25 Ways to Improve Gallbladder Health:
Bile is a critical digestive fluid that is produced in the liver and concentrated in the gallbladder. Bile’s main digestive responsibility is to emulsify fats in order to create fatty acids that can be digested and used by the body. Additionally, it has an anti-microbial effect that helps to kill off unwanted pathogens.
When the body has metabolic dysfunctions that lead to poor bile production and sluggish bile flow, it can cause serious health problems (1). This article goes over 25 ways you can improve gallbladder health and optimize your bile flow.
These strategies help to strengthen liver function and bile flow formation while they improve gallbladder health and bile duct motility. If you have had your gallbladder surgically removed than it is even more imperative to follow these action steps in order to strengthen the liver and the formation process of the bile.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet:
A healthy diet that is high in good fats is critical for cholesterol production, bile production and secretion. Good fats that should be staple parts of the diet include avocados, olive oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, wild fish, coconut oil and grass-fed beef.
2. Super Hydration:
Water is extremely critical for bile production and dehydration will create thicker bile that moves very sluggishly. Drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of clean, purified water. I recommend drinking 16-32oz of water within the first 30-60 minutes of waking in the morning and then drinking at least 8oz of water between each meal (starting an hour after eating).
3. Lose Weight:
People who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher rate of gallstones. You want to get to an optimal weight, but not too quickly. People who undergo rapid weight loss are at a higher risk of developing gallstones.
4. Strengthen Stomach acid Production:
Stomach acid is a major stimulator for the secretion of bile into the small intestine. Daily practices to improve stomach acid production are also important for bile production and utilization. You may also consider supplementing with betaine hydrochloric acid.
5. Use Lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar:
Both of these help to improve both stomach acid and bile activity. Squeeze fresh lemon in water, on salads and meats. You can also use lemon essential oil in water. Put a tbsp. of apple cider vinegar in 8oz of water and drink throughout the day. This will help to thin the bile.
6. Eat Bile Healthy Foods:
Some of the best things for bile flow include beets, radishes, artichoke, asparagus, celery, lemon, lime, grapefruit, cucumbers and carrots. Juicing these veggies or have a big salad with fresh squeezed lemon everyday.
7. Use Bitter Herbs:
A common saying in natural health is that “bitter is good for the liver.” Anything good for the liver is good for the gallbladder. This includes ginger, arugula, endive, cilantro, turmeric, dandelion, cumin, fennel, mint, milk thistle, yarrow, leeks and parsley.
Many cultures around the world have bitter foods to begin their meal. They may drink ginger or peppermint tea, have pickled ginger, have a salad with arugula, dandelion and cilantro, etc. These all act to stimulate digestive juices and give the bile flow a boost for optimal digestion.
8. Use Fermented Veggies:
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, pickled ginger, etc. all contain organic acids, enzymes and probiotics which help to improve digestive juice secretions. I recommend using one of these with all of your heavier meals and especially any meal with protein and/or fat.
9. Use Fermented Drinks:
Fermented drinks such as ACV, coconut water kefir and lemon water (not fermented) contain organic acids that have an anti-microbial effect. So these help to reduce the bacterial load and stimulate the production of digestive juices.
10. Practice Intermittent Fasting:
Fasting from food (but drinking lots of water and herbal teas) is extremely beneficial for the liver and gallbladder. I recommend beginning with 12 hours from your last meal to your first morning meal. Then working your way up to where you can do a 16 hour liquid fast from your last meal to your first meal the next day.
Consume lots of herbal teas like ginger, dandelion root, lemon detox tea, etc. and you can have green juices during your fasting period.
11. Eat Small Meals:
If you have a sluggish gallbladder or have had your gallbladder removed, you should never eat large meals. You will be unable to emulsify the fats and will cause tremendous digestive stress. Consume 3-4 small meals during your eating period for the day. Shakes and smoothies are great for the liver and gallbladder.
12. Use Chlorophyll Rich Foods:
These help to purify the blood stream and improve bile secretions. Any dark green leafy vegetable will work along with things like wheat grass, oat grass and microalgae such as chlorella and spirulina.
13. Eat Your Largest Meal When You Are Most Relaxed:
In order to have good bile flow, your body needs to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. If you are busy and on the go, you will be in fight or flight sympathetic mode. If you struggle with low stomach acid, this is not going to allow you to produce anywhere near enough.
14. Discover Your Food Sensitivities:
Most people with gallbladder problems struggle to digest certain foods including eggs, pork, onions, dairy, gluten, coffee, corn and nuts. You can get lab work done or do biofeedback testing to see how you tolerate these foods. You can also try an elimination diet for 30 days where you remove these foods and see how your respond.
15. Use Broccoli and Kale Sprouts:
The key nutrients that are the most powerful estrogen detoxifying agents are called glucosinolates (2). These include DIM, I3C and Sulforaphane. The best natural source of these compounds can be found in broccoli and kale sprouts.
