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I remember as a freshman in college, I would get a weird stomach ache almost every afternoon. I felt a little nauseous. Sometimes pooping would make me feel better. I had no idea what it was. 

Fast forward almost a decade and a half and I now know that those were little gallbladder attacks. Over the years they have come and gone – sometimes they are absolutely horrible, and sometimes they are pretty manageable. Since we all know at least a couple people who have had their gallbladder removed, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. So, let’s talk about it.

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a little organ that hangs out next to the liver. The liver passes bile over to the gallbladder, where it is stored until it is needed. When you eat a meal with fat in it, your gallbladder lets out some of that bile to help your body digest it. Bile also helps regulate the pH of the intestines, supports the body’s natural detoxification processes, and helps regulate blood sugar. As you can see, the gallbladder has an important job!

What is a gallbladder attack?

It is actually pretty common for the gallbladder to form stones, and usually the person has no idea they are even there. But sometimes those stones get stuck trying to come out, and that causes pain. This is a gallbladder attack. Sometimes the pain is felt in the upper right part of the abdomen, or in the back, or the right shoulder blade – even the knee sometimes! Regardless of where it’s felt, the pain is certainly no fun.

What is to be done?

Cut it out. You don’t need that kind of pain in your life. 

Just kidding. While that is certainly one way to look at it, you should know by now that I am not about that reductionist perspective on health. Every part of our body is important and has a unique job it needs to do. If we cut out the gallbladder just because it’s struggling, we can expect to suffer the consequences. We will still be in our sickly state, but now with one less organ to support us. Did you know gallstones can still form, even without the gallbladder? Did you know, without the gallbladder, you’re more likely to suffer from hormone imbalances, fat-soluble vitamin absorption issues, and even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – all of which lead to a host of other problems? Luckily, there are a few things we can try before resorting to surgery.

Food

I’m always looking to food first when it comes to healing disease. What foods can help the gallbladder? 

My number one go-to is beets! Not canned beets, which are often full of added sugar or corn syrup. I’m talking about fresh organic beets from the garden or produce section of the grocery store. The betaine in beets helps metabolize fats, and their high iron content helps prevent gallstones from forming! They also increase liver enzyme production and zinc and copper levels, and decrease short-chain fatty acids. I add a whole beet, leaves included, into my fresh juice every morning. We also regularly steam beets to eat as a side dish at dinner. They are good shredded raw with carrots and apples as a little salad. There are so many ways to use them, and the health benefits are huge. 

Spices like red pepper and turmeric are great for the gallbladder, so load up on all the curries. 

Diets high in fiber and plant proteins (think fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and low in animal proteins are associated with lower risk of gallstones and gallbladder removal. These foods are also high in vitamins, such as vitamin C, which is great for gallbladder health.

Foods to avoid? Trans fats, refined sugars, and processed meats, for sure

What to do during an attack?

One of the most effective things I have found to quickly end an attack is lemon juice and olive oil. I will squeeze 3-4 oz. of fresh lemon juice in a glass, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to that, and drink it! Very quickly the pain dissipates. 

I also have seen fast results from repeatedly flushing the gallbladder meridian. You may recall the post I wrote a while back on tracing meridians. To flush a meridian, you trace its pathway with your hand backwards once and then forward three times. This is a go-to for me the second I feel any gallbladder pain coming on.

Rubbing castor oil over the gallbladder area can be helpful as well!

Finally, I love to address the emotional aspect of health issues. According to Louise Hay’s book, “Heal Your Body,” gallstones are associated with bitterness, hard thoughts, condemning, and pride. She suggests verbalizing the following affirmation: “There is joyous release of the past. Life is sweet, and so am I.”

What if I have already had my gallbladder removed?

I’m sorry to hear that. If your gallbladder is already gone, there are still things you can do to help yourself. Of course, consuming a diet as described above will still be beneficial for you. You may also want to consider supplementing with bile salts at each meal. Since your gallbladder is no longer there to trigger the release of bile, supplementing with bile salts can help your body process and digest fats, which it might otherwise struggle with.

My Experience

Like I said, I’ve had gallbladder pain off and on, pretty regularly since young adulthood. There were times it got so bad I would throw up. Other times it would be pretty minor, or I would even go a couple months without a problem. When I first changed my diet to be more whole food plant-based and cut out refined sugars, I noticed a significant increase in gallbladder pain. I interpreted this as my body trying to rid itself of junk and needing more support. I did all of the things mentioned above – drank lemon juice with olive oil, flushed the gallbladder meridian, ate beets and drank beet juice, repeated the affirmation, and did castor oil fomentations. After a couple weeks of this, I found I no longer had gallbladder pain. It’s now been almost a year and a half since I’ve had a gallbladder attack! For maintenance, I still drink beet juice almost daily and eat beets regularly. A small price to pay to keep my gallbladder happy and in my body!

If you have had experience with gallbladder issues, feel free to share in the comments what has worked for you or what you are still struggling with!

About the author

Hey! My name is Brittan and I live in Utah with my husband and one adorable toddler. I love finding holistic and natural ways to care for myself and my family. I particularly enjoy learning about nutrition, herbal medicine, the emotional, spiritual, and energetic aspects of health, and anything else that contributes to complete wellness. Thanks for joining me!

I am not a doctor. Everything I write about is from my personal experience and perspective. Consult a physician if you have questions specific to your health.

One Comment

  • April Harris says:

    I like chanca Piedra for gallbladder attacks and maintenence. I agree that emotional issues play a big role too. I was able to fix mine with Chanca Piedra and therapy to address anger and stuff plus a frequency wand.

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