In America, there are approximately 1.2 million laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) surgeries per year according to Truven Health Analytics (Thomson/Solucient), USA Procedure Volumes 2014 national data.
I was so surprised when I found out how common this was. Another sad fact is that just about every one of them was told they didn’t need their gallbladder and that it was perfectly fine to have it removed. In fact, the National Institute of Health website says, “The gallbladder is not an essential organ, which means a person can live normally without a gallbladder”.
However, a gallbladder performs several important roles in our body:
Enables fat digestion
Enables absorption of fat soluble antioxidants and vitamins A, E, D and K
Assists in the removal of cholesterol from your body
Assists in the removal of toxins that have been broken down by the liver
So it is definitely important to keep gallbladder in our body. If you google ‘gallbladder removal’, you will find many forums and postings by people suffering from digestive pain after their gallbladder is removed. Here is one of the comments posted that I found: “I had my gall bladder removed in march 2014 (posted on Sept 2014). I was having horrible pains, nausea and vomiting and diarrhea prior to it bring removed. After the surgery, I had diarrhea for weeks and then I slowly got worse and worse. I, now 6 months later, have lost 40 lbs, am extremely nauseous all day every day, I’m vomiting and have diarrhea almost every time I eat or drink anything. I feel absolutely worn down and horrible. I was given cholecystyramine by my surgeon but it did nothing but make me more nauseous. I then started talking gravol, Imodium pepto bismol, tums, gaviscon. Nothing helps. It’s getting worse”.
Some people are still suffering from pain, indigestion, and/or diarrhea from cholecystectomy after more than 5 years.
It’s not uncommon for people to experience the following after gallbladder removal:
Loss of appetite
Stomach and intestinal pain
Nausea and vomiting after eating
The gallbladder’s primary function is to store up the cholesterol-rich bile that’s secreted by the liver. Bile helps your body digest fatty foods. The gallbladder also regulates bile secretion (not just store it) so the small intestine has the proper amounts of bile when needed. So obviously, if there is no regulation and storing of bile, the body has trouble digesting fats. This also applies to not being able to digest essential fatty acids, including omega 3 and omega 6 fats. A lot of the antioxidants in vegetables are fat soluble: lycopene, lutein and carotenoids are all fat soluble. If you don’t produce adequate bile, you will not be adequately absorbing these lifesaving nutrients from foods. If you take those nutrients in supplement form, without sufficient bile you will not absorb them well either.
Genetics may lead to a higher risk of developing gallbladder disease; however, as I often say, you can change your epigenetic switch by altering your diet and lifestyle. There are several lifestyle factors which relate to gallbladder disease.
Rapid weight loss
High bad fat diets
Low fiber diet,
Using contraceptive drugs and estrogen replacement therapy
Lack of physical activities
Statin (Cholesterol lowering medicine) use
Women over 40 (although a number of young women went to cholecystectomy in the last decade) or whom are pregnant have more risk. People who suffer from celiac disease as well as Crohn’s disease also have higher risk of gallbladder disease.
Unfortunately, there are no obvious symptoms showing of gallbladder disease unless it is already severely damaged. So it is really important to pay attention to your lifestyle choices in order to prevent gallbladder disease in the first place. Also, if you have developed gallbladder problems, this is a wake-up call to treat an unhealthy liver. If your liver is not healthy, it will make poor quality bile. The bile will be prone to forming sludge and stones. Just removing the gallbladder doesn’t solve that problem, and in fact sludge and stones can form within the liver, compromising its function.
Here are some nutrition tips I found (mostly to do the opposite of what the risk factor says):
Eat high fiber food or take fiber supplements.
More raw food in your diet
East lean organic protein
Take probiotic supplements or gut healing foods like kombucha, Kimci, raw sauerkraut
Consume healthy fat like coconut oil, avocado oil and avoid food made with vegetable oil.
Eliminate fried food, sugar, simple carbohydrates (some recommend no grains)
Eliminate food you might be allergic to
Also many experts say that regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to address gallbladder dysfunction.
If your gallbladder is removed
As I explained above, the gallbladder is an important organ that breaks down fat. You will need some support to properly digest fat nutrients. There are some herbs that Dr. Joshua Axe, a natural medicine doctor, recommends for fat digestion support:
- Lipase Enzymes (2 caps with meals)
The enzyme lipase helps improve fat digestion and the use of bile. Take 2 caps with meals.
- Bile Salts or Ox Bile (500-1000 mg with meals)
Bile salts and ox bile improves the breakdown of fats and can greatly improve gallbladder distress. Take 2 caps with meals.
- Milk Thistle (150 mg 2x daily)
Milk Thistle increases bile flow and aids the liver and gallbladder in detoxification.
- Turmeric (1,000mg daily)
Turmeric and its compound curcumin have anti-inflammatory properties and improve bile flow.
- Dandelion root (500 mg with meals)
Helps improve bile flow.
If you research medical websites such as WebMed, MelinePlus, MayoClinic, Maryland Medical Center, and so forth, they do not talk about bile salt or other enzymes. Instead, they state that eating low fat normal diet is perfectly fine to consume. However, many non-conventional health professionals recommend those listed above for bile and fat digestive support.
Also you can do a liver cleanse or gallstone flush. There are many recipes on the website you may want to explore. However, please keep in mind that you still need to change your dietary and lifestyle habits to resolve your gallbladder problem(s). I understand that some people are facing severe health complications from a compromised gallbladder and removing it is the only choice to solve the current situation. Whether you keep your gallbladder or not, you can’t stay in the same lifestyle. Hopefully you will not be another victim who is told they “definitely need to have their gallbladder removed but it’s okay because it’s not a necessary organ.