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General characteristics

General characteristics

The gallbladder is an organ of the digestive system and sits in the abdomen below the area of the right breast. It is attached to the underside of the liver where it acts as a storage vessel for bile.

Between meals the bile is stored in the gallbladder where it becomes more and more concentrated until its release. Bile is released from the gallbladder when required (when food is eaten) into the small intestine to aid in digestion, particularly of fats. The bile produced in the liver is made up of certain waste products (such as pigment from dead red blood cells), a cholesterol based substance, salts, lecithin, acids, water and mucous. Bile composition becomes significantly altered when diet is poor and in response to many other factors in the body which can lead to gallbladder disease.

Problems with the gallbladder can arise in the form of cholesterol or calcium like stones forming, stagnation of bile fluids, spasm of the bile ducts or gallbladder itself, jaundice, infections, inflammation or cancer. Gallbladder removal is quite common which does not stop the production of bile but means the body has little capacity to store it.

Gallbladder disease is more common in women, especially those who have had multiple pregnancies or are on the contraceptive pill long term (oestrogen increases the concentration of cholesterol in the bile fluids), obesity, too many refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats and oils (trans and hydrogenated fats) in the diet, low fibre intake, anaemia, rapid weight loss and crash dieting, hypothyroidism, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and lack of exercise.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat regularly to avoid the build up of bile in the gallbladder. Don't skip breakfast!

Base your diet around fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, organic wherever possible. Dark green leaves are particularly beneficial.

Increase your intake of foods rich in omega 3 and 6, the richest source of both being flax seeds (crush in a pestle and mortar and add to breakfast cereals) and other seeds, walnuts, nuts, salmon and other oily fish.

Drink a glass of water to which the juice of 1 or 2 organic lemons has been added, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to keep both the liver and gallbladder in a healthy condition. Sour foods such as lemon and grapefruit help to detox the liver and gallbladder so eat regularly.

Include plenty of fibre from vegetables and whole grains (unprocessed) each day as this can help protect against gallbladder problems.

Avoid hydrogenated and all processed fats as these have an unhealthy impact on both the liver and gallbladder. Saturated animal fats should be consumed in moderation and vegetable based fats and oils like flax seed and cold pressed vegetable oils such as olive oil used instead of margarine and the like.

Eat a portion of beans or legumes each day such as lentils, kidney, pinto etc.

Freshly made juices of beetroot and carrot are cleansing and building to the gallbladder and liver.

Eat foods rich in vitamin C such as blackcurrants, citrus fruits and sweet peppers to help prevent disease.

Avoid excessive alcohol intake.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Bitter tonics and cholagogue herbs act to stimulate the production of bile and the emptying and cleansing of the gallbladder, so can help protect against gallbladder disorders. The following herbs promote this action...dandelion root, burdock root, agrimony, artichoke leaf, barberry, oregon grape root, chicory, milk thisltle and holy thistle, fringe tree, wild yam, blue flag, wormwood, gentian and yellow dock. Make a digestive tonic by combining perhaps 5 or 6 of the tinctures of the above herbs in equal parts and take a teaspoon in water after each meal. Add a pinch of turmeric powder to each dose. This will help the gallbladder to empty its load and remain free flowing and cleansed. These herbs also act as gentle laxatives and will prevent constipation.

Drink a daily nutritious and cleansing tea of equal parts nettle, cornsilk, alfalfa and oatstraw.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Take regular moderate exercise daily such as a short brisk walk, a swim or yoga etc.
If you are overweight, lose it gradually and sensibly by making positive changes in your diet and by gently increasing your exercise regime.

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