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Natural Gallbladder Cleanse: Benefits, Tips, and How-to

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/17/2024

A sluggish gallbladder can lead to thickened bile and increases the risk of gallstones. 


Poor gallbladder function is often linked to dietary factors, liver problems, or nutrient deficiencies, and promoting optimal bile flow is crucial for maintaining digestive health and overall well-being.  


Discover who may benefit from a gallbladder cleanse and learn why olive oil flushes aren’t the best way to prevent gallstones.


Human gallbladder illustration

What is a gallbladder cleanse?


A gallbladder cleanse, also called gallbladder or liver flush, aims to stimulate gallbladder contractions and bile flow to prevent bile sludge and reduce the risk of gallstone formation.


You may have heard that a gallbladder flush involves drinking olive oil mixed with lemon juice, Epsom salts, or large amounts of apple juice to enhance bile flow and dissolve gallstones. 


However, no scientific evidence supports these kinds of gallbladder cleanses. In fact, you shouldn't do a gallbladder flush if you have gallstones


Consuming large amounts of olive oil can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and dislodge gallstones, increasing the risk of bile duct obstruction and acute gallbladder inflammation. 


A natural and effective gallbladder cleanse focuses on the underlying causes of poor gallbladder function and bile flow by making beneficial dietary changes, addressing potential nutrient deficiencies, and utilizing acupressure techniques.      

 

Watch the video below to learn why gallbladder flushes with olive oil may be harmful. 

Six ways to cleanse your gallbladder naturally


Because traditional olive oil gallbladder flushes may pose health risks, they should be avoided. 


However, you can take various other steps to cleanse your gallbladder naturally, which helps promote bile flow and may prevent gallstones.    


Here are six ways to cleanse your gallbladder.


1. Take bile salts 

Bile acids play a crucial role in keeping bile soluble, and bile acid deficiency (BAD) can lead to gallstone formation, poor digestive health, and liver issues. 


Research published in PLOS One investigated the link between BAD and cholesterol gallstones and concluded, “Shortage of bile acids is a major reason why bile was supersaturated with cholesterol in gallstone patients.” 


Purified bile salt supplements can help compensate for inadequate bile acid production, thereby promoting proper bile flow, enhancing fat digestion, and aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. 


2. Eat plenty of choline-rich foods 

Choline is an essential nutrient needed to produce phosphatidylcholine, a major component of bile. 


A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research found that increasing phosphatidylcholine production is associated with a reduced risk of gallstone formation.   


“Choline-rich foods have been used to relieve symptoms of poor gallbladder function for centuries,” explains Dr. Berg. “Choline also supports liver cell function, vital for proper bile production and digestive health.”   


Here are some of the best sources of choline:

  • Egg yolks

  • Liver and other organ meats

  • Salmon 

  • Chicken breast 

  • Broccoli 

  • Brussel sprouts 

  • Cauliflower 

  • Peanuts 


Healthy fats on a wooden table

3. Avoid a low-fat diet 

There is a common misconception that a high intake of saturated fat contributes to poor bile flow and gallstones. However, this isn’t accurate. 


Dietary fat in the small intestines stimulates the release of hormones that trigger gallbladder contraction and bile flow. 


A low-fat diet can cause less frequent gallbladder contractions, which may lead to highly saturated bile, bile sludge, and gallstones. 


Following a nutritious high-fat diet such as Healthy Keto® is an excellent strategy to promote proper gallbladder contraction and bile flow while providing the body with essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.  


In addition, research published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that high sugar consumption is associated with an increased risk of gallstones, especially during pregnancy. 


This further makes the case for adopting a low-carb, high-fat diet to support gallbladder health.


4. Support a diverse microflora 

Promoting a diverse gut microflora is crucial for optimal gallbladder function and bile flow.


Bile acids released during digestion are reabsorbed and recycled by beneficial gut bacteria in the large intestines. 


Factors such as alcohol intake, frequent antibiotic use, and poor dietary habits can negatively impact microbial diversity, potentially contributing to a lack of adequate bile acid recycling, compromised gallbladder function, and impaired fat digestion.  


