The Birth Pro

Practical Wisdom for Today's Growing Family

When Your Gallbladder Yells at You

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I know that this is a birth blog but also touches quite a bit on health. And many mothers have gallbladder issues during, after or just generally around having babies. So I thought I would share a bit of my experience and what I’ve learned.

About a year ago I had a really nasty gallbladder attack. It came on Thanksgiving Day actually and felt like I was just really “bloated” most of the day. It was annoying but became increasingly uncomfortable. Until I was actually concerned that something was wrong. But, we had spent all day working and slaving over a totally gluten-free and nearly Primal Thanksgiving dinner — I figured “to heck with my body I’m gonna EAT!”

That was a bad idea.

Shortly after enjoying some (or more) of every dish I wanted I found myself in the bathroom and everything came right back up. It was awful. I felt temporarily better but then went on a walk with two of my girl friends who were there with us.GallbladderYellingI still had no idea what was going on with me but thanks to posting in a Holistic group on Facebook with my symptoms which seemed weird and random to me, I was able to narrow it down to what I can best describe as my gallbladder “yelling at me.”

The “attack” went on for 11 days and was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was, hands down, the worst “medical” experience of my life. I never did go into the hospital because I didn’t want to argue with them about keeping my gallbladder and I did not feel as though it was necessary to go in otherwise. Instead I treated myself with nutrition and supplements. Plus I never became jaundiced, which is a symptom with gallbladder attacks that something is seriously wrong and your life could be in danger.

My father was in the hospital this week with a gallbladder attack and was very interested to learn more about what I did and have been doing since to manage mine as he has been able to avoid the surgery as well, too and wants to keep it that way.

This is much of what I wrote to him, hence what spurred on this blog post even though it’s been nearly 11 months since my initial attack.

Here are of the things that I have done to manage mine and they’ve become less “crucial” as time has gone on, meaning I seem to have way more leeway on slip-ups.

Start with eliminating ALL “bad” fats — and really it’s just easier to identify the “good” fats:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil (pure)
  • Olive oil, but only if it’s truly pure, which most olive oils made outside of the US are not even though they say they are, and many in the US are even deceptive. (I buy the “California” brand only because I believe I can trust it)
  • Whole, raw milk/dairy
  • Raw nuts (make sure you soak them so they don’t retain the mineral blockers and prevent your body from absorbing essential minerals in other foods)
  • Eggs, especially if they are pasture-raised as their omega content will be much higher from eating the pasture and the bugs
  • Fatty fish (never farm raised)
  • Animal fats from 100% natural, pasture raised and finished animals. Any other kind of animal has the “bad” fat profile, actually
  • Flax seed, but not pre-ground as you lose the nutrients quickly so you want to grind it yourself, or I add the whole seeds to my smoothies and blend
  • Butter, especially if from all natural cows

For the “bad fats” I just want to say to avoid anything fried, especially from a restaurant because the oil is used over and over and over again making it exponentially worse. Also never eat margarine.

A little anatomy lesson for you

So to get a little medical on you, I got some feedback on this from a doctor and really loved the way that he put it… better than any other website I’ve read out there. I’m posting his comment with permission here:

How the Gallbladder system works:
  1. The gallbladder stores bile. It is essentially a pouch with a muscle wrapped around it. It does remove water from the bile. It also makes the bile more basic (less acidic).
  2. The bile is made in the liver.  Along with the bile is excess cholesterol and the breakdown of red blood cells (bilirubin)
  3. Bile travels from the liver to the gallbladder
  4. When you eat any form of fat there are fat detectors (I cells) in the small intestine that release a hormone (CCK) that cause the gallbladder to squeeze down forcing the bile into your small intestine just beyond the stomach.  (The purpose is to help break up the fat globs so they can be absorbed better.)
  5. As the bile/fat mix moves through the GI tract they are mostly absorbed.
  6. Most of the bile is recycled to form new bile.


