If you’re like most of my patients, you probably don’t think about your gallbladder very often. And that’s fine—there’s no need for you to fret over it.
This small, pear-shaped organ stores bile produced in the liver, then releases it when you eat to help digest fatty foods.
And if that’s the case, it will let you know. Digestive problems are the first sign of trouble. That’s often followed by gallstones, small, hard accumulations of cholesterol and other substances.
You probably know someone who’s had gallstones. They’re common in people over age 40, particularly in women, the obese, and those who are sedentary.
What do gallstones feel like?
Gallstones can be as tiny as pebbles or as big as golf balls. Often, they are symptom free. But if one gets stuck in a bile duct, it causes severe pain, along with nausea, vomiting, and fever.
Gallstones also cause inflammation of the gallbladder, a condition known as cholecystitis. If you eat a fatty meal and experience indigestion symptoms, that discomfort could be due to gallstones.
Some 20 million people suffer from gallstone disease, making this the most costly digestive disorder in the country and one of the most common reasons for emergency room visits.
Effects of Gallstones
It’s possible to live without your gallbladder. And for some patients, gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is the only option. But of the 500,000 such operations performed every year, few of them are actually necessary.
That’s why I urge you not choose this procedure without a complete explanation from your doctor about the consequences. Many times, patients come to me after surgery because they’re not happy with the outcome.
Unfortunately, after your gallbladder is removed, it’s too late to reconsider. So get all the facts before undergoing gallbladder removal.
What does the gallbladder do?
Having your gallbladder taken out does stop the pain but it also has serious downsides. One of the most uncomfortable is chronic diarrhea. Another is an elevated risk of colon cancer.
And let’s face it—you simply can’t have an organ removed and expect everything to come up roses. Living without a gallbladder means difficulties with digestion, especially fried foods.
Another major problem—deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs), which affects your entire body and brain. This happens because without a gallbladder there’s less bile available for digesting fats.
Failing to get enough EFA’s results in joint pain, poor mental functions, blood sugar issues, and an elevated risk of heart problems—and that’s just a partial list!
Given those consequences, people who play an active role in their health care—something I encourage in all my patients—may choose to shed the gallstones naturally, rather than live with the side effects of gallbladder removal.
How to Prevent Gallstones
If you think you might have gallstones, ask your doctor for a simple ultrasound to make certain that’s the cause of your indigestion.
Then follow these safe, natural steps to keep your gallbladder where it belongs while getting rid of troublesome gallstones before they cause problems.
Get tested for food allergies: This is important because the symptoms caused by food allergies are similar to those that occur with gallstones. A food allergy test can spot foods that cause problems in your body. Eliminating those foods makes a big difference in your digestion.
Gallbladder problems are most common in people who eat processed, prepared, fatty, or fast foods and red meat, washed down with sodas and sweetened beverages.
Give your gallbladder a break. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein (another reason to try the Mediterranean diet).
Invest in a juicer: Feel like you’re having a gallstone attack? Instead of eating, try juicing—especially beets and parsley.
Juicing allows you to drink plenty of nutrients without eating, so your digestive system can rest. A two-day juice break is often all it takes to ease symptoms.
Supplements for Gallstones:
Melatonin is best known as a sleep aid. But recent animal research found that this powerful antioxidant actually prevents gallstone formation!
And there’s more. Melatonin also sends LDL (bad) cholesterol levels plummeting, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol substantially. Plus, you’ll get a good night’s rest at the same time. Take 3mg before bedtime.
If you already have gallstones, take betaine hydrochloric acid (HCI) supplements with every meal to improve your digestion and nutrient absorption. Take one capsule with each meal.
Finally, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, bile salt supplements eliminate the gas, bloating, and indigestion that result from the surgery. Take two supplements with each meal, and adjust the dosage if necessary.
Get going: Walk, jog, run, swim, dance, jump on a trampoline—but do something on most days. Choose activities you enjoy and that are accessible. Walking is fine. Working up a sweat is even better.
Exercise supplies vital oxygen and nutrients to your whole body, relieves stress, tones your muscles, strengthens your bones, and fights aging.
Best of all, researchers recently found that exercise improves the removal of cholesterol from the body and prevents gallstone formation at the same time!
Gallstones that have been accumulating for years are not going to disappear overnight. This is a long-term project, so be patient. Stick with the program and you’ll find that your gallbladder isn’t the only thing that benefits!
Last Updated: May 3, 2021
Originally Published: October 9, 2014