Approximately one million Americans have their gallbladder removed every year. While it’s possible to live the rest of your life without a gallbladder, it’s harder for the body to digest dietary fat without one. Today we will talk about the gallbladder’s function in digestion and highlight the best foods to include in your diet to keep your gallbladder healthy and functioning optimally.
What Does The Gallbladder Do?
Your gallbladder sits right beneath your liver. Bile is a digestive fluid that is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps us digest fats from the food we eat. When you eat a meal, bile is released from the gallbladder and flows into the small intestine where it gets to work breaking down fats from the food you’re eating. When someone has their gallbladder removed, there is no place for bile to be stored. Instead, bile gets released directly from the liver. While this still allows for the digestion of fats, the body may not optimally be able to digest the same amount of fat as it could before.
One of the main reasons that people get their gallbladders removed is due to the presence of gallstones that cause inflammation and can block the release of bile. Many people experience pain from gallstones, so they opt to have their gallbladder removed. Even if someone doesn’t have gallstones that have formed in their gallbladder, they may have thick bile, known as biliary sludge, which can also be harmful and can prevent the proper digestion of dietary fat. It’s always ideal to prevent surgery when possible, so next we will discuss what foods are harmful to the gallbladder and some healthier options you should include in your diet to keep your gallbladder functioning optimally.
Eat This, Not That
Foods That Are Harmful to the Gallbladder:
- Processed food
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Too much saturated fat
- Fast food
- Fried food
- Refined sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
While you don’t need to eliminate saturated fat from your diet entirely, consuming too much saturated fat and not enough fiber rich foods can lead to gallstone trouble. Focusing on eliminating unhealthy food from your diet and keeping your weight in a normal range will be helpful. However, be aware of extreme low calorie diets when it comes to gallbladder health, because losing weight too fast can actually lead to an increased risk of developing gallstones. This is because when the body loses weight rapidly, excess cholesterol is secreted into the bile and gallbladder-emptying slows, which can lead to the formation of stones.
Foods to Eat For a Healthy Gallbladder:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats high in omega 3’s
- Bitter foods and herbs
Bitter foods help stimulate the release of bile, which keeps it flowing and prevents biliary sludge from building up. Some examples of bitter foods include beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes, okra, cruciferous vegetables, and dark leafy greens.