Helen Padarin

No gall bladder

No gall bladder

So for better or worse, many people are sans gall bladder these days.  Gall bladders

So for better or worse, many people are sans gall bladder these days.  Gall bladders

Many of you who have had your gall bladders removed were likely told that it’s of no consequence that you no longer have your gall bladder.  At most maybe you were told just to avoid eating a high fat diet.  Unfortuantely, this is not necessarily the case.  While in the short term gall bladder removal can result in an easing of symptoms such as nausea and pain, in the long term can result in deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins and fatty acids.  To understand why, we simply need to look at the function of the gall bladder.

The gall bladder is a little sack attached by a tube to the liver.  It stores bile that the liver produces.  Bile contains mostly cholesterol, bile acids (also called bile salts) and bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells).  It also contains water, other salts such as potassium and sodium, and metals such as copper.  It is squirted out of the gall bladder, through the bile duct into the small intestine when receptors in the gut pick up that a fatty food has been consumed.  The purpose of bile is to emulsify fat globules into small particles – much like dish washing detergent – to provide a greater surface area for fat digesting enzymes called lipases (secreted by the pancreas) to breakdown the fats so that we can extract the fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.

Problems occur when the bile duct gets blocked.  This can result in pain in the area of the gall bladder or between the shoulder blades and often accompanied by nausea, especially after eating fatty foods.  People most at risk of gall bladder obstruction are overweight, vitamin D deficient women in their 40’s (the way to remember this risk group: the 4 F’s – female, fair, fat, forties).  We can discuss how to prevent gall stones occurring another time, but for now, what happens when this storage unit has been removed?

Well for starters, you no longer have a storage site for bile.  That means when you eat a fatty meal, you no longer have bile on call.  Instead, your liver gets interrupted by whatever it’s currently doing and has to madly work on demand to produce bile when needed – a very inefficient way of going about things.  As a result inadequate bile is produced and therefore your ability to be able to digest and absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins is diminished.  As a result many people without their gall bladders end up with conditions as a result of fat soluble vitamin (A, D, E, K) deficiencies, such as hormone irregularities, immune and autoimmune disorders, easy bruising and more.  You may also feel nausea and get diarrhoea after eating a fatty meal as well, which could be a challenge if you have switched from eating a low fat diet to a moderate or high fat diet.

So what can you do about it?  Hopefully it’s obvious that you don’t want to eat low fat, considering how important fats and at soluble vitamins are for every single cell of our bodies.  Instead we need to make it easier for you to digest the fats.  Initially however, until you follow the next couple of guidelines for a period of time (different amount of time for different people – it could be 2 weeks or 2 months) you may need to lower or moderate you fat intake until your liver is adequately supported to be able to handle larger quantities of fat.

Basically for everyone without a gall bladder, it’s important to take a supplement with bile salts in it, of which there are a number on the market.  You’ll need to take 1 capsule with every main meal and any fatty snack.  Remember, quality counts.  You want a good quality brand that uses quality ingredients and no nasty fillers or colours.  Secondly, because your liver is working on demand all the time, utilising herbs that support liver function will also help you digest – and feel – a lot better.  Herbs to look out for are Dandelion root, globe artichoke, turmeric, St Mary’s thistle, burdock, barberry and bearberry (uva ursi).  Take the liver support 2 x daily or as directed.

So, if you haven’t got a gall bladder you just need to start slow with the fats, gradually build up and continuously take liver support once or twice daily and bile salts with your meals.  You’ll  reap the rewards for all your years to come by ensuring you’re digesting and absorbing your fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins the best you can.  It may also be worthwhile working with a naturopath to address the reasons why you had gall bladder problems in the first place, to make sure the cause is resolved.

By Helen Padarin

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