The healthy Gallbladder: Why it is important.

You hear those petrifying words, “You need surgery”, whether it is due to an emergency or simply because you are tired of the pain after suffering so long.  We are often given the reassurance that most do well after gallbladder surgery.  Some feel even better than before.  Not to mention, you were probably told that your gallbladder is not needed for anything.  “It’s not like it’s your brain or heart, right?”  In actuality, is that REALLY the case?  Can you really live a normal and healthy life without it?

I understand what you may feel.  This scenario hits close to home.  So, what is the gallbladder, and why is it important?  The gallbladder is the storage house for bile – a substance that is produced by the liver.  The gallbladder helps to concentrate bile.  Upon removal of this organ, the body’s ability to produce bile remains, but the ability to use concentrated bile, that aids in digestion, is slightly impaired.  As a result, breaking down food can be challenging, especially fats.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K (fat soluble vitamins) may become depleted to some degree.  Knowing each vitamin’s purpose can be telltale sign of nutritional concerns post gallbladder removal (i.e., vision changes, immune system issues, skin issues, bone problems, bruising and bleeding).

In training, we are taught about the classic individual that may present with gallbladder issues: 1. Female, 2. Fat, 3. Fertile, 4. Forty, and 5. Fair skin.  This was based on statistics but is now somewhat controversial due to stereotyping.  Let’s break it down further.  Theories suggest that higher levels of estrogen may play a role.  Pregnancy also increases the production of estrogen so individuals who have undergone multiple pregnancies may be at greater risk.  Obesity is thought to also lead to higher amounts of cholesterol in bile, thus forming gallstones.  Rapid weight loss can affect this as well.

Gallbladder Removal (cholecystectomy) surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the US.  Two common reasons for surgery (there are others):

  1. Acute cholecystitis – often caused by stones blocking the tube leading from the gallbladder.
  2. Biliary dyskinesia- “functional disorder” can occur without gallstones-the cause not precisely known. This occurs when the gallbladder or ducts do not contract the way it should when stimulated.

So how can I help myself post removal

  1. Exercise and proper diet (which will help prevent fatty liver and for digestive health)
  2. Consider probiotics, digestive enzymes, and bile salts to help get the most from meals and aid in digestion.

Ask Your doctor

  1. Are there other options other than surgery available (i.e., medications to dissolve stones, ways to reverse biliary dyskinesia naturally that are successful)
  2. What is the best diet to maintain liver health and help with digestion post gallbladder removal.
  3. Outside of surgical risks, what are the long term consequences of gallbladder removal? Am I at risk for issues with other organs?
  4. Are there any supplements you feel would be beneficial post-surgical removal of gallbladder?

Source- National Health Statistics; Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *