gallbladder

  • Bile: Your New BFF

    Bile Your New BFF Ann Louise Gittleman

    Bile is an emulsifier—a type of soap for fats. It breaks down the fats into small particles so that your intestines can absorb them. Produced by the liver to the tune of about one quart per day, bile is made from lecithin, cholesterol and bilirubin. It is stored near the liver in the gallbladder. From there, it is transported to the intestines during digestion.

    Here's a NEWSFLASH for you: Bile is not ONLY the real key to the body's ability to digest and assimilate fats, but it is also a vehicle for removing toxins from your body so they can be flushed out through the colon.

    Bile is one of the liver's premier detox mechanisms so the consequences of inadequate bile go far beyond the inability to lose weight. If the liver can't clear fats, then it most likely can't break down hormones or other metabolic waste products either, and you can end up with hot flashes, night sweats, cysts, migraines and depression.

    To put it another way, bile is one of the most underrated and ignored methods our bodies utilize to move out toxins. The quantity of bile your body makes is directly proportional to the quantity of toxins you can eliminate.

    If you lack enough fiber to escort these toxins out of your body, they can remain (along with bile) in your intestines for too long and are then reabsorbed. This is when toxic overload occurs with poisonous wastes ending up stagnant in your lymphatics and getting stuck in the bloodstream, joints and other tissues. There is already a 75 percent bile deficiency by the time allergies, arthritis, and inflammation in joints and muscles develop. By the time cancer or chronic illness is diagnosed, a whopping 90 percent deficit has already occurred.

    If your gallbladder hasn't been doing its job due to a lack of the right Smart Fats or too much hydrogenated fat or even if your gallbladder is gone, your body loses its ability to adequately regulate proper bile flow. Without your gallbladder, for instance, there is still a steady release of bile from the liver, but it is "mismatched" with the amount of oil or fat you are consuming— whether in quantity or timing. This has a cascading detrimental effect on your digestion as well as absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K) and the essential fatty acids.

    Moreover, bile can be hampered from doing its job because of a lack of bile nutrients, congestion or even clogged bile ducts, which interfere with bile flow and result in less bile production. Regardless of where the bile is—in the liver, in the gallbladder or in the bile ducts—the principles of manufacturing, thinning and moving bile are the same.

    Bile helps to break down ALL dietary fats and ALL fat-soluble vitamins. This is no insignificant task. If you check any decent nutritional textbook these days and research all the symptoms and problems linked with fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies you will find everything from dry skin to indigestion to cataracts and cancer. Bile also acts as a lubricant for your stool to prevent constipation. Who knew?

    Just as fascinating, French researchers have found that bile may be connected to our obesity epidemic and hypothyroidism. They discovered that fat metabolism is sped up by the activation of thyroid hormones in the fat cells. Could it be that an imbalance of bile is one of the reasons that hypothyroidism is so rampant today?

    My friend Dr. Raphael Kellman, Functional Medicine guru and author of "The Microbiome Diet," told me, "I diagnose many people with hypothyroidism who have been suffering and undiagnosed for years. I use a test called the TRH stimulation test that the medical community abandoned when the routine TSH assays became more sensitive. In 2007, two studies confirmed what I have been saying to be true. I also treat many with both neurodevelopmental and degenerative diseases. Recent studies are showing low levels of T3 in the brain of such patients yet routine blood tests were normal. Anyway, the point of all this is that I have been suspecting that, in addition to low hydrochloric acid, there is also low bile production in so many people with low thyroid function. So many of the people I diagnosed with low thyroid also had a cholecystectomy in the past. Many have GI dysfunction that is consistent with low bile. So I'm with you!"

    Let Sleeping Gallstones Lie
    Millions of us experience unrecognized signs of poor bile digestion like bloating, nausea, sluggishness, poor thyroid function, constipation, hemorrhoids, and dry skin and hair. Well over 20 million Americans have known gallbladder challenges while millions more go undiagnosed. Why? They haven't been able to connect the dots between ALL the seemingly disconnected—but urgent—SOS signals our body is sending out loud and clear.

