14 Sep Why you don’t need to remove your gallbladder
Gallbladder removal has become one of the most common surgeries in America.
“If it’s faulty, take it out.” Seems to be the motto that is applied to everything. According to the statistics, if you have gallstones you are destined to lose your gallbladder and survive on a low-fat diet and pain killers for the rest of your life.
But where did this information even come from? And why has fat been blamed for so long?
According to this study, good fat is actually beneficial in preventing gallstones, especially during weight loss and Weston A. Price says, “Two things that the gallbladder doesn’t like are bad fats and no fat.”
Removing your gallbladder without questioning why it is in the state it is in, is not very good practice. Trying to heal the underlying problems, before resorting to surgery, should be the correct course of action.
When you get a build-up of gallstones, you may need to have your gallbladder removed, but what causes gallstones?
Your liver makes bile, from cholesterol and various other things, which then gets used directly by the small intestine or is stored in the gallbladder until fats are consumed.
When you follow a low-fat, high-carb diet the gallbladder never gets the message from the stomach to release the bile, so the bile just sits there doing nothing, and eventually the cholesterol and other substances in the bile calcify into stones.
This is why doctors will encourage a low-fat diet, because even though your gallstones are probably getting bigger and bigger as time goes on, they won’t cause a problem unless you eat a fatty meal, which needs to get broken down by the bile. When this happens, the stones can roll into the bile ducts, as the bile gets released, and get stuck, which can cause major pain.
Following a low-fat diet should never be encouraged because fat is immensely important for a heap of reasons and is utilised by practically every cell of the body.
A diet low in fibre can also cause gallstones. In a functioning system, fibre attaches itself to the bile in the intestines, which now is full of waste that needs to be eliminated. If you don’t eat enough fibre, the toxins can stay in your intestines and get reabsorbed by the liver, gallbladder, lymphatic system, bloodstream, joints and other tissues.
If you experience any of the below symptoms it may indicate the presence of gallstones:
- Gas and burping after meals
- Feeling full and heavy after meals
- Acid reflux
- Constant pain and nausea in the abdomen
- Intense pain on the right side under the ribs, which can spread to the right shoulder/shoulder blade
- Yellow-tinge to skin and whites of the eyes
- Excessive sweating and vomiting can happen in severe cases
Doctors can use various methods to test for gallstones including an ultrasound or x-rays.
You are more susceptible to gallstones if:
- You are a woman
- Over 40 years of age
- You have diabetes
- You have a family history of gallstones
- High Triglycerides (type of fat)
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol
- You are on the pill
- You experience rapid weight loss without eating enough fat. According to Volek and Phinney (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living) “If dietary fat intake is low, (under 30 grams per day) during rapid weight loss, the gallbladder doesn’t get the signal to empty itself, and the cholesterol can build up and increase the risk of gallstone formation.”
Because of the blockage of the bile ducts by the gallstones, the gallbladder can become inflamed and infected, which can impact the pancreas, which relies on bile to function. When this happens, it can be life-threatening, and your gallbladder will need to be removed. But this is only in extreme cases. Following the correct diet can help to alleviate gallstones. A diet higher in fats and low in carbs, like Banting, should be encouraged.
First (as always) – consult your healthcare practitioner before embarking on a dietary change.
Second – A gentle increase of fats is recommended if you have been following a low-fat diet as your gallbladder will need time to start functioning properly again.
Foods that support good gallbladder function and naturally alleviate/prevent gallstones:
- Coconut oil is a gentle fat to start with as it doesn’t require bile salts for digestion
- Vitamin K2 found in grass-fed butter, egg yolks and soft cheeses like gouda and brie can help prevent and reverse calcification of the cholesterol in the gallbladder
- Beetroot and artichoke support good bile production
- Sunflower seeds help to break down fats
- Fibre-rich foods help with detoxification, such as: green leafy vegetables and other vegetables high in fibre like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans; seeds; nuts; avocados; herbs
- Omega-3 rich foods such as oily fish: salmon, sardines, trout
- Lemon in warm water in the mornings: has bile thinning abilities, and it will set you up for detoxification for the rest of the day
- Gut-friendly foods to improve the good bacteria: fermented foods like sauerkraut and lacto-fermented pickles
- Bone broth has many healing properties
- Apple cider vinegar before a meal helps with digestion and to thin out bile
- Sprouted seeds such as flax, chia,hemp and pumpkin seeds are easy to digest and can reduce inflammation
- Turmeric aids in digestion, fights inflammation, and supports liver metabolism
Foods to avoid:
- Sugar and processed foods
- Processed seed and vegetable oil
- Food allergies to egg, pork and onion may increase gallstones/make them worse
- Coffee can have a negative effect on the gallbladder and cause it to contract
What do you do if you don’t have a gallbladder?
- Bile can be released directly from your liver into your small intestine
- Christine Cronau says, “Eating three regular meals every day, at exactly the same time, helps the liver get into a good rhythm of producing bile. This way, the liver knows when to expect the food, and it will be used to producing bile at the right times.”
- You need to mimic your body’s natural output of bile by taking ox bile extract or bile salts
- Digestive enzymes such as lipase or bile salts – assist in the breakdown of fats
In summary, your gallbladder is an essential part of your anatomy and plays a key role in storing and releasing bile at the correct time. Lack of good quality bile and adequate fat consumption and absorption can lead to a multitude of imbalances and diseases in the body. Following a balanced Banting diet can go a long way to improving gallbladder function, bile production and prevent/alleviate gallstones. Surgery should only be considered as a very last resort.
We have a gallbladder-friendly meal plan in our system for you to follow.
Take back control of your health and start Banting today by joining our Online Program. Make use of our tools such as the meal tracker and connect with like-minded people on the forum.