Gallbladder removal is the most common surgery performed in the United States today, with over half a million gallbladders removed each year. While removing the gallbladder might seem a simple solution to eliminating the pain associated with gallstones, the truth is your gallbladder plays a crucial role in digestion- and removing the gallbladder will likely cause more problems than it solves.
Because your gallbladder plays a critical role in the digestion of fats, it's important to look for the causes contributing to gallstones and eliminate them at the source. Without your gallbladder, the liver is unable to regulate the production of bile, which continually gets dumped into the small intestines when it's not needed, or insufficient amounts of bile are delivered to the small intestine when it is needed.
If you're struggling with gallbladder disease, it's important to eliminate the underlying causes before undergoing surgery. Keeping your gallbladder should be a priority whenever possible.
Let's look at ten factors that contribute to gallstone formation:
- A diet high in poor quality fats- Oxidized oils and rancid fats stress the gallbladder. Poor quality fats include vegetable oils, such as corn, canola and soybean oil. Margarine and shortening should also be avoided. Fried foods and processed foods also contain poor quality fats that are highly inflammatory.
- Food Sensitivities can contribute to gallbladder attacks as well. Many foods have been linked to gallstone formation. Topping the list of foods that trigger gallbladder pain are eggs, dairy products, onion, fowl, coffee, corn, beans and nuts. It's thought that these foods can lead to inflammation, which can cause swelling of the bile ducts. This impedes the flow of bile to the small intestine. Eliminating these foods often puts an end to gallbladder problems.
- Too little fiber- Fiber keeps things moving through the digestive tract, instead of getting backed up. It's important to keep digestion moving along at a healthy clip, since anything that slows down the process of digestion can lead to a sluggish gallbladder and the formation of gallstones.
- Too much sugar- Studies have linked a diet high in sugar with a greater risk of developing gallstones. Excess sugar intake raises insulin levels, which in turn signals the liver to store fat. This also raises cholesterol levels and cholesterol is a major component of gallstones.
- Stress suppresses digestion, including the release of bile into the small intestine.
- Reduced Stomach Acid- Stomach acid lowers the pH of the food leaving your stomach and entering the small intestine. The pH signals the gallbladder to release bile. If your stomach isn't acidic enough, your gallbladder won't get the message.
Is Low Stomach Acid is Contributing to Your Gallstones?
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- Impaired Liver Function- When it comes to problems with the gallbladder, look to the liver. While it's the job of the gallbladder to store bile and release it into the small intestine when needed, the liver is the place where bile is produced. If the liver is taxed, this can affect the quality of the bile, which is the main cause of gallstones.
- Nutrient Deficiencies- Certain nutrients play a key role in the proper function of the gallbladder. Vitamin C, for example, is a necessary component of the enzyme responsible for converting cholesterol into bile acids. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps the liver keep cholesterol levels in check. Because cholesterol is one of the main components of gallstones, it's critical to get enough magnesium in order to avoid gallstones.
- Hypothyroidism- A strong correlation has been found between low thyroid function and gallstone formation. A sluggish thyroid equates to sluggish digestion, including gallbladder function. This leads to a congested gallbladder which is more likely to produce gallstones.
- Celiac Disease- There is a high correlation between celiac disease and gallbladder disease. Gluten intolerance, while not the same as celiac disease, is also implicated in gallbladder problems. Avoiding wheat when you are struggling with gallstones is a good idea.
Starting to get the picture, here? Healthy gallbladder function has everything to do with healthy digestion and detoxification (liver function). Keep your gallbladder happy by eating the right foods and avoiding processed foods, poor quality fats, and sugar. With a few simple tweaks to your diet and lifestyle your gallbladder will be happy in no time!