It’s such an unsexy thing, this gallbladder. The gallbladder is about 3 inches long and 1.5 inches wide and you will never think about it your whole life until your right upper quadrant starts hurting, then and only then you’ll start googling “gallbladder.” The technical term for gallbladder inflammation is cholecystitis.
Your liver makes bile which goes to your gallbladder where it’s concentrated to become stronger, like 5 times stronger! It sits there in storage until you eat something fatty and then it is secreted to break down the food.
But it’s slightly more complicated than that, and I’d like to elaborate for a moment before I tell you what natural remedies might help your gallbladder and gallstones.
Bile is a liquid that is greenish-yellow. It’s like soap, it breaks down fat into smaller globules so that your fat-destroying enzyme “lipase” can turn it into even tinier molecules. Bile (when combined) with bilirubin helps create waste for you to eliminate and furthermore it gives feces that distinct brownish color. In a way, bile is thought to deodorize feces, so if you have a very unpleasant stool odor, it’s a sign you are not making enough bile. Furthermore, if you’re constipated, you’re also probably not making enough bile, a potential sign of liver compromise.
If your gallbladder is inflamed or full of stones, it could be due to the fact that you took years of birth control, you’re a woman, or you eat high fat diet or perhaps you’re sedentary. These are the most common risk factors. The pain is in the right or middle-right side under your rib cage.
The issue that it is your liver which determines the quality of your bile and whether or not the bile leads to gallstone formation. So when you think of gallbladder health, you cannot exclude liver health. Alcohol can lead to big liver problems!
Here are some ideas for natural remedies that can support the health of your liver and gallbladder, or bile formation. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you:
Gallbladder with Ox Bile & Liver by Ancestral Supplements – This is a grass-fed, bovine-derived formula that may help with bile production or reduced bile excretion.* If your gallbladder has been removed, this can help, and likewise, if you’re worried about stones, then I feel this can also help. I think this brand of organ-derived supplements is top-notch, and the one I’ve mentioned here is gallbladder-specific. When your own organ is sluggish or deficient, the intake of animal-derived organs can play an important role. It’s not as odd as you might think, in fact, this is the premise behind bone broth, collagen and gelatin.
Gallbladder Formula by Nature’s Sunshine – This multi-tasking blend contains Oregon grape, ginger, cramp bark, fennel, peppermint, catnip and more. Unlike the Ancestral Supplement I listed above, this formula is non-bovine, but rather just botanicals. I tell you that in case you’d like to try both of them together (of course you need to control your variables so only start this one a few weeks after the other one. Don’t start them both on the same day). And of course, make sure your doctor approves of every new supplement you take. I think a formula like this could help with indigestion, dyspepsia, pain, belching and bloating.
Carrot Juice – Carrots are high in vitamin C which can minimize calcium deposits which contribute to stone formation. Freshly extracted juices clean up the gastrointestinal system including your gallbladder, reducing the risk of gallstones. Carrot juice could help with constipation. Finally, it is known to stimulate bile secretion.
Chanca piedra – It helps you secrete bile. An herb that has been used for centuries for liver inflammation and stones, this is one good idea! Of course, check with your doctor. Quick research will reveal that it’s used for all kinds of urinary, gastrointestinal and gallbladder problems, and is nicknamed “stone breaker.” There are a few awesome supplements available today (and also teas) that are sold online or at health food stores that contain Chanca piedra.
Ginger – You can eat crystallized ginger if it’s the only way you can get it down. If you like ginger, just cook with it and make yourself a tea. Ginger converts cholesterol (which is part of gallstones) and turns it into bile acids, thus reducing the formation of gallstones.
Fennel – Fennel tea might be nice because it may help with indigestion and eases gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). Overseas in Europe, gripe water is used for babies who have colic, but it’s really just fennel water.
Milk Thistle – This is an herbal antioxidant that supports liver health, which in turn protects your gallbladder. It does have slight estrogenic properties. Many well-designed trials suggest it can help with liver dysfunction (think hepatitis, cirrhosis as well as medication or alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity).
Berberine – This is a constituent found in many plants, including Oregon grape (which is also known as Barberry), yellowroot, goldenseal and Chinese goldthread herb.
Keep in mind that your gallbladder’s work is to concentrate and store the cholesterol-rich bile that your liver gave to it, and then secrete it when needed. Herbs that provide berberine usually mean that they improve bile secretion.
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Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.