    It is a shame that gallbladder removal has become the most common type of surgery performed in this country, usually due to the presence of gallstones. Gallstones commonly occur because of congested bile due to buildup, which results in the precipitation of stones.

    Ideally, treatment should consist of making sure the bile is thinned, decongested, and fluid—a major focus of my book "Eat Fat, Lose Weight."

    For those who no longer have a gallbladder, it is critically important to mimic your body's natural output of bile by taking an ox bile supplement (also known as bile salts). While you may not be able to duplicate your body's remarkable wisdom of knowing just when to release the exact right amount of bile, supplementation with bile extracts can go a long way in maximizing the process and assuring that your fat-soluble vitamins are being absorbed.

    Too much bile supplementation can create loose stools, while too little can make for very light or clay colored stools.

    The Allergy Connection
    If you still have your gallbladder but are experiencing frequent gallbladder attacks OR if you have had your gallbladder taken out but still experience pain (what is called "post-cholecystectomy syndrome,") you should definitely know about the work of allergist Dr. James C. Breneman. He identified food allergies as a primary underlying cause of gallbladder pain.

    I discovered Dr. Breneman's landmark work thanks to a newsletter ("Dr. Jonathan Wright's Health and Healing") written by my personal integrative physician, the brilliant and insightful Dr. Jonathan Wright in 2004 with the enticing headline, "The 99.9 percent effective technique for eliminating gallbladder attacks forever."

    The article brought to light Dr. Breneman's surprising discovery that gallbladder pain was significantly related to food allergies. In his study from the 1960s–70s of individuals both with and without a gallbladder he found that the major offenders were eggs (92.8 percent), pork (63.8 percent), onions (52.2 percent), chicken and turkey (34.8 percent), milk (24.6 percent), coffee (21.7 percent), and oranges (18.8 percent). Other foods which accounted for less than 15 percent of attacks included corn, beans, nuts, apples, tomatoes, peas, cabbage, spices, peanuts, fish and rye.

    When his study participants eliminated their food allergies, they obtained 100 percent relief. WOW! So, needless to say, if your gallbladder's acting up, give an elimination diet a try. Or, at least avoid the top three primary offenders like eggs, pork and onions. You know what you've got to lose!

    The bottom line is you simply must ensure that you will be utilizing all the Smart Fats you will be adding back into your diet—with or without your gallbladder—for the most complete digestion, assimilation and utilization.

  • The Stomach Acid Connection

    The Stomach Acid Connection Ann Louise Gittleman

    In addition to trying out an elimination diet, you should also be taking a more up-close and personal evaluation of your stomach acid—meaning, your hydrochloric acid production, or lack there-of. Dr. Jonathan Wright, who is an expert on hydrochloric acid, has found that 90 percent of his patients suffer from too little hydrochloric acid or HCl. (In fact, I was one of them. My diagnosis of hypochlorhydria was officially diagnosed at his Tahoma Clinic in Washington State via the Heidelberg test in which hydrochloric acid secretion is monitored via a special capsule that is swallowed which sends back pH signals over an hour.)

    Low hydrochloric acid levels are dramatically linked to a dysfunctional gallbladder through a cascade of biochemical events. Ideally, food should pass from your stomach into your small intestine, accompanied by a steady flow of bile. If you are not secreting enough hydrochloric acid due to a lack of hydrochloric acid producing nutrients (think sodium, iodine and zinc) OR if you are under stress, the opening to the small intestine, known as the pylorus becomes spastic.

    A spastic pylorus keeps the bile from entering the small intestine, so that it backs up into the liver and gallbladder. Meanwhile your poor pancreas, which regulates the release of insulin (more about this later), also suffers from the lack of HCl and bile. The result is not only poor regulation of blood sugar— that can lead to weight gain—but also problems with digestion and appetite.

    The gallbladder seems to be especially reactive to emotions and tension. This may be due to its association with appropriate stomach acid production, which can be hampered by stress. Stress can stop hydrochloric acid production in its tracks. So, needless to say, managing stress is a key defense. Make sure you give yourself enough time to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly—as your mother would surely say!

