March 23, 2017


Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

Most people know someone who has had gallbladder issues.  It is a common ailment causing many digestive problems from indigestion, heartburn and abdominal discomfort to vomiting, diarrhea and severe pain.

The gallbladder stores bile produced by your liver, and regulates the release of bile into the digestive tract, as needed. Bile emulsifies the fat we eat for better absorption in the bowel. It is the same mechanism for why we use soap detergent to clean greasy dishes. Without soap emulsifying the fat, it would never come off the dishes, right? The same goes for the bowel; unless the fat we eat is broken down, it is not absorbed and used to fuel our bodies. You are wrong if you think this sounds like a good diet plan; we need essential fats for fuel. In fact, most people should be eating more good fats to lose weight and for better health.

As your liver produces bile, half of it goes to the small intestine and half is stored in the gallbladder until it is needed.  It measures about 3 inches by 1 inch when full.  Bile is constantly being supplied to the bowel to some degree, which is why you can live without the gallbladder’s storage. This is not ideal, nor is it good for your health. Every day the liver produces about a quart of bile, and none of it is stored between meals if you don’t have a gallbladder.

The signs of gallbladder disease are generally easy to spot. The most common sign is pain over the gallbladder, located below the last rib in line with the right nipple. Gall stones can be seen on an ultrasound.  A longer term sign is that of greasy stools that are loose and tend to float in the toilet bowl.  This indicates improper fat absorption.

Gallbladder removal is one of the most unnecessary operations performed over a million times each year in this country.  Surgeons not only remove them unnecessarily, they fail to give their patients the negative resulting effects of having it removed. Most say you can live perfectly fine without it.  That is a lie.  If the gall bladder is removed, you should be taking some form of bile salts with each meal for the rest of your life. But that’s only if you want to properly digest the fats you eat and keep them from being flushed down the toilet.

If you do not absorb the good fats, your body will have trouble making hormones and prostaglandins. What do they do?  They only help regulate inflammation, regulate other hormones, regulate calcium, decrease intraocular pressure, induce labor, sensitize spinal neurons to pain, constrict or dilate smooth muscle cells, regulate fever, affect kidney filtration and more. Things you really don’t need, right?

Many people who’ve had the gallbladder removed report no more pain and “I feel fine.”  A good percentage has some abdominal discomfort when eating fats or spicy foods, but has been told not to worry about it or don’t eat those foods. The truth is they all have fat digestion and absorption issues, but it is a subtle unnoticeable decline in health in areas they don’t connect to fat absorption.

If you have no gallbladder disease symptoms and want to keep it that way, regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for prevention. Unfortunately, after problems arise, it’s too late to remedy it with exercise. A gallbladder flush can be performed if you suspect problems may be starting. You can look up various ones, but most include some form of apple juice, lemon juice and olive oils over a 2-3 day period. They are helpful and do work.

Many times the gallbladder is infected, too. In which case, heavy doses of probiotics are helpful in correcting the problem.

If you have already had the gallbladder out, you must continue to eat high quality fats, especially omega 3 fats. In order to absorb them you must also take the fat digestive enzyme, Lipase, or some type of liver tonic that has lipase in it. Milk thistle, dandelion root, gentian root, turmeric, globe artichoke, and the amino acid taurine all aid bile production. Whole beets thin the bile like paint thinner does paint. That is very helpful in cleaning a sludgy bile duct and bladder. Those who have gallbladder issues must also reduce your sugar and grain intake, and drink nothing but water.

Taking the gallbladder out is a last ditch option, try listening to your body before it gets that far.