The gallbladder is a sac located under the liver that stores and concentrates bile. It plays an important role in fat metabolism, and releases bile into the upper small intestine (duodenum) when need to break down fat.
Bile is a liquid composed of water, cholesterol, bile salts, bilirubin and other chemicals made in the liver that helps the body digest fats. Normally, bile flows rapidly through the ducts of the gallbladder and from the bladder, emptying periodically. When the bile is thickened, the flow is slow and the gallbladder does not fully empty. The remaining thickened bile precipitates and thus stones are formed.
There are two types of gallstones: The first type is made of cholesterol, and is due to dietary indiscretions; however, it is not connected to cholesterol levels in the blood. The second type is made from too much bilirubin in the bile. Gallstones occur mostly in people that have poor dietary habits and are overweight. Many people do not experience symptoms and they are discovered during an x-ray. Others will feel a cramping pain in the middle to right upper abdomen. This may be a sharp, cramping or dull pain that spreads to the back or below the right shoulder blade and occurs right after a meal.
In the 1960’s, Dr. James C. Breneman discovered that he could prevent gallbladder attacks by eliminating food allergens from a patient’s diet. He took 69 individuals suffering from recurrent attacks of gallbladder pain and had them go on an elimination diet to discover the culprits. Six of these individuals had already had their gallbladders removed, but still were experiencing pain. Dr. Breneman reported that all 69 patients were completely free of gallbladder attacks when they avoided their independent allergens; all 69 had them return when they consumed the allergenic food.
Dr.’s Sturdevant, Pearce, and Dayton, in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1973, stated that autopsies of patients eating polyunsaturates had a much higher incidence of gallstones than those eating the standard American diet. Therefore, people on a “heart-healthy” diets have a high incidence of gallstones. If a polyunsaturate is supposed to be cholesterol-free, why do these people have a high incidence of gallstones which are composed mainly of cholesterol? Avoid corn, soy, safflower, canola and other vegetable oils. Use extra virgin olive or extra virgin organic coconut oil instead.
Consistent exercise, drinking water throughout the day and eliminating foods high in sugar, including high carbohydrate foods like bread, crackers, muffins and pasta help prevent gallstones. Gallstones are more common in women, Native Americans and other ethnic groups and people over 40.
While most gallstones dissolve on their own without any symptoms, warning signs still can occur including pain in the upper right abdomen when a stone blocks the duct. If this continues to occur and no changes are made with the diet, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) can lead to the gallbladder becoming infected, the pancreas inflamed, and ultimately the need to have the gallbladder removed.
Gallbladder disease occurs more often in women than in men, and the risk increases for women if they have children. This however is offset if the woman breast feeds her child. Hormone therapy and crash diets followed by rapid weight gain are also factors that increase the risk of gallbladder disease.
Removing the gallbladder is rarely needed to address this problem. Dietary considerations can help tremendously because most often the reason is dietary and from a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise 3-5 times a week to assist the body with fat metabolism.
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Dairy and wheat (Greek yogurt is okay)
- Simple carbohydrates like pasta, crackers, cookies, muffins, cereal, bagels etc.
- Excessive amounts of fats with meals
- Hydrogenated oils, margarine, butter substitutes
Long-term treatment using high-fiber can possibly reduce the size of the stones; in less developed countries where levels of dietary fiber are high because foods are unrefined, gallstones are rare.
- Lots of fresh vegetables like kale, squash, cauliflower and broccoli
- Fruit like pears, blueberries and apples (ending meals with an apple is a great cleansing practice)
- Drink lots of water with freshly squeezed lemon
- 1 TB of freshly ground flaxseed with breakfast
- Wild rice and brown rice (small amounts)
- Free-range/pastured chicken
- Free-range/pastured eggs
- Wild fish (avoid fattier fish like king salmon)
- Beans and legumes
- Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Coconut oil only (best for cooking; medium chain fatty acids do not require bile to breakdown)
Helps prevent bacterial infections and assists with breaking down food.
2. Choline by Seeking Health: Important because it is a phospholipid which prevents fat from clumping together; the most important fact about gallstones is that they are precipitated by a decrease in ratio of phospholipids to cholesterol in the bile. Very important to use non-GMO soy or sunflower lecithin.
3. Alfalfa by Shaklee for Calcium
Adequate calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of gallstones in women because it helps bind bile acids and decrease the risk of stone formation.
Involved in fat assimilation.
Vitamin C is an important link in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids, a necessary step if cholesterol is to be rendered harmless in the bile.
May be needed if the liver needs cleansing to support the gallbladder.
1. Dr. Johnathon V. Wright’s Nutrition & Healing, October, 2004; 819 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21201; 203-699-3683