Put these on salads and meat dishes. In addition, it is good to consume cruciferous veggies everyday such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, Brussel sprouts, etc. for more of these glucosinolate compounds.
16. Consume a Lot of Fiber:
Soluble fiber helps to grab up old bile and bad estrogen compounds and escorts these toxins out of the body. The best sources of soluble fiber include chia, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds. Insoluble fiber is found in fruits and veggies and acts like a broom to sweep feces and toxins out through the bowels.
17. Go To Sleep Early:
In Chinese medicine the most active time period for gallbladder healing is between 11pm-1am. The liver is between 1am – 3am. You want to be sound asleep by 11pm in order to maximize liver and gallbladder healing and repair.
18. Deal With Your Anger:
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the liver and gallbladder are areas that hold anger. People who are angry and frustrated have a greater propensity for liver and gallbladder issues. Deal with any anger, frustration and bitterness and focus your energy on gratitude and love. Begin meditating and praying more and surround yourself with individuals who carry positive attitudes.
19. What Decisions Are You Struggling With?
The liver and gallbladder are emotional seats for decision making and taking action. Are you living in regret from past decisions or struggling to make a new decision or take action on it? Examine these areas and meditate and pray through them to help release the stress on these organs.
20. Use Magnesium:
Magnesium helps with contractile activity within the body. A magnesium deficiency, which is extremely common, would reduce contractile activity of the bile ducts. Taking 250-500 mg of supplemental magnesium can be very helpful for bile release and gallbladder health (3).
21. Use More Lecithin:
Lecithin is the major source of phospholipids which are one of the key emulsifying agents in bile. It breaks down fat and makes them easier to digest and helps keep cholesterol moving through the blood stream (4).
Raw eggs are a natural source of lecithin but since so many people with gallbladder problems have sensitivities to eggs, I recommend non-GMO soy or even better, sunflower lecithin. You can find these in many products and purchase them and put the contents in smoothies. I recommend this Sunflower lecithin, take 3 tablespoons daily in a shake or smoothie.
22. Use Ox Bile:
If you do not have a gallbladder or have very sluggish bile motility than you will need supplemental bile. This will greatly improve the digestion of fatty acid and fat soluble nutrients (5). The best form is Ox Bile as it is most similar to our own. You can try taking a single 500 mg pill shortly before you eat meals or take any fatty supplements (like cod liver oil) or other fat-soluble vitamins. I like this Nutricology Ox Bile.
If you’re still uncomfortable, take more. The goal should be to completely eliminate your symptoms of digestive distress. You will have to experiment to find the right amount for you. If you do not have a gallbladder, this is especially important.
23. Massage Your IT Bands:
The IleoTibial (IT) band area is related to the gallbladder meridian and often gets very tight in individuals dealing with gallbladder stress. Especially the right side. Try stretching these and using a foam roller to loosen them up and through a reflex arc it can have a positive effect on bile flow.
Here is a video where I demonstrate how to use a foam roller on several regions of the body including the IT bands.
24. Massage the Web Between Right Thumb & Forefinger
This is the reflexology center for the gallbladder. By massaging this region, it can positively affect the gallbladder and improve bile flow.
25. Chiropractic Care:
Have a chiropractic examination, looking at the upper neck region, the atlas, which influences the vagus nerve. The vagus helps to innervate the digestive organs and plays a role in the formation of bile and the contractile activity of the bile duct.
Additionally, the mid-thoracic region, especially T4 – T6 innervates the liver and gallbladder and is very important in the activity of the region. Be sure to have a chiropractor check and adjust both of these regions as necessary.
26. Fresh Vegetable Juices:
Juicing fresh veggies such as kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, watercress, bok choy, beets, carrots, mustard greens, cucumbers, celery, etc. is highly advised. The phytonutrients are highly bioavailable in fresh juice and they will help to cleanse the liver and gallbladder.
If you are dealing with gallbladder problems than it would be wise to drink 16-32 oz of vegetable juice daily. No more than 4-8 oz of it should be with beets and carrots due to the sugar. Be sure to get most of it from the greens, using bok choy, celery or cucumber as the main juicing base. However, the beets and carrots are extraordinary for the gallbladder and liver.
27. Bile Salt Supplementation:
Taurine, choline and methionine are key amino acids involved in a number of key physiological functions. This includes bile acid conjugation and cell membrane stabilization. These amino acids taken in a supplemental form can help improve bile flow and reduce the formation of gallstones.
The most common recommendation is 100-200 mg of taurine, 200-400 mg of choline and 200-400 mg methionine once or twice daily to help balance and utilize calcium and magnesium and produce bile. I like to use our bile flow support supplement which has these key amino acids and other liver and gallbladder supporting nutrients.