This week, we are going to explore how important your gallbladder is to digestion AND looking and feeling your best! I’ll also share what signs you can watch out for that could signify gallbladder problems.
Do you frequently experience headaches without any particular reason? Have irregular bowel movements? Are nauseous or feeling uncomfortably full after meals? Your gallbladder health may need some TLC!
Let’s start with the basics.
The Biliary System
The biliary system is made of your liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. This system works together to produce, store, and secrete bile.
Bile is the greenish-yellow substance that is continuously produced by the liver and stored and concentrated in this little pouch called the gallbladder. Bile is composed mainly of bile salts, phospholipids, cholesterol, conjugated bilirubin, electrolytes, and water. Bile acids and bile salts are a major component of bile (bile salts are formed when bile acids are produced by your liver and joined together with the amino acids glycine or taurine).
Why Bile is SUPER important
Bile is very important for 2 main reasons:
1) Bile facilitates lipid (fat) digestion and absorption.
When you eat, the cells in your small intestine release a hormone called cholecystokinin (CKK). This hormone triggers your gallbladder to contract, pushing the bile through the duct system into your small intestine. Once in your small intestine, the bile acids break down the large lipid (fat) droplets into smaller ones. This makes it easy for your digestive enzyme lipase to effectively digest longer-chain fats into smaller chains that can be easily absorbed by your small intestine.
This fat breakdown is necessary any time you eat fat-containing foods such as avocados, nuts, olives, seeds, and animal products such as eggs, most meat and seafood, butter, etc. Fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and other oils also need bile to be digested and absorbed.
Did you know that these foods are abundant in fat-soluble vitamins?
Fat-soluble vitamins, as the name indicates, are vitamins that are dissolved by fats.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, and they support all sorts of important functions in your body like maintaining healthy bones, cell repair, and a properly functioning immune system. Without bile to help you digest and absorb fat-soluble vitamins, your body can’t properly support these functions.
If you’re getting these fat-soluble vitamins from supplements, you can increase their absorption when you take them with foods rich in healthy fats.
2) Bile Eliminates Waste Products from the Body
Cholesterol is eliminated through its conversion into bile acids, helping your body maintain balanced cholesterol levels. Bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment formed in your liver through the breakdown of hemoglobin, is also secreted through the bile. It is, in fact, responsible for the dark pigments of feces.
A lesser known function of bile is that it acts as a natural antibacterial agent, supporting a healthy amount of bacteria in your small intestine. As you can imagine, this is REALLY important! If you have been diagnosed with SIBO (or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), a lack of bile may be a root cause of it.
Bile Health and Gallbladder Symptoms
Your stool can also tell you if you’re digesting fats well. Is it bulky or difficult to flush? Does it appear oily, pale, or foul-smelling? These are clues that your body finds it difficult to digest and absorb fats.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, consider supporting your biliary system:
- Feeling full after a small meal
- Right-sided heaviness at the base of your rib cage
- Right shoulder tightness
- Right-sided mid-back tightness or pain by your scapula (shoulder blade)
- Diarrhea when eating too much fat
- White or gray colored stools
- Intolerance to eating any type of fat
- Yellowish coating on your tongue
Avoiding fats and oils isn’t the answer. That just throws a band-aid on the symptom, but doesn’t actually address the root cause. Let’s dig into what you can do to support this important bilary system!
Bile Formation and Bile Flow
Bile formation and bile flow are equally important. Even when you have adequate formation of bile, you need that bile to flow. When your gallbladder or the duct system is blocked or doesn’t function fully, bile cannot exit and builds up. It’s like your gallbladder gets constipated! This is potentially dangerous because built-up bile can form into crystals that, over time, can become gallstones (very painful and can lead to serious health complications). Bile that cannot leave the gallbladder also causes irritation and infection. Over time, your gallbladder will function more and more poorly. This often leads to its surgical removal, which is permanent. As you’ve learned, it’s in your best interest to support your gallbladder and restore its function if you can.
So you need to make enough bile and you need it to flow.
To help with bile flow, bitter foods are helpful. Examples are:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Bitter Melon
- Broccoli Rabe
- Chicory or Chicory Tea
- Chocolate (like cacao nibs or 70% or more cacao)
- Dandelion Greens
- Dandelion Tea
A healthy liver, a diet and lifestyle low in toxins, plenty of sleep, clean water and adequate hydration, spacing out your meals and not snacking all the time, quality dietary fats and cholesterol, and sufficient stomach acid are all key ingredients to healthy bile production. You can also take supplements, like Dr. Ben Lynch’s Gallbladder Nutrients formula, to support both bile formation and flow.
If you are experiencing gallbladder symptoms, it is best to have yourself checked by a licensed medical professional right away. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your gallbladder is very important to the health of your entire system.
There’s a lot that you can do with diet and lifestyle to get to the root of your symptoms! And if you’ve already had your gallbladder removed, your liver is still making bile and you still need bile to digest and absorb your fats! There’s still important ways that you can support this system.
In either case, it is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully. I hope that today’s suggestions are helpful to you.
If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. http://bit.ly/schedulinghealth (subject to availability).
Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!