Prevent gallstones from forming naturally
The gallbladder is one of the most underappreciated organs in the human body. In fairness though, it’s hard to really understand the importance of the gallbladder because its job is so “under the radar.”
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located just below your liver. Your liver produces a fluid called bile, and the gallbladder is its “holding tank.” Bile is composed of water, bile salts, bilirubin, cholesterol, fatty acids, and electrolytes, and its main purpose is to digest fat. Whenever you eat a meal or food that contains fat, your gallbladder contracts and releases bile into your small intestine, breaking down the fat and allowing the nutrients to be absorbed.
Regular contraction of the gallbladder helps to keep it functioning properly. Without constant movement, bile can build up and become thick and concentrated. After a while, it can crystalize and form gallstones.
Bile also breaks down excess cholesterol and bilirubin. Gallstones can form if these substances over-accumulate in the bile.
Many people have gallstones and don’t know it. It’s not until the stones block a bile duct that they make their presence known. And I can tell you from personal experience that gallstones are quite painful.
As you can imagine, gallstones are a common reason for emergency room visits. And since you can live without a gallbladder, many doctors recommend its removal to “cure” the gallstones. Upwards of 750,000 gallbladder removals are performed every year.
But as with all things health-related, prevention is far easier than having to fix a problem once it develops. Luckily, natural gallstone prevention is not all that hard, if you know the risk factors and the right steps to take…
Gallstone Risk Factors You Control
There are some risk factors for gallstones that you can’t do much about—age, family history, and gender (women are more susceptible), for instance. But other risk factors can be controlled. Here are some of the top risk factors and my natural gallstone prevention recommendations:
- Excess weight. Obesity, and obesity-related conditions like diabetes and metabolic syndrome, are top risk factors for gallstones. Obesity increases the amount of cholesterol in the bile. Needless to say, lose weight if you need to. However, take a gradual approach, as rapid weight loss (such as that experienced after bariatric surgery) can actually increase risk of stones.
- Food intolerance and allergies. This is an under-recognized cause of gallstones. Any kind of food sensitivity can affect the normal, healthy digestive process, including the emptying of the gallbladder. If you think you might have an allergy or intolerance for certain foods, get yourself tested and avoid the items that give you problems. You can also exclude potential offenders for a week or two—if you feel better, continue excluding them.
- Low stomach acid. Stomach (or hydrochloric) acid helps to activate the production of bile. Low levels—whether due to diminished natural production or the use of antacids—inhibits this process. Taking hydrochloric acid supplements before every meal, though, can help. (If heartburn is a concern, try natural antacid alternatives.)
- Very low-fat diets. Lack of dietary fat can be problematic because, as I mentioned earlier, every time you eat fat, your gallbladder gets the signal to empty its reserve of bile. This regular contraction and release keeps the organ functioning at its peak. It’s a good idea to include at least a little bit of healthy fat in all your meals. Olive oil, avocado, nuts, eggs, and flax and other seeds are all good choices. Coconut oil is also great because it contains medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for the body to digest.
Foods to Naturally Prevent Gallstones
In addition to reducing these risk factors, there are certain foods you can eat to protect your gallbladder and keep it functioning properly.
Beets are excellent at thinning bile and keeping it moving. You can either eat whole beets or juice them. At my medical clinic, I give my patients what I call the “CBC cocktail”—juiced carrots, beets, and cucumbers to help improve gallbladder function. Dandelion greens, green apples, and ginger also support healthy digestion and bile flow.
In addition, include artichokes in your diet. They contain caffeylquinic acids, which encourage the movement of bile. The simplest way to benefit from these compounds is to cook and eat the artichoke leaves.
Finally, supplementing with bile salts (or ox bile) at every meal can improve gallbladder function and also help in the breakdown of fats. Bile salts are especially important if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, since fat digestion becomes impaired.
Keeping your gallbladder healthy may not be at the top of your to-do list, but coming from someone who has suffered a gallstone, trust me when I say it’s worth the effort. See below for my CBC cocktail recipe—a wonderful first step to supporting your gallbladder.
CBC Cocktail Recipe
- 1 medium organic carrot (top off)
- 2 medium organic beets (use the whole beet)
- 1 medium organic cucumber
- 1 organic garlic clove (whole and peeled)
- Sea salt to taste
- Place carrot and beets in a juicer.
- Cut off the tip of the cucumber and take a knife and ream it down in the open end (twisting a few times).
- Place the garlic clove in the cucumber.
- Add the cucumber and garlic to the juicer.
- Add sea salt to taste.
- Drink within 20-30 minutes of preparation, as the healthy, beneficial enzymes will lose their potency and die.