The gallbladder is a tiny, hollow, pear-shaped organ located right below the liver, directly on the right side of the abdomen. It might be small, but it has a lot of big responsibilities in the body.
For instance, the gallbladder stores and concentrates bile that the liver produces. Bile consists of cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, water, electrolytes, and bile acids.The bile has several responsibilities in the body, including:
- Digestion and fat absorption
- Water retention in the colon for promoting bowel movements
- Bilirubin excretion
- Elimination of drugs and other harmful compounds
- Protein secretion in the gastrointestinal function
What Causes Gallstones?
Bile is very important for the gallbladder and liver. Everyday, both organs are bombarded with harmful chemicals from processed foods and other products. I’ve met many people over the years who consider chowing down on a double cheeseburger with a large soda every day “normal”. Lifetime consumption of the Western diet wreaks havoc on the digestive system, and it will eventually lead to the development of gallstones.
Gallstones are the product of bile becoming overloaded with cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin. Basically, a diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber is at the root of the problem. In turn, gallstones clog your liver and gallbladder, and prevent the free flow of bile.
Other factors that increase the risk of gallstones include food allergies, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and high levels of blood triglycerides. Gastrointestinal tract diseases like cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease are also associated with gallbladder problems. Gallstones will affect people at any age, but the average person is between 40 and 50 years old.
Gallstones are also a problem for about 70% of Native American women. In fact, women are two to four times more likely to experience gallstones than men. The risk of gallstones also increases when taking tamoxifen, a medication commonly used with postmenopausal breast cancer patients. Sugar and calorie restriction can also increase the risk of gallstones.
Types of Gallstones
The gallbladder may form hundreds of tiny stones that spear like a grain of sand, or it may form one large stone the size of a golf ball. There are two main types of gallstones found in the body:
- Cholesterol stones: Cholesterol stones are made from yellow and green hardened cholesterol. In total, about 80% of gallstones fall into the cholesterol stone category. Excessive bilirubin and cholesterol, and too little bile salts will lead to the formation of cholesterol stones.
- Pigment stones: Pigment stones are often small and dark stones made with bilirubin. These stones are common in conditions related to excessive bilirubin, such as biliary tract infections, cirrhosis, and hereditary blood disorders like sickle cell anemia. Pigmented gallstones are not related to the diet. They are linked with sun exposure, severe diseases, and geography. For example, pigmented infections associated with high rates of parasitic infections related to the gallbladder and liver are common in Asia. Also, in the U.S., pigmented stones are often related to alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver or chronic hemolysis.
Symptoms of a Gallbladder Attack
A gallbladder attack will result when gallstones are stuck in the ducts that transport bile from the liver to the small intestine. It is important to note that a gallbladder attack will occur suddenly. Common symptoms of a gallbladder attack include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Frequent fatty food intolerance
- Pains under the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades.
A pain may also occur in the upper abdomen. The pain may last around a half hour, but it may persistent for several hours.
Also read: 5 Foods that Irritate Gallbladder
How do you know if the pain is related to your gallbladder?
To find out, simply press down on your last rib located at the right side—the spot lines up below the nipple. If you feel pain, it is a good indication that your gallbladder is an issue. Later, you can confirm your self-diagnosis with your doctor.
The common medical procedure to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. In the U.S., 750,000 people have gallbladder surgery every year. It is estimated that only a few thousand removals are actually necessary. As a result, many people continue to experience pain after the gallbladder removal.
What Is a Gallbladder Cleanse?
Luckily, something can be done about liver and gallbladder problems naturally. A gallbladder cleanse is an alternative treatment recommended by many natural health doctors and practitioners. It is also called a liver cleanse or a liver flush. However you call it, cleansing the liver of gallstones is a dramatic way to improve digestion and help prevent disease.
Here is a little background on the power of a gallbladder flush, and the diseases the cleansing can help prevent:
1. Heart disease prevention
Statin drugs will artificially lower blood cholesterol levels. Simply put, bile does not form properly, and therefore gallstones accumulate. This makes it difficult to metabolize fats, and harmful toxins also get trapped in the body. Side effects from statin-use may include heart failure, kidney failure, and liver disease.
