The gallbladder is a mysterious organ, and it's purpose is one that many people don't really understand. Gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the US. Many of these surgeries could be avoided by properly nourishing this vital organ. We wanted to write a blog specific to this special organ because we DO need it, every single time we eat.
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped muscular organ that sits right next to the liver. It is a storage tank for bile. Bile is made in the liver by liver cells, and sent through tiny ducts or canals to the small intestine and to the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile to have it available in larger quantities for secretion when a meal is eaten. The ingestion of food, especially fats, cause the release of a hormone, cholecystokinin, (CCK) which in turn signals the relaxation of the valve in the gallbladder, allowing bile enter the small intestine. It also signals the contraction of the gallbladder which squirts the concentrated liquid bile into the small intestine where its job is to emulsify or breakdown fat.
Bile is composed of cholic acid, which has the ability to react and break down both water and fat molecules, creating the emulsification process. After breaking down the fats into smaller pieces, the pancreatic enzyme lipase can act more efficiently due to the larger surface area of the fat. Bile also acts as a key factor in the absorption process of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
Proper fat digestion relies on several factors such as healthy bile production from the liver. The symphony of a healthy functioning gallbladder, bile flow, pancreatic function, and hormone balance all contribute to a healthy functioning liver, gallbladder and system overall.
The interaction between the liver and gallbladder is significant. Not only does the liver produce the bile needed for the breaking down of fats, but this bile is a very powerful antioxidant which helps to remove toxins from the liver. In a sense, it is a “give give” relationship. The liver filters toxins (bacteria, viruses, drugs, and other foreign substances the body doesn't want) and sends them out via the bile. The pathway of departure is from the liver through the bile ducts and into the gallbladder or directly into the small intestine, where it joins waste matter and leaves through the colon with the feces. A healthy liver produces about a quart to a quart and a half of bile daily. If you have gallbladder problems, you would do well to consistently cleanse your liver and entire GI tract (we love colonics and coffee enemas for this reason). A common symptom of a sluggish gallbladder is constipation.
So what are the most effective ways to promote gallbladder health? Diet, diet, and diet. See below for things to avoid and things to consume to support this organ.
Things to reduce or avoid for gallbladder health:
Foods from the cabbage family: broccoli, cabbage, lettuce
Reduce cholesterol rich foods such as red meats, dairy products and eggs
Reduce foods known to be common allergens such as gluten-containing grains, soy products, corn, peanuts and citrus.
Avoid large meals especially before bed time. Try not to eat 3 hours before bed.
Tips for supporting the liver and gallbladder:
Eat foods that promote bile formation such as: raw shredded beets, organic apples and ginger.
Eat bitter foods such as dandelion greens and other dark leafy greens. Bitters stimulate the flow of bile in the gall bladder, helping us digest fats. Try adding them in salads, or even eating a few leaves while preparing a meals so that the bile is ready to emulsify whatever fat you consume.
Take fish oil capsules – It contains omega 3 oils which are known to block cholesterol formation in bile
Vitamin C rich foods such as papaya, red bell peppers, strawberries, oranges and lemons.
Hydration: Drink at least 8 glasses of mineralized water a day. We recommend 1 liter per 50 lbs of body weight.
Foods rich in pyridoxal, folate and cobalamin are three effective nutrients that support the livers biochemical pathways. (see below)
Pyridoxial rich foods: Potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, and chicken breast.
Folate rich roods: Beef liver, spinach, and asparagus.
Cobalamin rich foods: Trout, salmon, beef, clams, and oysters.
Eat foods high in minerals: copper, zinc, selenium and potassium such as: squash, avocados, shellfish, and spinach.
Stress management: Breathing, yoga, regular exercise
Support the pancreas by stabilizing blood sugar.
Increase antioxidants: Raw cacao, acai berry, blueberries, prunes, pomegranates, kale brussel sprouts, beets and red bell peppers.
Avoid hydrogenated fats and oils
The Liver Tincture:
This is a powerful detoxing combination of herbs that purifies the blood, contains high antioxidant values, nourishes and aids in rebuilding the liver, helps to level the hormones, and stimulates the digestive system. You can purchase the following herbs formulated for this this special liver tincture at http://www.bulkherbstore.com
milk thistle seed
St. John’s Wort
Fill a clean glass canning jar 1/3 full with dried herbs. Add vodka up to one inch to the top. Screw lid on tightly and store in a cool, dark place. Shake 3-7 times a week. The tincture needs to sit at least 2-6 weeks. Strain tincture and pour into a colored glass bottle, closing the lid tightly. Alcohol tinctures will last 2-3 years. Tinctures need to be kept in a cool, dark place such as a cabinet.
Why use vodka? Water rolls off the liver, where alcohol goes straight to it, taking the herbs with it.
To support and regenerate the liver: Take one dropper full (1/2 tsp) 3 times a day for 3 to 6 months.
Liver and gallbladder cleansing juice recipe:
3 kale leaves
1 handful dandelion greens
3 stalks of celery
1 handful of parsley
1 large beet
1” section of ginger (peeled)
2 green apples
by Emily Potter