The gallbladder is one of those body organs we don’t think about much, if at all, until it starts acting up, and then the pain can become unbearable. What is the gallbladder? It is a small pouch, or sac, situated just beneath the liver, which is its partner of sorts. The liver manufactures bile – an acidic-like substance that is stored in the gallbladder and then released into the small intestine to help in the digestion of fats.
By the time we eat one of our three meals a day – a standard still holding its own as a healthy dietary regimen recommended by health experts – the gallbladder may be full of bile thanks to the liver’s steady supply. By meal’s end, the pouch resembles a balloon that has been deflated, lying there empty and flat. That’s because the bile (which also has an anti-microbial effect that can eliminate unwanted pathogens, per drjockers.com) has since departed to the small intestine via a series of tubes known as ducts, per webmd.com.
Here’s the fascinating thing about the gallbladder, though – OK, there are other intriguing facets about this pouch-like organ, but for now let’s focus on one – the fact that its presence is not absolutely necessary to our well-being. It can be surgically removed from a person otherwise healthy without any anticipated future issues concerning health or digestion, albeit a minimal chance of diarrhea and fat malabsorption.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, per livestrong.com, the term “gallbladder disease” is an umbrella term of various gallbladder problems, to include biliary colic, gallbladder inflammation, chronic cholecystitis, and stones found in the common bile duct. For the latter, think gallstones, which are described at drweil.com as hardened, pebble-like deposits in the gallbladder ranging in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. These can cause intense pain when trying to pass from the gallbladder to the small intestine, with symptoms so severe while spreading out to different parts of the body that they can be mistaken for heart attacks.
When you hear about someone “passing a stone,” this is almost always what they are talking about – gallstones. About a million people a year in America suffer from gallstones, although about 80 percent of all gallstones formed – from either cholesterol or a waste product known as bilirubin – never cause trouble, at least not to the extent that we are aware of and requiring a trip to the doctor or emergency room.
Treatment of gallbladder attacks typically is treated by surgical removal of the gallbladder. Today that usually involves a relatively simple procedure known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy in which several small incisions are made into the abdomen and through which a surgeon’s instruments and tiny video camera are inserted to detach and remove the gallbladder.
Vitamins and Supplements to Enhance Gallbladder Health
Suddenly starting a new regimen of vitamins and supplements at the onset of gallbladder problems, such as gallstones, is futile. A better approach to increasing the chances of living a healthy life free of gallbladder issues is to consult with a health care professional to fine tune your diet, and as necessary, work in vitamins and supplements known to enhance gallbladder health. Here are some to consider:
- Vitamin A - A deficiency could mean a malfunctioning gallbladder.
- Beet root - Thins bile, and this helps to prevent formation of gallstones.
- Vitamin C - The gallbladder needs C to convert cholesterol into bile acids, per atkins.com.
- Choline - Assists with the digestion of fat.
- Vitamin E - Formation of gallstones can be a consequence of a vitamin E shortage.
- Ginger - Can increase bile production and contractions in the bile ducts.
- Lecithin - Helps break down fat for digestive purposes and keeps cholesterol moving through the blood stream.
- Magnesium - Bolsters contractile activity in the bile ducts.
- Milk thistle - Known as a “bitter herb” that is good for the gallbladder, per drjockers.com.
- Ox bile - A provider of bile salts that are essential, per unikeyhealth.com.
- Psyllium husks - Great source of fiber, which helps guard against gallstone formation by reducing the accumulation of cholesterol in the gallbladder, per atkins.com.
- Taurine - Increases production of bile acid.
- Turmeric / Curcumin - Helps with solubility of bile.