Gallbladder Symptoms: What to Look For
Are you digesting fats well?
Do you get inexplicable headaches?
How’s your digestion? Are your bowel movements normal?
Do you ever feel nauseous or uncomfortably full after meals?
Have you been diagnosed with SIBO?
Do any of these statements hit home for you? If so, your gallbladder and bile production may be in need of support. Read on to learn more!
What is Bile?
Let’s start with the basics – what is bile and why do you need it?
Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid that is continually being produced by your liver, then stored and concentrated in your gallbladder. The liver, gallbladder and bile ducts form the biliary system and work together to make, store, and secrete bile. When needed by the body, the gallbladder releases its stored bile into the bile ducts which empty into the small intestine, where the majority of nutrient absorption from food occurs.
Bile in the small intestine is very important for the digestion and absorption of fats from the foods you eat. When we eat, a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) is released by cells in the small intestine which triggers the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder that then enter into the small intestine to help with food digestion.
Bile is composed mostly of water, but also contains important bile acids and salts and other organic compounds, as well as metabolic waste. In addition to the important roles it plays in the digestion and absorption of dietary fats, bile also facilitates the removal of waste, cholesterol and toxins from the body. A less commonly known function of bile is to support a healthy amount of bacteria in your small intestine, which can be important in controlling SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Have you been diagnosed with SIBO? Bile acts as a natural antibacterial agent. A lack of bile in the small intestine may be at the root of many cases of SIBO!
Bile Acids and Bile Salts
Bile acids and bile salts are a major component of bile. Cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid are two of the most abundant bile acids. A series of enzymatic reactions in the liver produce these bile acids and conjugate them with either glycine or taurine to form bile salts. The bile salts are secreted into the small intestine where they function to break down dietary fats and oils into smaller fatty acids that can be absorbed and used by the body. These bile salts are then reabsorbed and taken back to the liver where they are recycled to form new bile acids.
In the small intestine, bile salts form micelles by surrounding very small droplets of fat and emulsifying them. This important action enables the digestive enzyme lipase (released from the pancreas) to effectively digest longer-chain fats into shorter-chain fatty acids which are then absorbed into the body through the small intestine.
Foods that contain fat such as fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil and other oils all need bile in the small intestine to be properly digested and absorbed. Likewise, the various fats found in foods like avocados, nuts, olives, seeds, and animal products also require the presence of bile.
Are you digesting and absorbing your fats well? We need healthy fats in our diets to maintain optimal health, but more importantly, we need to be efficiently absorbing the fatty acids from foods so our bodies can use them!
You Need Bile to Absorb Fat-Soluble Vitamins
A class of nutrients known as the fat-soluble vitamins also require bile for absorption. Just as bile acids are essential for processing and digesting fats, they are also required for normal absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins from foods and supplements.
The fat-soluble vitamins include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Fat-soluble vitamins are found in foods that contain healthy fats like fatty fish and their oils, animal products, organ meats, butter, nuts and seeds, eggs, and some vegetables. Basically, fat-soluble vitamins are found where fats are found. Makes sense, right? Thus, fat-soluble vitamins also require bile to be absorbed by the body.
Do you supplement with fat-soluble vitamins? Taking fat-soluble vitamin supplements with meals that contain healthy fats can help to increase their absorption into your body!
Symptoms of Gallbladder Problems
Now that you know what bile is and why it’s important, take a moment to check in with yourself. How is your body processing fats? Do you ever see excess fat in your stools? They might be bulky or difficult to flush, have a foul-smell or an oily or pale appearance (known as steatorrhea). These are all signals of impaired digestion and absorption, which may have their root in a sluggish biliary system.
If you eat a fatty meal and it doesn’t sit well with you, this could be another sign that your gallbladder isn’t functioning optimally and needs support. Other common symptoms of gallbladder problems include:
- Feeling full after a small meal
- Right sided heaviness at the base of your rib cage
- Right shoulder tightness
- Right sided mid back tightness or pain by your scapula
- Diarrhea when eating too much fat
- White or gray colored stools
- Intolerance to eating fat of any type: oils, salad dressing, fatty vitamins, liposomal vitamins, nuts, seeds, ice cream, cream, dairy products, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.
- Yellowish coating on your tongue
You Need Bile to Form AND Flow
“Without exploring the vast complexities of liver function, it is worth noting that bile formation and flow are fundamental to it all.” ~ Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann
Bile formation and flow are like the yin and yang of gallbladder function. Bile formation without bile flow is not beneficial, and can even become dangerous if bile is constantly being formed but cannot exit the gallbladder or duct system. Bile flow without bile formation is also not useful, like how waterfalls quit flowing when their water source goes dry. We need both adequate bile production AND bile flowing freely through our biliary systems.
Oftentimes when people are struggling with gallbladder or bile health, their root issue involves both bile formation and flow, and both areas need to be addressed and corrected. Unfortunately, many gallbladder supplement formulations support one area without the other, leaving the gallbladder only half supported. This is why Dr. Ben Lynch designed Seeking Health’s Gallbladder Nutrients formula, to help you optimize your gallbladder and bile health by providing nutrients and supportive herbs known to stimulate both formulation and flow.*
Gallbladder Support Nutrients
Gallbladder Nutrients by Seeking Health is an all-in-one formulation designed by Dr. Ben Lynch as a soothing and calming bile support formula, that’s easy to mix and take with any meal.
The unique blend of five key nutrients and nine powerful herbs was designed to support the gallbladder and liver in healthy bile formation and flow to help facilitate proper fat and fat-soluble nutrient digestion and absorption. Please note that this product is not intended to support the breakdown of gallstones.*
The Bottom Line
If you suspect that you may have sluggish bile production or flow, it’s important to seek counsel from a licensed healthcare professional who can assess you and guide your treatment. You can start right away with eating a varied diet that includes lots of vegetables and healthy fats, and working to stay well hydrated and get ample movement every day. If you find you need even more support, well, our Gallbladder Nutrients was designed just for that reason!