The gallbladder is one of the body’s smallest organs, located right under the liver. It collects bile necessary for the digestion of fat, and releases it into the small intestine. When excess cholesterol is present in bile, stones can begin to form in the gallbladder, and this leads to excruciating pain in the upper right of the abdomen, infection and other complications. This pain can last from a few minutes to hours, and often times, this pain can occur after a high-fat meal. When infection occurs, or when the gallbladder bursts, surgery is necessary. The most common removal method is laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, and recovery time is minimal and may require only a short hospital stay.
Gallstones are solid particles made up of substances in the bile, typically a combination of bile salts, cholesterol and bilirubin, and can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Gallstones can block the gallbladder ducts so that bile cannot reach the small intestine as effectively, which can prevent the gallbladder from doing its job and can lead to other gallbladder diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, factors that contribute to the risk of gallstones include obesity, high-fat or high-cholesterol diets, diabetes and taking medicines with estrogen.
Gallstones can cause sudden pain that is called a gallbladder attack, and the University of Maryland Medical Center lists the following as symptoms of a gallbladder attack as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and pain primarily in the upper right side of the abdomen, and may be accompanied by jaundice.
Boost Gallbladder Function Naturally
Improper gallbladder function makes it difficult to digest any fats in the diet, which can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Luckily, there are a few natural treatments you can try to boost the function of a bad gallbladder.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Ban yo-yo dieting as it causes shifts in the amount of cholesterol in the bile and increases your risk of an attack. Part of maintaining a healthy weight is eating a healthy, balanced diet that is detailed below. Watch fat intake, and know your vital numbers, including cholesterol levels.
Don’t Skip Meals
When you skip a meal, bile builds up in the gallbladder and your body has to wait until the next meal to empty it all out. Eating small meals throughout the day will minimize your risk by regularly moving the bile out of the gallbladder. Healthy or monounsaturated fats, which you can get from foods like nuts, fish, avocado and olive oil, also help to clean the gallbladder.
Inactivity increases your risk and slows your digestive system down, including bowel movements. A slowed digestive system does not move bile out of the gallbladder efficiently. Even moderate exercise can help keep your body’s processes running smoothly.
Diet For a Healthy Gallbladder
Maintaining a healthy diet and weight go a long way in keeping the gallbladder healthy. Eating a well-balanced diet with fruits, veggies, lean meats/fish and fiber is a great plan of action. Foods particularly good for the gallbladder are listed below.
Fresh, Fiber-Rich Fruits & Vegetables
Eating uncooked fresh vegetables will increase your roughage intake, allowing an easy exit for toxins leaving your body. Use vegetables like asparagus, spinach, garlic, onion, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers and artichokes to help with toxin removal. Your kidneys will benefit from the increase of detoxifying vegetables in your diet. Your liver and gallbladder will undergo a natural cleansing by the addition of these items and activate your liver’s enzymes, promoting the exit of toxins from your body. Radishes are a terrific option because they increase bile flow, but those already suffering from gallbladder problems shouldn’t eat too many.
Some good choices of fruits are avocados, cranberries, berries, grapes and oranges are high in fiber and vitamin C, which (if deficient) can contribute to gallstones. Pectin-rich fruits are also helpful, try items like apples, strawberries and citrus fruits can also help.
Cruciferous Vegetables & Beans
Vegetables like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are all great for avoiding a Gallbladder attack, but, if you are having a gallbladder attack, you may want to stay away from these foods as the gas that they can cause in some people can make your already existing pain worse. I want to stress that these foods are not harmful to the gallbladder, and can actually be very helpful in keeping it cleansed, but it may be much better for certain individuals not to consume them in the midst of an attack. This is why they are on the “Foods To Avoid List” along with beans & legumes on my guide below.
Food To Promote Bile Flow
There are a number of foods that can stimulate the production and flow of bile, whether you have a bad gallbladder or even after the removal of your gallbladder. Try:
- Beets: Several nutritional companies have developed very effective extracts from the beet plant, particularly the top, that enhance bile flow. Combining beet extracts with bile salts improves the overall effectiveness of the product. You can find these extracts at many health food stores.
- Artichokes: Leaves from the artichoke plant contain caffeylquinic acids, which promote bile flow. The simplest and least expensive way to benefit from these compounds is to eat the artichoke leaves. They’re easy to both prepare and eat.
- Sauerkraut & Sauerkraut Juice: When used regularly, sauerkraut and its juice will promote bile output. A cup of the juice by itself taken once or twice a week before breakfast has worked wonders for dozens of my patients.
These include oats, bran cereal and brown rice. Try breads and cereals that contain whole, various grains and high amounts of fiber.
Nuts, Seeds & Oily Fish
Nuts, seeds and oily fish, such as salmon, provide healthy alternatives to saturated fat-rich foods, such as high-fat meats and dairy products. The oil that fish contains is helpful if you have high triglyceride levels because it helps the gallbladder empty more efficiently. Snack on moderate amounts of mixed nuts or seeds instead of chips or pretzels, and choose baked or poached fish
Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration is essential for maintaining the proper amount of water in the bile.
Foods To Avoid
Keeping away from certain foods can help, too. Avoid fatty, fried foods, and limit alcohol.
- Sweeteners, sugar, & refined carbohydrates: This includes white pasta, bread, flour, rice, high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugars, like those found in cookies, soda and snack foods.
- Frozen or Canned Foods: They may have additives that make it harder for the gallbladder to do its work.
- Processed Foods: Potato chips, cookies, pies. Almost any packaged snacks are bad for your body.
- High-Fat Foods: Fried food, fatty cuts of meat, whole-milk dairy products should be avoided.
Rules To Live By
Just by adopting some healthy habits can really impact on the amount of fat you consume. Here are some tips you can use during cooking and food preparation.
- Try to avoid processed foods and cook from scratch as much as possible. This will help you gain control over how much fat goes into your food.
- Check labels for high-fat products. A product that is high in fat contains 17.5 g or more of fat per 100 g. Look for foods that contain 3 g of fat or fewer.
- Bulk out meals with vegetables and pulses.
- Wipe off extra oil using a paper towel, and skim fat off the top of soups and stews.
- Measure oil when cooking, rather than pouring it.
- If you are cooking meat that is sticking to the pan, a small drop of water may help rather than adding more oil.
- Make your own dressings using low-fat yogurt, lemon/lime juice and herbs.
- Remove all visible fat and skin from meat, and choose leaner cuts of meat.
- Try not to fry food. Bake, steam, boil, grill or roast on a drip tray instead.
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