I find it appalling and galling that doctors remove approximately 700,000 gallbladders each year in the U.S. Most often, gallbladders are removed because of painful stones or gallbladder dysfunction.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am thankful I have never had a gallstone because I’ve heard from people that it’s excruciating pain. But for a doctor to say, ok you have pain, let’s remove this organ, to me, that’s a failure of mainstream medicine. Rather than figuring out the root cause of why the gallstone developed in the first place, doctors just remove the organ as if it were a benign cyst or mole.
The appendix is the only organ that’s removed more than the gallbladder. While I’m writing this during the coronavirus pandemic, it may seem a bit melodramatic to define the high rates of gallbladder removal as “an epidemic” but that’s precisely how I feel.
Sure, supposedly, you don’t need your gallbladder. But I believe that if you want to enjoy optimal health and vitality, not only do you need this organ, you need it to be functioning properly.
Why The Gallbladder Matters
The liver gets all the attention. Sure, the liver is important, performing over 500 functions in the body. But the gallbladder has to be the most unsung organ. The anatomical position of these two organs is a metaphor for their status as the liver lies on top of the gallbladder.
So here’s why your gallbladder matters. It stores and secretes bile, the green-yellow fluid that helps your body break down dietary fat.
If you’re doing a ketogenic diet to lose weight, you better darn well have a highly-functioning gallbladder in order to thrive on a diet that consists of roughly 75% fat!
Bile also breaks down the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. It also helps absorb omega fatty acids such as the heart-healthy omega-3’s from salmon.
In my integrative health coaching practice, I work with several women who are entering perimenopause or who have reached full menopause. Many people are aware of the fact that hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness are the result of low or imbalanced hormones, especially estrogen. However, few people make the connection between gallbladder dysfunction and a difficult transition to menopause. And here’s the reason why your gallbladder greatly influences whether or not you’re going to be waking up in a cold sweat even when the A/C is pumping…
See, fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids play a big role in hormone balance. And if you have an underperforming gallbladder (or no gallbladder), your body can’t absorb these critical nutrients. And that’s why your husband says, “See ya later, it’s like an igloo in here … I’m sleeping on the couch!”
Dysfunctional Gallbladder = Backed Up Garbage Disposal
Gallstones are the leading reason why people are admitted to hospitals with GI issues. So how do gallbladders become dysfunctional in the first place? Well, the answer is pretty much anything that causes leaky gut: gluten intolerance, eating processed food, taking too many antibiotics, chronic stress, etc.
Every natural health article seems to be talking about gut health these days. But rare is the info out there that details how important gallbladder function is for gut health. In addition to the gallbladder being the organ that secretes bile to break down fats and fat-soluble nutrients, bile itself contributes to a healthy mucosal barrier. The intestinal mucosal barrier is your body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also prevents nutrients and toxins from leaching out of your small intestine and flooding your bloodstream, which triggers inflammation.
I have noticed many of my clients present with backed-up gallbladders and gallbladder dysfunction. Again, it’s the liver that gets all the attention, especially when it comes to detoxification. But if your bile doesn’t flow freely and instead oozes out of ducts like sticky syrup out of a maple tree, your body becomes like a backed-up garbage disposal.
Low Stomach Acid Gets All The Attention
Previously, I wrote about how acid reflux medications have caused an epidemic of low stomach acid. (There I go again using the word epidemic, but it’s true!) Some people use medications like Pepcid and Gaviscon to treat heartburn and acid reflux, and have been doing so every day—for decades.
Medications that block stomach acid overproduction may solve the reflux caused by eating a huge T-bone steak. But in reducing stomach acid, bile deficiency can result. As a matter of fact, when you experience heartburn and acid reflux, it might not be stomach acid that’s repeating on you. What you may be experiencing is bile reflux.
Consequences Of Poor Gallbladder Function
It doesn’t take a smartypants degree to figure out that if your body can’t break down fat, you’re gonna get fatter. In addition, your energy levels are going to suffer as will your digestion. The body is a masterful, complex interconnected system. So if you’re experiencing constipation or skin problems or joint pain, or if you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it could very well be related to your gallbladder function, which in turn could be related to your gut health—and vice versa.
The natural, cruel aging process can lower stomach acid secretion. It can also do the same with bile secretion. And if you’re already experiencing inflammatory conditions, I bet you dollars to donuts that you have gallbladder dysfunction.
Overcoming Gallbladder Dysfunction
If you have a dysfunctional gallbladder, you probably also have a clogged-up liver. And because of that, your liver desperately tries to shove toxins elsewhere, as if it’s doing a rapid house clean, sort of like you do when your home’s a mess and a guest comes by unannounced—magazines get shoved under the couch cushions. So when your liver struggles to detoxify; it dumps toxins into the gallbladder. And that’s why you’re not living your best life.
So where do we go from here? Obviously, you can’t take a time machine back to your 20s again, when you probably had no problems making and secreting bile. But when you can do is reforming and repairing your gut health through my one on one coaching program, which includes functional medicine lab tests and assessments, an individualized DNA Diet plan, and so much more.
I’ll also provide you with a list of the best foods and supplements to stimulate bile production so you can reclaim your life and start feeling great again!
Give me a call at 1.800.964.5091 for a free consultation.
I look forward to hearing from you and helping you unlock the root causes of what’s holding you back from enjoying life to its fullest.
Jenna L. Witt, APRN
Family Medicine/Functional Medicine
Certified Health Coach