What’s in this article

  • What is the gallbladder?
  • How does the gallbladder link to liver health?
  • The impact of gallbladder removal on the body

What is the gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a muscular organ located next to the liver, and its purpose is to store bile. Bile is made in the liver which is then sent through ducts to the small intestine and the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile for secretion when a meal is eaten in order to help break it down. The ingestion of food causes the release of a hormone, cholecystokinin, (CCK) which triggers the valve of the gallbladder to relax. This allows bile to enter the small intestine where it will break down fat. The gallbladders functions are to process cholesterol, clean tissues, help digest fats, and enhance brain function.

 How does the gallbladder link to liver health?
The gallbladder’s job is reliant on a healthy functioning liver. Bile is produced in the liver and then stored in the gallbladder so with a damaged gallbladder or a non-existent one then the bile goes straight into the intestine.

 An unhealthy diet of fried foods, sugar, fructose, grains and processed junk foods cause bile to become saturated with cholesterol triggering cholesterol to form solid crystals, accumulating into stones. A sluggish, congested liver is often associated with gallstones. – Paula Owens clinical and holistic nutritionist, and functional health practitioner. 

Poor diet choices can lead to gallstones in the gallbladder and the liver which can cause pain and other health issues. Simply changing your diet can have a huge impact on your gallbladder and liver health, if you are having issues with the gallbladder it is important to try this before thinking about having the gallbladder removed.

The impact of gallbladder removal
Gallbladder removal is a common surgery performed in the US. Many of these surgeries could be avoided with proper nourishment and diet. The body’s ability to emulsify, digest and absorb dietary fat is severely reduced when the gallbladder is removed. This puts even more stress on the liver to do this job. Even though gallbladder removal is often recommended it is not without health consequences. Some of the following side effects may occur:

  • Difficulty digesting fatty foods
  • Temporary diarrhea
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Temporary constipation
  • Retained stone in a bile duct
  • Intestinal injury
  • Weight gain

A low fat, high fiber diet will need to be adopted in order to reduce side effects as much as possible if gallbladder removal is performed. This will put less stress on the liver. Small frequent meals are recommended and large meals are to be avoided. Your doctor can provide medication that will bind the bile together, however, this is only needed for patients that experience issues with the excess bile.


Find out more about the basics of liver health with Dr. Tarek Hassanein, M.D.