That being said, high cholesterol levels are a sign of liver congestion from a poor diet and lifestyle, and not the main indicator for heart disease. A gallbladder cleanse can treat gallstones, prevent strokes and heart disease, and restore the flow of bile to rebalance high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels naturally.
2. Cancer and diabetes prevention
Gallstones will lead to hormonal imbalances in the body. The liver is also responsible for hormone regulation, including insulin and estrogen. Women with high estrogen levels have double the chances of developing breast cancer. When insulin does not break down, the body may become insulin resistant, and lead to diabetes. A gallbladder cleanse will help hormones like insulin and estrogen break down efficiently.
3. Gallbladder surgery prevention
Some doctors believe the gallbladder isn’t important to the body. As mentioned, gallbladder removal is the medical approach to deal with gallbladder problems. But removing your gallbladder may not be the best solution, especially since thousands of gallstones are still stuck in the liver. A gallbladder cleanse can help people avoid gallbladder surgery.
4. Osteoporosis prevention
When stools float, it is a sign of poor fat metabolism. When fat is not being absorbed, it is also an indication that calcium isn’t being absorbed properly either. The blood then obtains calcium from the bones, and osteoporosis can result. However, not eating enough calcium isn’t the problem. Poor fat metabolism and insufficient bile production are greater factors in osteoporosis. Ultimately, a gallbladder cleanse will strengthen your bones better than any milk product.
5. Help with weight loss
Since the liver is important for fat metabolism, a gallbladder cleanse should factor into any effective weight loss program. When gallstones are flushed from the body, weight can be rebalanced through the regulation of water balance and water retention.
6. Naturally treat acne and skin problems
Damage to the liver is a side effect of certain acne medications. Skin diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema are related to gallstones in the liver. A gallbladder cleanse can flush the gallstones, and restore your skin in the process.
That’s only the beginning of what a liver and gallbladder cleanse can do. A gallbladder flush can also keep liver stones at bay, detoxify the liver and body, resolve digestive problems like constipation, improve eyesight problems like cataracts, and increase your energy levels.
Is a Gallbladder Cleanse Effective?
As mentioned earlier, there are several benefits of a gallbladder cleanse; however, there are some possible side effects when not done correctly. Possible risks associated with a liver cleanse include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea during the flushing period.
Hulda Clark was a naturopathic doctor and advocate for the liver and gallbladder cleanse. She wrote about the procedure in her 1995 book titled The Cure for all Diseases. Clark notes that the liver and gallbladder cannot be cleaned when parasites are present. A parasite cleanse and kidney cleanse should be done before a liver flush. She also recommends a liver and gallbladder cleanse twice a year.
Recipe and Instructions for a Gallbladder Cleanse
The gallbladder cleanse will take a week to complete. Monday through Sunday is the ideal time to complete the flush.
Liver and Gallbladder Flush Ingredients
Here is what you will need for the cleanse based on the popular Hulda Clark method:
- 6 liters of unsweetened apple juice or apple cider (Malic acid capsules can be a good alternative for diabetics or people prone to hypoglycemia.)
- 4 tablespoons of Epsom salts
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (For the best olive oil, look for a dark bottle, a label that indicates ‘Imported From,” and the family’s name and address of the farm or estate to indicate traceability and optimal nutritional value.)
- 3/4 cup of fresh organic grapefruit juice or organic lemon
- 10 to 20 drops of black walnut tincture
- Pint jar with a lid
- Large plastic straw
Seven days before the liver and gallbladder cleanse:
- Avoid taking any medicines or vitamin supplements. It is best to avoid the pills that you can do without. They can prevent success with the program.
- Stop any other cleanse you are doing.
- Avoid eating anything after dinner the day before the cleanse.
