When you spend a fair amount of time talking with different people about health, you tend to touch on the same topics over and over again. One such question that comes up frequently, especially with folks who practice alternative medicine, is regarding our gallbladder. Now you may be wondering why this small hollow organ that sits next to our liver is so important.
Well it seems this little guy, which is roughly 1 inch wide and 3 inches long, performs a significant function. The primary role of the gallbladder is to intake the bile produced by the liver and then blend it with minerals and enzymes, preparing it to be released back into the small intestine. The reason this is important is once the bile moves back into your digestive tract, it promotes proper digestion of fat.
Here’s where this issue can get a little sticky. When our gallbladder gets plugged up or sluggish, some adverse symptoms can occur but few people pay a lot of attention to their gallbladder, so they do little to address the problem. Health professionals often overlook gallbladder related issues since the symptoms can look like many other medical conditions. Often our little gallbladder can cause some pretty big problems, so it is important to be aware of your gallbladder and symptoms that could lead back to a blockage.
One of the greatest reasons our gallbladder gets out of whack is from poor nutrition or eating too much highly processed foods. The other aspect comes from a few studies that suggest lack of exercise can put you at an increased risk of gallstones. When you eat poorly and live a sedentary lifestyle, the bile can thicken from cholesterol, salts and other toxins. These toxins lead to clogging of the gallbladder itself and the creation of painful gallstones blocking your bile ducts. Once you start to develop blockages over time, you can develop acute cholecystitis that is triggered by bile buildup or a complete blockage. Cholecystitis is the end of the spectrum when it comes to gallbladder issues.
Gallbladder problems are pretty common and affect many of us every day. These daily problems are mild and go mostly unnoticed with symptoms like bloating, constipation and minor abdominal discomfort. Over time if you do not address these common symptoms, they can lead to gallstones and more severe issues like leading to the removal of your gallbladder.
Keeping your gallbladder healthy and happy can be pretty simple. Start by following a healthy whole foods diet that has low or no processed foods. Keep sugar, junk foods, hydrogenated fats, trans fats and fried foods out of your daily nutrition plan. Let’s face it, poor eating habits are the cause of most gallbladder problems. Women run a higher risk of gallbladder problems with nearly 25 percent of all women in the U.S. developing gallbladder problems by age 60. Cases involving children are seeing a steady increase year over year. It is estimated that one million people in the U.S. will develop gallbladder problems each year.
Genetics, obesity, and diabetes put many people into the high-risk category for developing gallbladder problems. If you fall into one of these categories, you should pay close attention to your diet, be active and have your health care professional check your gallbladder condition during physicals and checkups.
Here are a few other ways to make your gallbladder function at peak performance and keep it happy:
1. Change the fats you cook with to olive oil and coconut oil.
2. Eat potassium-rich foods like leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and avocados.
3. Beets, and beet juice, are great additions to keeping your gut, liver and gallbladder healthy.
4. Make sure you are getting fiber into your daily diet, but do not overdo it with too many high-fiber foods.
5. When you do suspect gallbladder problems, take a daily dose of milk thistle supplement for a week to increase bile flow.
6. Get turmeric into your diet daily. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps cleanse the liver.
Moderate exercise a few times a week is essential to help decrease cholesterol in the body tissues and the bile. Regular exercise is an excellent way to support healthy gallbladder function. Most of us don’t give much thought to ensuring our digestive tract, liver and gallbladder remain healthy, so keep these vital aspects of your overall health in mind.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.