The gallbladder is a digestive organ located in the upper right portion of
the abdomen, directly underneath the liver. It is responsible for storing
and concentrating bile that is produced by the liver. Bile is a
greenish-yellow color and is composed of bile acids, water, electrolytes,
bilirubin, cholesterol, and phospholipids. As food enters the small
intestine, hormonal and nervous system activity causes the gallbladder to
contract and sends bile through the common bile duct into the beginning
portion of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. Bile has several
different functions, which include the digestion and absorption of fats,
and the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, the retention of water in the
colon to promote bowel movements, the excretion of bilirubin (degraded red
blood cells), the elimination of drugs and other compounds in the body, and
the secretion of various proteins involved in gastrointestinal function. As
you can see, dysfunction in bile production and secretion can result in
many different health problems.
The most common problem associated with the gallbladder is gallstones. It
is estimated that 20 percent of people over the age of sixty-five have
gallstones. Every year, more than 500,000 people have surgery to remove
their gallbladders. The symptoms of gallstones can greatly vary, from
person to person. Most people with gallstones often have no symptoms
throughout their lives, as the stones pass without problems. Symptoms may
include right-sided abdominal pain (or pain anywhere in the abdomen) and
radiating pain that goes to the right shoulder blade. Abdominal bloating,
gas, belching, and recurrent pain is common too. Most often, gallstones
have been found with a routine exam, and if they are causing no symptoms,
they are left alone. Gallstones that cause pain and other symptoms are
treated conventionally, with surgery (often using laparoscopy), bile acids
are taken orally (for stones that are noncalcified), or, more commonly,
lithotripsy, the use of shock waves to fragment the stones so that they
Gallstones are formed as a result of the bile becomes saturated with
cholesterol. This can be due to an increase in cholesterol secretion or
decreased bile and lecithin secretion. This then causes other particulate
matter to attract cholesterol and sets the stage for stone formation. As
you will read in this chapter's treatment section, there are natural ways
to decrease the saturation of cholesterol in the bile via diet and
Risk factors for gallstones include:
Women are two to four times more likely than men to have gallstones.
This, in part, could be due to the use of oral contraceptives and
synthetic hormone replacement.
: Gallstones are more common in women of North American Indian
ethnicity. Obesity causes an increased secretion of cholesterol into
bile. Also, it should be noted that rapid weight loss (during the
initial phases) can contribute to gallstone formation.
The frequency increases with age.
· A Western diet is a contributing factor.
· A positive family history predisposes one to this problem.
· Digestive tract diseases, such as Crohn's disease, increase one's risk.
A persistent obstruction of the bile duct can also result in fever, nausea,
and vomiting. At this point, the condition is termed acute cholecystitis.
This is an acute inflammation of the gallbladder wall as a response to the
gallstone obstruction. In rare cases, infection and pus may fill the
gallbladder or cause perforation of the gallbladder wall. These situations
are dangerous and require immediate surgery. While most cases of acute
cholecystitis are surgically treated, people who improve greatly within one
to two days may not require surgery if the gallstones are small enough to
pass through into the intestinal tract. Ultrasound and X-rays are used to
diagnose gallstones and acute cholecystitis.
The natural approaches in this chapter are highly successful in preventing
further gallstone formation and gallbladder inflammation/attacks, as long
as the present stones are not too large. People with asymptomatic or
"silent" gallstones should not require surgery if the proper diet and
supplemental measures are followed.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level
of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when
taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements have shown to help
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and
Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription #1 Wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa)
Take 2 to 3 ml or 500 mg of the capsule form every hour for
the relief of gallbladder spasms and pain. Wild yam root
has an antispasmodic effect on the bile duct.
Super Prescription # 2
Milk Thistle / Silymarin
– LifeSource Product
Take a milk thistle extract standardized to contain a daily
total of 420 mg a day. Milk thistle increases bile flow and
decreases bile cholesterol saturation.
Super Prescription #3
Enzymes – Super Enzymes
- LifeSource Product
Take 1 to 2 capsules of lipase enzymes with each meal to
improve fat digestion.
Super Prescription #4 Dandelion root (Taraxacum
Take 2 ml of tincture or 500 mg of the capsule form with
every meal. Dandelion root improves bile flow.
Super Prescription # 5
Curcumin – Turmeric
- LifeSource Product
Take a product standardized to contain 150 mg of curcumin
with each meal Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties,
improves bile flow, and relaxes the bile duct.
Super Prescription #6 Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
Take 1 to 2 ml of the tincture or 500 mg of the capsule
form with each meal. Globe artichoke improves bile flow.
See All of the LifeSource Vitamins Gall Bladder Support
Products, Articles, and Studies:
· Right-sided abdomen pain (or pain anywhere in the abdomen) and radiating
pain that goes to the right shoulder blade
· Drugs, such as oral contraceptives and synthetic hormone replacement and
some cholesterol-lowering drugs
· Race (more common in women of North American Indian ethnicity)
Rapid weight loss
· Western diet (high in saturated fat, low in fiber, alcohol)
· Food allergies/sensitivities (root cause for gallbladder attacks)
· Positive family history
· Increased risk from digestive tract diseases, such as Crohn's
Fiber-rich foods are important in reducing the likelihood of gallstones. A
variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and oat bran is recommended.
Include five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Regularly eat beets, globe artichokes, and organic dandelion greens, and
they improve bile flow.
Olive oil has historically been used by nutritionists and naturopathic
doctors to improve bile flow. Use it on salads regularly.
Flaxseeds are a highly concentrated source of essential fatty acids, the
"good" fats that reduce inflammation. Add flaxseeds to juices, salads, or
fruit plates, or use the oil as a salad dressing.
Studies have shown that vegetarians are at a lower risk for gallstones.
This does not mean you need to be a strict vegetarian if you have
gallstones, but you should greatly increase the number of plant foods in
Foods to Avoid
Avoid the use of fried foods and foods with a high percentage of saturated
fat (dairy products and red meat).
It is important to limit your intake of simple carbohydrates and sugars.
Researchers have found that gallstones are rare in countries like Africa,
where the diet is low in refined sugars and high in fiber. In one study, 13
people with gallstones ate a diet contained refined carbohydrates for 6
weeks, then consumed a diet of only unrefined carbohydrates for an
additional 6 weeks. The cholesterol-saturation index of bile (indicating a
tendency to form gallstones) was higher in 12 of the 13 people during the
period of time they ate refined carbohydrates.
Food allergies or sensitivities can be a root cause of gallbladder attacks.
Since the 1940s, James Breneman, M.D., the former chairman of the Food
Allergy Committee of the American College of Allergists, reported that food
allergies can initiate gallbladder attacks and gallbladder disease. One
study found that 100 percent of a group of patients were symptom-free after
following an elimination diet that included beef, rye, soy, rice, cherries,
peaches, apricots, beets, and spinach for one week. Foods that were most
likely to cause gallbladder symptoms in this study included eggs, pork, and
onions. Other common triggers included fowl, citrus fruits, milk, coffee,
corn, beans, and nuts. Dr. Breneman believes that food allergies cause
inflammation and swelling of the bile duct, which restricts bile flow from
One study found that men who drank coffee had a lower risk of gallstones
than men who did not drink coffee. However, coffee initiates gallbladder
contractions, so people with known gallstones should avoid its use.
· Exercise should be part of a program to prevent gallstones. In a study of
over 60,000 women, an average of two to three hours per week of exercise
reduced the risk of gallbladder surgery by approximately 20 percent. Choose
an exercise system you like and be consistent with it.
Bruce Brightman – founder
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