You likely don’t get up each day and give your gallbladder much thought, right? Maybe your heart, digestive system, and even your joints and your muscles, but your gallbladder? Eh, not so much. That is, unless it starts to give you trouble. Then, it’s likely all you think about. But we should all know how to take care of our gallbladder, since it’s important for our overall health and can greatly be affected by how well we take care of ourselves.
First though, what does the gallbladder do and where is located?
Not to be confused with your actual bladder, the gallbladder sits right under your liver. Shaped like a tiny pear, the gallbladder stores bile that’s produced by your liver during digestion. Before you sit down and eat each delicious meal or snack, your gallbladder is full of bile. After you eat, it stores bile from the fat you eat, and starts to fill up until it’s full. As digestion and elimination hum along as normal, the gallbladder releases the stored bile into your small intestine where it enters into ducts (tubes). As it does, the bile helps digest the fats you eat. Though people can have their gallbladder removed and be fine, some people who have it removed may find they have issues with diarrhea and malabsorption. The take-away: Your gallbladder is there for a reason, so take care of it however possible.
Symptoms to Look Out For
If a person’s gallbladder isn’t functioning normally, it’s likely due to inflammation in the gallbladder, trouble digesting high amounts of fat, or could be because a duct in the small intestine that has become clogged. If a duct is clogged, this causes a back-up of bile, the condition known as gallstones. Gallstones can cause immense pain after a high fat meal because the bile storage and release process isn’t functioning as it should. Symptoms of gallstones include extreme pain after eating, nausea, vomiting, pain for days right under your ribs, and poor digestion after meals. You can have tests done at your trusted health professional’s office to see if you have gallstones. If so, you’ll have to have removed and will need to watch your diet carefully by eating a low-fat diet. If you don’t test positive for gallstones or another disorder related to your gallbladder, you may just be eating too many high-fat or inflammatory foods. If this is the case, switching up your diet is easy to do.
Foods to Eat for Your Gallbladder
Generally, not all fats are bad, so don’t get the impression you need to eat a fat-free diet. However, maintaining a healthy weight is key to taking care of your gallbladder since obesity increases your risk for gallbladder disease. The key is to choose smaller amounts of fat at each meal and eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes (if you tolerate them), and modest amounts of nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts and olives (no more than 2 tablespoons per meal, but for some it may be less). Avoid oils which are more refined than the whole foods they come from and are very hard on your gallbladder, especially when eaten in excess.
Also focus on adding fiber to your meals since a low-fiber diet is often associated with gallstones or gallbladder problems.
Here are some high-fiber foods to choose:
- Leafy Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grains
Foods to Avoid
Foods to avoid include animal fats, which lead to high cholesterol and are very hard on the body to digest, fried foods, processed foods, and oils. This will also help you naturally manage your weight, heart, and overall health much easier. Many researchers believe that gallbladder problems stem from the Western diet that is high in animal fats and processed, refined carbohydrates (which can also lead to obesity and gallbladder problems). You can follow our healthy, low-fat vegan meal plan if you’re unsure of what to eat to naturally set you up for success.
So, as with most health tips, when it comes to taking care of your gallbladder, healthy, whole foods from plants win again. Thank goodness, because we love them!