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In America and Western-style medicine concepts, the gallbladder is seen as an optional organ that serves us no real purpose. If that’s the case though, would evolution have not seen it fit to cease developing and shift our bodies to be most useful to the world we know like it has plenty of times in the past? Half a million people in the United States are getting a “non-essential” organ removed every single year, whether due to gallstones, infection, pain, bile sludge, scarred bile ducts or cancer. Is all of this removal necessary and what is removal doing to our bodies, after all?
I had a few gallbladder spasms which began in my twin surrogacy, and but it really flared up when I was separated from my son, Noah (if you do not know our story, you can read more here). I recently had an encounter with my gallbladder that was alarmingly painful, and so much so, that it required a visit to the hospital to receive strong anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain. I had sweaty chills with no fever, intense back, and abdominal pain. The hospital admitted me, did an ultrasound, found gallstones, and recommended removal within 24 hours. According to the doctor, if I did not have this surgery, I would very likely be back in the hospital within days, potentially with pancreatitis.
I begged to differ. The way I see medical problems is that there is always a root cause, whether it be a nutritional deficiency, a hormonal imbalance, lack of movement/blood flow, or toxin exposure. I checked out Against Medical Advice (AMA) and was determined to find a solution that did not require parting with one of my organs; and yes, my insurance still covered my stay. An extremely common misconception when checking out AMA is that insurance will not cover your stay; this is not true.
The Importance of the Gallbladder
So what is the generally recognized function of the gallbladder that even most Western-based medical professionals are aware of?
The gallbladder is about the size of a regular chicken egg and stores bile produced by the liver. It becomes heavily concentrated through the removal of water and electrolytes in the process. The gallbladder’s primary digestive purpose is to respond to high fat-content to help break the fat down to be more easily digested. After consuming fat, the hormone CCK signals bile release, and the bile travels through the bile ducts into the small intestine to emulsify the fats. The gallbladder also plays a detoxifying role, helping the liver remove toxins in the body. The gallbladder encourages the removal of old red blood cells, dirt, metals and more.
Much to the surprise of many, the gallbladder also has a relationship with hormones. Women and non-binary individuals on estrogen and progesterone supplementation are much more likely to experience gallbladder issues, and gallstones especially, than men. But why?
Higher estrogen levels increase the biliary cholesterol saturation which can lead to crystallization of the bile in the gallbladder, making it thicker and more compact, eventually leading to gallstones. A higher progesterone level can lead to less contraction of muscles and organs, including the gallbladder, making it more difficult for the gallbladder to release bile salts and fully empty/cleanse itself. This is why it is so common to start seeing gallbladder issues that were never present before occurring after a loss, pregnancy, breastfeeding cessation, birth control shift, and/or hormone replacement therapy. It doesn’t help that our hormones are being so disrupted nowadays by toxins in the environment, vaccines, cleaning products, and our food. It’s really not hard to understand why, even those of us that have never conceived or touched birth control, may still have issues. After learning this, it makes sense to me why my gallbladder issues arose in my surrogate pregnancy. Not only was I pregnant with twins (hello, hormone central) but I was on hormone supplementation at the beginning of the pregnancy in order to properly conceive the twins.
What are the downfalls of removal?
The risks of removing my gallbladder were not properly discussed with me in the hospital, which obviously made me even more uncomfortable with consenting. Generally, the symptoms of someone suffering after gallbladder removal are placed into the diagnosis box of Postcholecystectomy Syndrome (PCS). This may include bile dumping (either throwing up or instant bowel elimination after meal), abdominal pain, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), pancreatitis, liver disease and/or Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (SOD is when the pancreatic and biliary valves do not open and close properly, causing an array of issues). The risks of these side effects of removal, after I had researched, seemed worse to me than dealing with gallbladder attacks.
So, what can you do to avoid removal?
I have found through research and anecdotally, that diet, hormone balance, and herbal remedies are becoming more essential for not only health in general but gallbladder function, specifically. It is best to consume the highest quality and most balanced nutritional plan that is possible for your body. Eating a fibrous non-processed, whole-food diet, is an excellent way to lay the foundation for gallbladder health and restoration. Acupuncture, castor oil packs, oxygen therapy, and certain yoga poses appear to have anecdotal evidence to support the gallbladder. I am also using a Gallbladder Essential Oil to reduce inflammation, but it also smells amazing and seems to give me peace as well. The blend is: Geranium, Clove, Grapefruit, Wild Orange, Juniper Berry and Rosemary (YUM).
Even with a healthy lifestyle, flares can and likely will still happen, if you do not cleanse your gallbladder. The cleansing of the gallbladder involves a cleansing of the liver and kidneys too, they all need to be in sync. The cleanse I have been actively pursuing for two weeks now is as follows:
- 32 oz of apple juice per day (find some I recommend here)
- 8 oz of ACV per day – mix w apple juice (I recommend this one)
- Nettle Tea – 1 cup per day (I love this one)
- Moringa Tea – 1 cup per day (I recommend this one)
- Milk Thistle Tea – at least 1 cup per day (this is a great option)
- Mag Sulfate water with Reishi Tea – one cup per day except on the intensive day, following the Andreas protocol which requires 4 cups (this IS a laxative be mindful!)
- ProMax Protease Enzymes
- Turmeric blend (must contain black pepper and coconut oil to be effectively absorbed) (this one is great)
- Betaine HCL with every meal (I take 2 with each meal) (this one is awesome quality)
- 1-2 capsule Cayenne
- Cell Salts (I take 3 in the AM, 3 in PM)
- Dr Morse’s Gallbladder Support Tincture (Two droppers full under the tongue in the AM, same in PM)
- Weekly Green Coffee Enemas
Intensive Day (this is recommended to be done on Day 6, but being a birth worker, it did not happen until Day 10 after starting the above protocol). As part of my final day of intensive gallbladder cleansing, I will finish off my night with the following:
A brief afternoon fasting after our Fourth of July meal
About 2 cups of Mag water intermittently within a 4 hour time span
Then this mixture right before bed…
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Grapefruit/Lemon/Apple Juice
Black walnut hull tincture
And my beloved heating pad to go to sleep on with a castor oil pack.
I hope this article could be helpful and insightful in trying to keep all of your organs in your body! If there is absolutely nothing that you can do to resolve the pain and it is hindering your daily lifestyle, you have to do what you have to do, and sometimes that requires removal. That is nothing to be ashamed of, I simply wanted to provide insight on my different choices, and the relationship of the gallbladder in the body!