Gallbladder – Can You Save It?
Save Your Gallbladder
Gallbladder surgery (aka cholecystectomy) is becoming a more and more common. In fact, nearly 1 million people undergo gallbladder removal each year. But is it really necessary?
The National Institute of Health reports that only 1% of gallstones become symptomatic per year and that 80% of patients will never develop symptoms from their gallstones. In layman’s terms, this means that even if you have gallstones, there is close to an 80% chance you should not get your gallbladder removed.
That being said, there are reasons for having your gallbladder removed when things get too severe or dangerous (please consult with your natural practitioner) but it seems in traditional medicine we are removing the gallbladder first and asking questions later. 33% of patients who have gallbladder pain, still have upper abdominal pain and digestive issues after their gallbladder removal.
So does the surgery work? Sometimes.
The Wrong Diagnosis – Gallbladder
I want to share a story about a recent patient that had hip pain. She was schedule for surgery to get hip replacement in 4 weeks from her initial visit. She was looking to optimize her health before the surgery so that her recovery would be the best possible. (A smart choice for everyone.) After 3 visits with me, even though the focus was on overall health not hip pain, her hip pain was reduced 80-90%.
She went back to the surgeon and said that the pain was reduced 80-90% and she wasn’t sure that it was the hip that was causing her pain. The surgeon agreed and then decided it was likely her lower back referring to the hip.
The point of this story is that she was days from having a hip replacement surgery, but the diagnosis at the time was wrong. This happens very commonly with gallbladder surgery. Often times the diagnosis can make sense, but the diagnosis may be wrong.
Do we need our Gallbladder?
Similar to the question, do we need our appendix, the answer is a resounding yes! The gallbladder primarily acts as a storage tank for bile, which aids in the digestion of fats and fat soluble vitamins, but also serves critical functions related to insulin, hormones and detoxification of waste products like ammonia.
What are fat soluble vitamins?
Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K are known as fat soluble vitamins. If you ever go on the internet, you know about the many benefits of vitamin D and if you read my last article, you know the many benefits of Vitamin A when it comes to the immune system. Vitamin E is critical for female hormone production, fertility (improves implantation), decreases elevated prolactin and opposes estrogen dominance. So, from that standpoint alone, removing your gallbladder can alter many critical processes in the body.
Gallbladder and Hormones
Hormones have a profound impact on the gallbladder and in my practice, seem to be the #1 reason a gallbladder gets overburdened. Gallstones appear more frequently in women than men and the reason for that is that female hormones greatly affect the gallbladder and its ability to release bile. High estrogen (aka estrogen dominance) increases the amount of cholesterol in the bile and decreases the release of bile salts. Increased progesterone leads to inhibition of the contraction of the gallbladder, decrease in bile salt secretion and decreasing gallbladder emptying. This is one reason why it is common to get cholecystitis during pregnancy as hormones increase dramatically.
Let’s also not forget that if you are taking hormones (hormone replacement therapy) your digestion can be greatly altered and your digestion may not respond to food you eat, but rather when you took your last dose of hormones. If you love your HRT and don’t think you could ever get off them, then you may need gallbladder support while you are on your hormones to increase your bile and gallbladder function.
Low thyroid function also slows down gallbladder function. Thyroxine (T4) acts to stimulate the gallbladder to relax the Sphincter of Oddi, which releases bile into the digestive tract. Thyroid function is also inhibited by estrogen dominance, so addressing estrogen dominance at the same time you address thyroid function is an absolute requirement in my practice.
Other Gallbladder Destroyers
I wanted to point out the crucial nature of the gallbladder with regards to vitamins and hormones, but there are many other environmental inputs that can alter your gallbladder function including:
- Alcohol (aldehyde pathway)
- Ammonia (fungus/detox)
- Aldehydes (chemical smells/sensitivities)
- Plastics (water bottles, etc.)
- Make-up (hormones/chemicals)
- Caffeine (excessive or minimal)
- Heavy Metals (mercury, aluminum, berrylium, etc.)
- Stress (adrenalin, cortisol)
- MSGs/GMOs (all man-made food products)
While I don’t advocate for “flushes” or “cleanses” or “detoxes” in the conventional sense, adding warm lemon water and beet juice to your diet can be very beneficial. The herb schisandra also helps with gallbladder cleansing. Conventional flushes, detoxes, enemas, etc. can be too harsh on the body and to think that a single cleanse can clear every toxin in the body is not rational. The body will cleanse itself over time as the root level issues causing gallbladder dysfunction is addressed and as your avoid as many environmental toxins as possible.
Treat the Root Not the Gallbladder
For example, if your root problem is heavy metals causing the gallbladder to not function optimally then the heavy metals must be addressed. If you are on HRT and estrogen is creating problems, then the estrogen must be lowered and at times HRT must be stopped (by speaking with your prescribing doctor) to get a complete resolution. If it is a fungal infection causing elevated ammonia, then ammonia must be addressed and so must the fungus. Taking a root level approach gives lasting results rather than temporary relief.
As you can see it’s not as easy as taking a quick “gallbladder-cure-all” pill and restoring a suffering gallbladder, but it rather takes careful consideration and attention to detail to know why you have gallbladder inflammation or gall stones in the first place. Most patients with gallstones and/or low ejection fraction ratio need gallbladder rehabilitation rather than removal.