypothyroidism in those with reduced bile flow. Bile help inactive T4 convert to active thyroid hormone T3. Some studies have found that allergies to some foods can affect the gallbladder, so for 1 week try avoiding pork, onions and eggs and see if you feel better.

Bitter foods can stimulate bile flow, as well as all digestive enzymes.Try bitter green like watercress, dandelion greens, arugula, endive, radicchio and horseradish. Most people only have coffee and chocolate for bitter. Try sesame seeds, lemon peel, beet and turnip greens. You can buy herbal tincture or bitters as well with herbs like gentian root, barberry bark goldenseal root, milk thistle, wormwood and yellow dock. If you can’t handle these bitter things, start out with sauerkraut and other sour foods like lemon juice, I find raw red radishes and daikon help the gallbladder as well.

The number one cause of gallbladder attacks is overeating. So eat smaller amounts of food so the stomach can churn the food with the enzymes, and chew well so particles can be broken down. You can try intermittent fasting where you fast from 12 to 16 hours between dinner and breakfast, or just eat regularly one day and only 500 calories the next, alternating. The average person loses 13 pounds after 2 months on this regimen.

Of course there is an emotional component of every part of the body. In Oriental Medicine the liver is associated with anger and rage, where as the smaller paired organ, the gallbladder is associated with little anger like frustration and irritability. It is said the gallbladder has to do with decision making. So physical imbalances of these wood element organs can produce those emotions, but conversely having those emotions can impair the function of the liver and gallbladder.

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