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Gallbladder plays vital role in healthy digestion

Have you had your gallbladder removed? Do you have symptoms of an unhealthy gallbladder such as pain in upper right abdomen after eating a fatty meal, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea? I commonly see clients in my nutrition practice who answer “yes” to these questions.

Your gallbladder plays a key role in your nutritional health, and it’s not a silent player as many might think. It works in tandem with the liver and stores the bile created by the liver. Healthy bile flow is the rock star here as it’s important in protecting gut integrity, promoting detoxification, and ensuring the digestion and absorption of dietary fat and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. So, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, suffer from symptoms of an unhealthy gallbladder or just want to eat to protect your gallbladder, then keep reading.

First, it’s essential to eat a nutrient-dense diet to keep your gallbladder healthy. It’s no surprise that an organ that does so much for your digestion and absorption of nutrients thrives on a whole-food nutrition plan.

The three nutritional pillars to help maintain a healthy gallbladder and avoid gallstones include: eating foods high in fiber, eating fresh foods with the most vitamins and minerals, and watching your dietary fat intake. Additional strategies that will support a healthy gallbladder are eating fewer refined carbohydrates, less refined sugar and avoiding unhealthy fats.

To dive deeper into the first two pillars of fiber and vitamins, do your best to “eat the rainbow.” A nutrition plan loaded with fruits and vegetables will bring abundant health to your gallbladder. Fruits and vegetables boost the gallbladder’s function and lowers inflammation because they are low in fat, and bring loads of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A few stars are bell peppers, tomatoes, beets and citrus fruits, but don’t limit solely to these as it’s always beneficial to include a variety. Also, don’t put all your focus on just fruit, eat more vegetables than fruit. Even if your gallbladder was removed, you still want to focus on fruits, vegetables and fiber.

Let’s move on to the third pillar, reducing your dietary fat intake. Foods such as fatty meats and dairy tend to negatively impact an unhealthy gallbladder. Lowering your fat intake will help boost the health of your gallbladder or improve your digestion if you no longer have a gallbladder. It’s helpful to focus on lower fat plant-based proteins such beans paired with brown rice, nuts, lentils and quinoa.

If your gallbladder has been removed, decreasing your dietary fat usually improves symptoms. Even the healthiest fatty fish such as salmon, isn’t a great choice. As well as other greasy, fried or processed foods, cream sauces and gravies, red meat, pork and full-fat dairy should be avoided. You may also want to discuss supplement options (such as ox bile) with your medical practitioner to assist your body in handling higher fat meals.

Focusing on nutrition to support a healthy gallbladder is a great way to improve your digestion and in return your health. The gallbladder plays a vital role in the digestion and absorption of fat, which impacts your brains health, metabolism and weight. This small yet important organ doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in maintaining a healthy digestive system, let’s change that.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 970-444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.