Got Sludge? The Indispensable Gallbladder

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In the body, your gallbladder is designed as a storage organ for bile, which keeps the digestive system clean and orderly and greatly increases your uptake of fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients.

Without your gallbladder, your liver has to work way harder at meal times… so if you can help it, never get it removed! 

Bile is first produced in the liver, which is then given to the gallbladder for safekeeping. When you consume dietary fat or fat soluble vitamins, bile is released to make these things easier to handle.

But even such a simple organ as the gallbladder can encounter problems. Let’s take a quick look at some of the easy things you can do to prevent and ease gallbladder issues.

Diet has to be under control during a gallbladder problem.

You need fat in your diet – I can’t stress this enough – so cutting fat out completely is not a good long term solution. First, make sure your diet is free from the “bad fats”.  Check out Back to the Basics for more details on that subject.  Second, when you eat high-fat foods, make sure they’re of good nutritional value. Ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, and red palm oil are cooking fats you can buy at a health food store. or even order online here. If you’re not too sensitive to use cooking oil, you can try these to boost the health of your liver and gallbladder.

For those of you who are very sensitive to dietary fat, have problems with steatorrhea (undigested fat leaving you in the bathroom), or have minor gallstones, there are specific foods you can eat – and herbs and minerals you can take – to help the problem.

*I don’t advise the treatment of very large gallstones with herbs or minerals without guidance from a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Tip #1: Eat your greens!

If you’re not already eating a couple serving per day of green, leafy vegetables, you’re not doing everything you can to prevent liver and gallbladder congestion!

Dandelion greens are my very favorite for the gallbladder.  You can add them to your salad, smoothies, or even juice them! I recommend you seek them out at your nearest health food store or possibly even your local grocery store in the produce department. 

My next favorite is parsley, which can be stewed, juiced, or eaten raw to help “emulsify” congealed bile and break up congestion and gallstones. Dried parsley as a spice can also be used, but you’ll have to use a lot when you add it to your meal, or you won’t get the same benefits. Dried parsley can be added in heaping tablespoon amounts (sometimes even three or five) to soup and stew without making it taste bad.

Other good options for greens include, in order: kale, mustard greens, beet greens, cilantro, swiss chard, turnip greens, and spinach.

Get these organic if possible; the effect of non-organic (standard) produce is often weaker because of farming practices reducing levels of helpful chemical compounds in the plant.

Any of these can be steamed or stewed or used in any creative way you come up with. I recommend cooking these with a little fat, if you can handle it, but very little salt.

For people who have bone density or calcium problems at the same time as gallbladder issues, I recommend cooking your greens and avoiding eating them raw – at least until you’ve seen some improvements.

Tip #2: Meal time adjustments!

Your body works in cycles based on the time of day. The liver and gallbladder specifically need help right after you wake up and later at night. By eating breakfast or consuming any food right after waking up, you’re putting unnecessary stress on these organs.

The early part of the day is when your liver and gallbladder benefit most from exercise to relieve bile congestion. (Didn’t know exercise would help, did you?) Skip breakfast and opt for a healthy late-morning snack after exercise – or just wait until lunch – and you’ll be doing yourself a favor!

In traditional systems of medicine (like Chinese and Indian medicine), your liver, gallbladder, and digestive system expect a break a little after sundown. Make it your goal to eat everything you need before the sunlight is gone.

Many people find their gallbladder problems worsen around the time the sun is setting. This is because your digestive organs in general (including the liver and gallbladder) have inherited a tendency to start slowing down at this time, exacerbating any sluggishness or bile congestion you may already have.

Tip #3: Water!

Drinking hot herbal tea, spring water, and clean filtered water is another thing. If you currently get your fluids by drinking tea, coffee, sodas, or anything besides water… well, there’s too much to say about their effects on the liver and gallbladder. For coffee drinkers, please refer to a previous Twisted Veggies entry on coffee.

For everyone else, cut back on how much of these “water alternatives” you drink, because they cause liver and gallbladder sluggishness. If you have to drink something with a “taste,” give coconut water a try, or find stevia flavoring drops  at a health food store (sometimes found in the vitamin or baking sections,) or online.  Dehydration, excess sugar, and caffeine will make your problem much harder to fix!

Tip #4: Herbs and others!

Without going into overwhelming detail, I’ll say this: herbs, vitamins, and even some minerals can help you to achieve victory over gallbladder issues… and you can buy them in easy-to-swallow capsules!

That doesn’t mean “skip steps 1, 2, and 3” – these medicines won’t work right without first correcting your diet and other habits.

But here’s a list anyway, because I know some people need all the help they can get.  Herbs you can buy in capsules: dandelion root, alfalfa, parsley, gravel root, milk thistle, and kelp.  

Pretty much any bitter food (including medicinal herbs) can help to break up congealed bile and liver/gallbladder congestion.

Vitamin C helps a lot of people, but it has to be a high dose. Look for acerola cherry powder, camu-camu, amalaki, and triphala – all great sources. Weird names, good results!

Finally, magnesium may help to dissolve smaller gallstones. Try ConcenTrace mineral drops or magnesium “oil” – add a small amount to water and work your way up in dose over time. (That way you’ll get used to it.) You can also try magnesium pills, though I find them to be less effective.  With the “oil” and drops, start slow to get yourself adjusted to it.

Although I have little experience with this product, many people start off with a powdered drink mix called Calm, which is a kind of combination between magnesium and vitamin C. (Note: I personally recommend ConcenTrace over the others.)

There are far too many tips and tricks for gallbladder issues to list here, but by following tips 1-4, you might be able to improve your symptoms dramatically. 

To learn more about healing your digestive system grab a copy of the book “Eating Alive” by Dr. Jonn Matsen, N.D. 

There’s a lot of learning to do when it comes to health, so don’t get stressed – make big changes slowly, and you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be so complicated!

 

 

References:
-The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (Michael Murray, N.D.)
-The Chemistry of Man (Dr. Bernard Jensen)
-The Little Herb Encyclopedia (Jack Ritchason, N.D.)
-Herbal Remedies (Andrew Chavellier)
-Charaka Samhita (Atreya, Agnivesa, Charaka, and Drdhabala; Vol. I & II translation by P.V. Sharma, edited by Gabriel Van Loon)
-Taraxacum officinale; Dudhal; Dandelion (Anne McIntyre; annemcintyre.com)

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