How to Prepare for the “Liver Flush”
Six days before your liver and gallbladder flush:
- Take four 500 milligram capsules of malic acid daily. Open up the capsules and spill them into two cups of warm water. Do this for seven days, then start the liver and gallbladder cleanse the following morning.
Schedule for the Actual Cleanse Day
- On the day of the cleanse, eat a non-fat breakfast and lunch (i.e. fruit, fruit juice, or bread and honey.) The less food you eat, the better your results will be. Do not eat or drink after 2 p.m.
- Mix the Epsom salts in three cups of filtered water and pour it into a jar. It will make about four servings.
- At 6 p.m., drink one 3/4 cup serving. To improve the taste, add vitamin C powder.
- At 8 p.m., drink another 3/4 cup of ice-cold Epsom salts.
- At 9:45 p.m., pour four tablespoons of olive oil in the pint jar, and squeeze the grapefruit into a measuring cup. Add the grapefruit to the olive oil. Add the black walnut tincture if you have it available. After this drink, try to go to the bathroom.
- At 10 p.m., drink the olive oil concoction. When you use the plastic straw, it is easier to digest. It is best to get it down within 15 minutes. Next, lie down immediately.
- The next morning when you wake up, drink the third dose of Epsom salts (try not to take this potion before 6 a.m.). It is important to note that diarrhea is expected in the morning; however, the majority of the feces will be stones.
- Two hours later, take the fourth 3/4 cup dose of Epsom salts, and then go to bed.
- Two hours afterwards you can eat again, but start with freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice. You can eat fruit a half hour later, and light food after that point, like a soup without any fats. By dinner time, a full recovery is expected.
Other Therapeutic Considerations for Gallbladder Problems
Hulda Clark has also adapted parasite and kidney cleanse methods. Here is a brief summary of the cleanses that complement the liver and gallbladder flush:
- The parasite cleanse: A few of the supplements included in a parasite cleanse include ginger, uva ursi, vitamin B6, magnesium oxide, and freeze-dried parsley. A systemic parasite will also include a super wormwood blend, clove, a super-concentrated black walnut tincture, pancreatin and lipase, digestive enzymes, and Lugol’s iodine.
- The kidney cleanse: The kidney cleanse program will include organic hydrangea root, organic gravel root, organic marshmallow root, and black cherry concentrate. The kidney herbal cleanse is often a six-week protocol.
What are other things to consider with gallstones or gallbladder problems?
People with gallstones should definitely increase fiber in their diets. A vegetarian diet has been shown to protect against gallstones. Food elimination diets will also help prevent a gallbladder attack. The most common foods associated with a gallbladder attack include coffee, milk, poultry, onion, pork, eggs, nuts, beans, corn, and citrus fruits.
Buckwheat is a great hypoallergenic wheat alternative, and evidence suggests it can help patients with both gallstones and high cholesterol.
Other natural remedies for gallstones and gallbladder problems include fish oils, vitamin E, vitamin C, lipase enzymes, and herbs such as milk thistle and its active ingredient silymarin, turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin, dandelion root, globe artichoke, wild yam root, and boldo.
Homeopathic remedies can also help people with gallbladder problems and gallstones. Some commonly recommended remedies include china officinalis, pulsatilla, nux vomica, magnesia phosphorica, lycopodium, dioscorea, colocynthis, chelidonium majus, calcarea carbonica, and berberis vulgaris.
Ung, K., “10+ Reasons to do a Liver & Gallbladder Flush,” Hydro Holistic web site, September 18, 2010; http://www.hydroholistic.com/blog/cleansing/10-reasons-to-do-a-liver-gallbladder-flush/.
“How to Get Rid of Gallstones Naturally,” My Cultured Palate web site, January 2, 2013; http://myculturedpalate.com/2013/01/02/gallbladder-cleanse-an-alternative-to-surgery/.
Picco, M.F., “What is a gallbladder cleanse? Is it an effective way to flush out gallstones?” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gallstones/expert-answers/gallbladder-cleanse/faq-20058134, last accessed July 31, 2015.