    Sometimes, HCl supplements containing betaine hydrochloride with pepsin, or apple cider vinegar mixed in water during meals is the solution. Other times, adding more salt, iodine and/or zinc to the diet can do the trick because these nutrients are the precursors to make your own hydrochloric acid. Regardless of which nutritional strategies you try, stress will always need to be managed.

    Then, there's the matter of aging. Most of us, by the time we hit 40, start to experience plummeting HCl levels—often up to 50 percent. Unless you have esophageal corrosion or irritation, or a hiatal hernia, I would highly recommend a trial of HCl. Besides prompting the gallbladder to secrete fat-emulsifying and toxin-removing bile from your body, it also helps to digest proteins more efficiently, as well as calcium, magnesium and iron.

    A most remarkable substance, it acts as a natural antibiotic, your first line of defense against toxic invaders, and sets the stage for the proper pH in your gut. Without this, the beneficial bacteria that comprise your microbiome may become over populated with nasty pathogens rather than friendly flora. Taking probiotics without stomach acid can often result in more bloating by adding additional bacteria that will trigger gas in your stomach and small intestine.

    Bile: The Forgotten Key
    As you must surmise by now, you will not be deriving the extraordinary benefits that Smart Fats can bestow without enough bile.

    You will be missing out on the most potent energy source available to the body because gram for gram, fat yields more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates or protein. Since fat makes up the membrane of every cell in your body, your ability to process fat will affect every part of you! By maintaining strong cell membranes, fats help protect against allergens, bacteria and viruses.

    Without proper fat absorption, many things can happen in a cascade of unwelcomed side effects. You will be deficient in utilizing B vitamins for digestion, nerve health, energy and mental wellbeing. You will be unable to regulate calcium levels in the bloodstream and transport it to the tissues for strong bones and cramp-free muscles. You won't be able to carry and store fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K for healthy skin, reproduction and blood clotting. You will be unable to conserve protein to rebuild vital tissues, maintain a normal body temperature, insulate and cushion your vital organs, nerves, and muscles against shock, heat and cold, or seal in moisture for healthier skin, hair and nails.

    And that's STILL not all that happens without proper fat utilization.

    As the years go by, you can start to experience chronic dry and itchy skin, digestive upsets, a higher likelihood of constipation and irritability, nervousness and even anxiety. Convinced? I certainly hope so. These Smart Fats we all so desperately need can boost every aspect of health—especially your brain to encourage clear and calm thinking and focus. The brain is made of 60 percent fat. If your body is NOT receiving, digesting or assimilating high quality Smart Fats, your cells will be woefully lacking the raw materials they need for high quality brain function.

    Your Body's SOS Signals
    What are some of the screaming signs that your body is not properly digesting fats?

    • Queasiness after a fatty meal (impaired bile flow)
    • Light colored or floating stools (lack of bile output)
    • Nausea (not enough bile)
    • Dry skin and hair (lack of essential fatty acids)
    • Constipation (inadequate bile for lubrication)
    • Constant feeling of fullness
    • Inability to lose weight
    • Pain under the right rib cage (reflective pain from gallbladder)
    • Hemorrhoids (congested liver)
    • Varicose veins (pressure from constipation due to thickened bile)
    • Pain between the shoulder blades (reflective pain from gallbladder)
    • Bloating or gas
    • Headache over the eyes (gallbladder meridian passes over this region)
    • Bitter taste in mouth, after meals (sign of bile regurgitation)
    • History of prescription or recreational drug use (need for more liver and gallbladder support)
    • Sensitivities to chemicals
    • Easily intoxicated (need for more liver and gallbladder support)
    • Fibromyalgia (sign of liver and gallbladder overload)
    • Hypothyroidism (sign of deficient bile to stimulate active thyroid hormone in fat cells)

    Also, keep in mind that if you have been following a low-fat or non-fat diet for a while, your gallbladder has been on vacation. It will need some time to adjust to actually working again the way Mother Nature intended when adding back the Smart Fats. Simply put, the gallbladder is an organ that requires you use it or else you will lose it (quite literally in this case). Sadly, over the last several decades so many of us have been brainwashed to trade in our “bad” saturated butter for processed margarine or polyunsaturated vegetable oils. The truth is that low-fat diets or diets filled with these hydrogenated or transfats do not stimulate the gallbladder to release bile properly as only the Smart Fats can.

