Many adults suffer from gallbladder problems during middle or late adulthood, especially women, who develop gallstones much more than men do. And cholecystectomy, surgery to remove the gallbladder, is one of the most common operations performed on adults in the United States every year. Yet it’s common for even those who have gallbladder issues to be a bit unsure of what the gallbladder does exactly and that a gallbladder diet can help prevent and treat certain issues.
The gallbladder is a little pear-shaped pouch tucked behind the lobes of the liver. Its main job is to store up the cholesterol-rich bile that’s secreted by the liver, which then helps the body digest fats and lipids within the diet. Of all the people who experience some sort of gallbladder trouble in their lifetimes, roughly 70 percent of the time that trouble is in the form of gallstones, which form when bile contains excessive amounts of cholesterol.
A variety of problems can occur in the gallbladder in addition to the formation of gallbladder stones, such as the development of gallbladder inflammation (called cholecystitis). What types of factors contribute to gallbladder diseases or emergencies? These can include obesity, eating a poor diet that contributes to nutrient deficiencies, rapid weight loss, taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills), food allergies and certain genetic factors.
Some of the warning signs that you may have a gallbladder problem can include pain and signs of swelling around the gallbladder or frequently having digestive problems due to poor absorption of fats. Treatments that can help naturally prevent or resolve gallbladder issues, and very importantly don’t require surgery, include eating an anti-inflammatory gallbladder diet, avoiding refined fats and allergen foods, doing a gallbladder flush to resolve painful stones, and supplementing with anti-inflammatory herbs and enzymes as part of a gallbladder diet.
Gallstones Prevention, Gallbladder Diet and Other Natural Treatments
Follow a Gallbladder Diet
The foods below can help reduce gallbladder distress because overall they’re easier for the body to digest, contain only natural fats and supply important nutrients like antioxidants and fiber: †
High-fiber foods — Aim for 30–40 grams of fiber per day, which can help reduce the risk of gallstones. Good sources of fiber that support digestion are soaked/sprouted beans and legumes, nuts, seeds along with fresh veggies and fruit.
Beets, artichoke and dandelion greens — These vegetables especially help support liver health, have detoxifying effects and can improve bile flow, which breaks down fat. You can also consume more fresh produce from making your own vegetable juices or smoothies. Try to add potassium-rich foods like avocado, leafy greens, tomato, sweet potato and bananas.
Unrefined healthy fats (including olive or coconut oil) — Coconut oil contains one of the easiest forms of fat for the body to digest, called medium-chained fatty acids. I recommend consuming healthy fats in small amounts over the course of the day, only about one tablespoon of oil at one time, or about two tablespoons of sprouted nuts and seeds. This is because you don’t want to overconsume fats, which puts more stress on the liver and gallbladder. Extra virgin olive oil is another anti-inflammatory fat with many benefits.
Sprouted nuts and seeds — Sprouted flax, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds are easier to digest and can reduce inflammation. But only consume one to two tablespoons of sprouted nuts and seeds at a time.
A diet high in plants, including raw foods — People who eat a gallbladder diet high in raw plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds tend to have lower occurrence of gallstones. These foods are naturally high in water, electrolytes, antioxidants and fiber but low in salt and fats. Consuming a vegetarian diet is also associated with decreased gallstone risk, as is avoiding processed meats or allergenic dairy foods.
Lean protein foods — Including lean sources of organic protein in a gallbladder diet can relieve stress. Consider chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, bison, wild-caught fish and organic protein powder, including protein from bone broth powder.