If you have ever known someone who suffered from gallbladder disease or had to have gallbladder surgery, you may wonder why and how this small digestive organ can cause so much trouble. Fortunately, most people enjoy good gallbladder function as long as they follow some smart dietary and lifestyle practices.
Know something about what this small digestive organ does, why its functions might get disrupted, and what you can do to avoid uncomfortable, potentially serious gallbladder disorders. Consider the following five points about your gallbladder’s health and wellness.
1. How the Gallbladder Works
The gallbladder sits just underneath the liver on the right-hand side of your abdomen. This organ acts as a reservoir for extra bile, a digestive fluid made of water, salts, pigments, cholesterol, and a fat known as lecithin.
The liver secretes bile constantly, sending it through several ducts to the gallbladder. During meals, the gallbladder contracts, sending this extra bile into its own outgoing bile duct. The bile duct directs the bile into the small intestine to help your pancreas and bowel process fats and other hard-to-digest foods.
2. What Can Go Wrong With Your Gallbladder
The same bile substances that prove so useful for digestion can also cause problems under certain circumstances. For instance, if your bile grows too thick to flow easily, your digestive system may not receive enough of it, a problem known as biliary stasis. This problem can interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate liver toxins.
Gallstones pose a common and uncomfortable challenge for many people, especially as they reach middle age. Pregnancy, liver disease, diabetes, obesity, and sudden, extreme weight loss can also raise your risk for gallstones. Most gallstones form from concentrations of bile cholesterol.
Some people have trouble with gallbladder inflammation even if they don’t also have gallstones. Others may experience scarring from their gallstones that reduces their gallbladder function. Cancer rarely strikes the gallbladder, but this condition can and does occur.
3. How to Recognize Common Gallbladder Symptoms
Gallbladder problems typically show up as digestive discomfort or abnormal digestive function. Your symptoms will vary somewhat according to the underlying condition.
Gallstones may cause no symptoms at all until they grow especially large or numerous. When symptoms do occur, they may include abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, chills, dark-colored urine, and light-colored stools. In acute cases, you may also experience the yellow skin and eyes of jaundice.
The symptoms of biliary stasis often include abdominal bloating, cramping, and belching after consuming a heavy or fatty meal. You may experience persistent constipation or notice that your stools float, a sign that they contain undigested fat.
4. When to Consider Gallbladder Surgery
If you suffer from painful gallstones that interfere with your digestion, your doctor may try conservative treatment options as a first response. Smaller gallstones may respond to medications that dissolve them slowly. For quicker results or more severe gallbladder issues, you may need to undergo gallbladder removal surgery.
Most gallbladder surgeries these days involve minimally invasive procedures. Laparoscopic surgery allows the surgeon to remove your gallbladder through small cuts in the skin instead of the traditional open surgery. You can enjoy a good quality of life even without a gallbladder, although your body may need time to adjust.
4. How to Keep Your Gallbladder Healthy
Reduce your chances for gallbladder problems by making some smart lifestyle adjustments. Start by eating meals on a regular schedule. Skipping meals can cause bile to accumulate instead of flowing freely.
Eat a diet rich in fruits (including fruit juices), nuts, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and spices. Minimize your consumption of highly processed or pickled foods, soda, full-fat dairy foods, red meat, salt, baked potatoes, and eggs.
Improving other facets of your health will also help you keep your gallbladder healthy. Lose excess weight, but only as rapidly as your doctor recommends. If you have an underlying disease such as diabetes, ask your doctor for help getting that issue under control. Increased physical activity may help to prevent gallstone formation.
Stellis Health can help you maintain optimal gallbladder function or treat a gallbladder problem. Contact us today to learn more.