Now what goes wrong:

  1. If you don’t have enough bile compared to the cholesterol or red blood cell remnants you can form stones when the gallbladder removes the water. (Note that most of your cholesterol comes from your body making it and not from your diet, especially if it is high.
  2. When you eat the fatty foods the gallbladder squeezes down on the stones and you feel pain.
  3. If a stone slips out of the gallbladder it can block the bile duct which can lead to yellow eyes and skin (jaundice) since the body can’t get rid of the dead red blood cells. Your stool becomes light. Your urine darkens. It can also cause the pancreas to backup and begin eating itself (pancreatitis) since it uses the common bile duct to release enzymes into the gut. (Pancreas issues is the #1 cause of death from gall stones.)

Special Notes:
  • There are some cholesterol lowering medications (both prescription and herbal) that can make stones more likely.  But having high cholesterol makes it more likely.  (You need to be on the right medications to avoid problems.  Note: this doctor has only met 1 herbalist that he felt understood the issues well enough for him to trust him and some MD/DOs are not current enough to give good advise.)
  • Estrogen in any form increases the risk of gallstones. (That is why weight loss helps – body fat makes estrogen in women and men)
  • Crohn’s disease/bowel resections can prevent the bile from being reabsorbed and increase the chance for stones.
  • The type of fat eaten would only have an measurable effect on the bile being re-absorbed. Not on the cholesterol content.
  • If the gallbladder is removed a new pouch “forms” in the liver after a few months.  This pouch doesn’t remove the water as well so new stones are less likely.  But you can slowly start eating some fatty foods after a few months.
  • There is a cancer associated with gallbladder disease which requires a CT scan to detect while it is still a precancerous.  Plain X-ray/Ultrasound/MRI aren’t very good.

So, for me, personally, I think I had my attack because I had just started eating WAY healthier than I ever had in my life, but it was an abrupt change after a good stolid 15 years of eating pretty horribly, or really like a “standard american” also know as the Standard American Diet or “S.A.D.” I was taking about 2 T of coconut oil before every meal and I was dropping weight like crazy! I lost 25 pounds in a couple of months. Not super-fast but it felt healthy and good. But I think all that GOOD fat going through my system was “cleansing” out my gallbladder and it disrupted the gallstones that I didn’t realize were formed and thus the attack. I haven’t really gone back to eating as healthy since my attack since I started eating bread again right after and it re-ignited my sugar cravings and I just haven’t tamed them since with so much going on. But I think I’m ready now. Especially with losing the baby recently I want to get healthier before getting pregnant again.

So even with the good fats take it easy and let your body heal and cleanse. I could also feel my gallbladder swell and start to “yell at me” but not have a full-blown attack. Those have spaced apart significantly now, too and it’s been 11 months since my first really big attack. Looking back I can see how I’ve had a few smaller ones throughout the last 10-15 years I just didn’t know what they were.

As far as supplements go, here is the list of what I was taking right after:

  • Cholacol (This brand is amazing)
  • Jarro-Zymes Plus
  • Swedish Biters (WARNING! This *TASTES* like SIN FEELS…. not even kidding. You may be able to get these in capsules)
  • Milk Thistle – which I actually felt was the most helpful and happened to be the least expensive, too.

Nutritionally I did a cleanse to help soften the gallstones so they could work themselves out. This involved a LOT of organic, raw apples, an amazing juicer, a good deal of raw, apple cider vinegar and then a push of oil and Epsom salt at the end to flush out the gallbladder after at least 3 days of raw, organic, fresh apple juice. Here is a link to a good description of what to do, step-by-step, just note this link recommends 6 days of apples but I just did 3 since I was actively in an attack and it was about all I could eat.

Also, tell your gallbladder how much you love it and how thankful you are to still have it. I believe this also helps speed recovery. For me I felt like I just had no appreciation or understanding for before my whole experience.

I hope that helped and let me know what YOUR experience has been and what you did the same or differently!

One Comment

  1. Pingback: My Cholestasis Journey | The Birth Pro

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