Worried about your gallbladder’s health? Looking for ways to prevent gallstones and gallbladder attacks, without having surgery?
The gallbladder may be a small organ, but it plays an important role in how your digestive system works. A healthy gallbladder breaks down fatty foods and helps you properly digest fats, and there is a lot you can do to keep it functioning as it should. Surgical removal of the gallbladder is not always necessary—and you can make healthy decisions to naturally boost your gallbladder function without surgery.
Here are steps to give yourself the best chance of naturally fixing digestive and gallbladder-related issues.
Your gallbladder produces bile for digestion, and when you skip meals, that bile builds up and raises cholesterol levels—which can turn into gallstones. Eating regularly helps prevent that.
When you engage in daily physical activities, you will be more likely to stay a healthy weight, feel better, and have a healthier gallbladder. In fact, research shows that consistent exercise can lower your chances of getting gallbladder disease by up to 25%.
Obesity raises cholesterol levels in your body, which can inhibit your gallbladder function and lead to a greater risk of gallbladder disease or gallstones. If most of your extra weight is around your middle, you are at a higher risk of problems.
Drastic fasting and crash diets are extremely harsh on your body and can weaken your heart. They also prevent the gallbladder from properly emptying, which increases your risk of gallstones. If you need to lose weight, choose a plan that allows you to shed a pound or two a week.
While you may have heard claims that you can cure gallstones with cleanses, there is no evidence they work. Some cleanses require you to ingest oils and fruit juices, which can cause more harm than good. Also, cleanses cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea. It is better to avoid them and concentrate instead on healthy habits that are proven to improve your body.
Meat can raise your cholesterol, and red meat in particular is linked to digestive issues that can affect the gallbladder. While you do not have to totally give up meat, it is a good idea to eat less of it. Swap in more fish, as well as plant-based proteins such as beans, tofu, and other vegetarian options that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat.
Digestive health depends on getting enough fiber in your diet, and whole grains are an excellent source. Fiber keeps your digestive system moving and removes excess bile acids so it is less likely you will form gallstones. Brown rice, wild rice, steel-cut oatmeal, barley and bulgur are all good sources of whole grains—and believe it or not, so is unbuttered popcorn.
Fresh produce provides your body with healthy fiber, water, and vitamins like C and E, which all are proven to help prevent gallstones. They also help you feel full sooner and feed your body well, which can help you lose weight. Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, kale, cantaloupes, baked potatoes, and citrus fruits.
Instead of saturated fats such as lard and butter, use extra-virgin olive oil for salads and cooking whenever possible. Olive oil is an unsaturated fat, which helps your gallbladder to empty itself of bile acids, and also helps manage cholesterol levels in the blood. Other great sources of healthy fats include salmon, nuts, and avocados. Just be sure to eat fats in moderation.
Water helps the gallbladder eliminate excess bile acids, so drinking enough water is actually one key way to lower your risk of gallstones. Sip water throughout the day to manage your appetite, and aim for around eight glasses a day.
Foods that are fried tend to be high in unhealthy saturated fats and higher in calories. They are not great for weight management, and raise your cholesterol levels—which make it more likely you may develop gallstones. Eat very little to no fried foods, especially if you are looking to prevent gallbladder attacks.
While whole fruits are great for your body, fruit juices are not always ideal. They can stimulate too much bile, which can lead to the formation of gallstones. They lack healthy fiber and can raise blood sugar levels, which is not great for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. The acid in many fruit juices is also hard on your stomach.
An occasional glass of wine or beer is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you drink in moderation with a meal. But too much alcohol raises overall cholesterol levels, boosts sugar levels, and can be dehydrating—all of which are hard on the gallbladder. Limit yourself to one drink a day or less.
All of these foods are high in saturated fats which raise cholesterol, add on weight, and make it harder for your gallbladder to rid itself of bile. They contribute to the formation of gallstones, as well as other health issues that stress the body. Eat them in limited portions.
These natural approaches to fixing gallbladder problems can be very helpful—lessening your experience of symptoms such as painful gallbladder attacks. But it is essential to consult your doctor as well to be sure your specific needs are being met, and that the condition of your gallbladder is not due to a serious disease such as cancer.
At Midtown Surgical and Skin Institute, we listen carefully to your concerns, address your questions, and craft a personalized approach to treating your gallbladder that blends healthy habits with medical procedures that fit your situation. Contact us to set up a consultation—and begin the path to improved health.