    Get a Smart Start
    It's time to wipe the slate clean because over the next several months you will be introduced to the various Smart Fats and learn how they function and help you to reprogram your fat cells to slim, once again! If you're going to be adding more Smart Fats to your diet—one to two tablespoons of coconut oil, a couple of pats of butter, a tablespoon of cream—then by all means, do make sure you're digesting them properly.

    Smart Tips: Liver & Gallbladder Tune-Up
    In the meantime, try some of my personal liver and gallbladder tune-up tricks to set the stage for the most efficient Smart Fat utilization that will help you lose weight by also balancing your metabolism, stress, appetite and sex hormones.

    1. Remember, bile is beautiful! For those of you without a gallbladder, with gallstones, or who are exhibiting signs of poor fat metabolism, a bile extract (known as bile salts) would be my choice to provide the missing bile to help emulsify fats. There are several bile supplements available on the market today. An ox bile supplement is considered a daily “must” for those of you who have had your gallbladder removed. You may also have to supplement with other gallbladder support as well. One product does not work for every body, so see what works for you and slowly but surely build up tolerance.
    2. Beets can't be beat. Beets thin out and move bile. Beets are chock full of betaine, which is a supercharged bile rebuilder. These can be roasted, steamed or taken as beetroot powder. Beets can also be grated raw in salads or juiced in a combo along with carrot, celery and cucumber juice. Beetroot concentrate can also be taken in a tablet form.
    3. Add some artichokes. Artichokes are a wonderful bile-producing food and also support overall liver function. 4. Bitter is better. Encourage your liver's bile production, aid digestion and build vitality by eating nutrient-rich bitter herbs and greens with your meals. Experiment by adding dandelion greens, arugula, radicchio and endive to your salad.
    4. Load up on lecithin. Lecithin, from non-GMO soy or sunflower seeds, is one of the primary emulsifying or detergent-like agents in bile. It breaks down fats and makes them easy to digest. It also keeps cholesterol moving through the bloodstream and prevents blockage.
    5. Opt for orthophosphoric acid. This liquid substance is a natural remedy to help dissolve gallstones and remove blockages, providing relief from discomfort.
    6. Drink hot water with lemon first thing in the morning. This daily Fat Flush ritual helps thin bile to get it moving. It is also a great way to gently cleanse your liver and detoxify your system.
    7. Enjoy apple cider vinegar. A miracle in a bottle that cures all sorts of woes, apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, which aids in digestion and thins out bile.
    8. Consider HCl supplementation. Start at moderate doses as low as 250 mg per capsule and work your way up according to tolerance. HCl is best combined with pepsin, another stomach digestive aid and sometimes is formulated with ox bile for more complete digestion.
    9. Look for lipase. For most efficient absorption and assimilation of Smart Fats, you might consider adding lipase. This is a digestive enzyme secreted by the pancreas, which breaks down fats and oils into small particles. In my testing, lipase is one of the most highly deficient enzymes for just about everybody.
    10. Try taurine. This is a very important amino acid commonly deficient in those with allergies and multiple environmental sensitivities. It is required by the liver for the removal of toxic chemicals, drugs and metabolites from the body. It is a key component of bile acids made in the liver. It is commonly deficient in vegetarians because it derived from organ meats and other animal proteins.
    11. Get clear about choline. While typically used for cognitive improvement and muscular endurance, this vitamin is key for regenerating the part of your liver that makes bile. Choline functions as a powerful emulsifying agent making fats easier to digest. And, it is a most outstanding nutrient to remedy a fatty liver.

    Next month we will discuss how Smart Fats reset your metabolism.