Consuming fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, and kefir or taking probiotic supplements can help support a diverse gut microbiome and consequently promote gallbladder function.   


Woman performing acupressure

5. Acupressure 

Certain gallbladder acupressure techniques can enhance bile flow.    


Applying targeted pressure to the gallbladder can stimulate bile drainage and help relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder issues, such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, and indigestion. 


6. Apple cider vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar has impressive health benefits and may be especially beneficial for individuals prone to gallstones.


Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, an organic acid that has been found to stimulate liver cells to produce bile. Optimal bile production helps prevent bile sludge, the leading cause of gallstones.  


In addition, acetic acid is highly acidic, which helps trigger gallbladder contraction and stimulate bile flow, which explains why apple cider vinegar is a natural liver and gallbladder cleanser.   


Woman eating a green salad

Who should do a gallbladder cleanse?


Individuals with a family history of gallstones may benefit from supporting gallbladder function to maintain proper bile flow, which can reduce the risk of cholesterol stones, one of the most common types of gallstones.  


Liver and gallbladder health are closely connected, and focusing on natural ways to cleanse the gallbladder is an excellent strategy for individuals with poor liver function or fatty liver disease


In addition, supersaturated bile is a significant risk factor for gallstones and gallbladder disease and can be caused by various dietary, lifestyle, and hormonal factors.   


Here are common factors associated with an increased risk of bile sludge:

  • Pregnancy 

  • Birth control pills 

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

  • Low-fat diet 

  • Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars 

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Frequent antibiotic use 

  • Gastric bypass surgery 


Impaired gallbladder function can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, pale-colored stools, or pain in the upper right shoulder, chest, or abdomen. 


While these symptoms can be indicative of bile sludge, they may also be linked to more severe gallbladder disease. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation of your health status if you experience persistent gastrointestinal issues. 

 

Woman with abdominal pain

Possible downsides


Promoting healthy bile flow and supporting liver and gallbladder function is generally associated with better digestive health and overall well-being. 


However, in some cases, bile salts can exacerbate existing health conditions, and it’s best to avoid bile salt supplements if you have hyperthyroidism, diarrhea, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

 

Research published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that bile salts draw water into the large bowels, which can trigger bile acid diarrhea and irritate the gut lining in individuals with sensitive digestive tracts.  


In addition, bile acids stimulate the conversion of thyroid hormones, and taking bile salts may increase thyroid hormone levels associated with abnormal thyroid function.  


Human gallbladder illustration

Key takeaways


A natural gallbladder cleanse focuses on promoting bile production and proper gallbladder contractions to maintain bile flow, which is linked to a lower risk of bile sludge and gallstones. 


Some of the best ways to support gallbladder functions include taking bile salt supplementation, consuming plenty of choline-rich foods, avoiding a low-fat diet, and promoting a diverse gut microbiome. 

 


FAQ


1. What is the best gallbladder cleanse?

A natural and effective gallbladder cleanse promotes bile production and flow while stimulating gallbladder contractions. 


Taking a bile salt supplement, avoiding a low-fat diet, consuming plenty of choline-rich and fermented foods, and taking apple cider vinegar daily are excellent steps to stimulate bile flow and support proper gallbladder function.  


2. How long does it take to cleanse your gallbladder?

How long it takes to cleanse the gallbladder depends on your overall gallbladder function and whether you have developed bile sludge.  


While some individuals experience improved gallbladder function within two weeks of starting a gallbladder cleanse, others may require significantly longer periods of beneficial dietary changes to improve bile production and flow.


3. What is bile sludge?

Bile sludge refers to supersaturated bile that contains cholesterol crystals, calcium salts, and other components that accumulate in the gallbladder when bile has become stagnant.


Bile sludge is a significant risk factor for gallstones and can irritate the gallbladder lining, leading to gallbladder inflammation.

  

4. How do you get rid of gallstones naturally?

Stimulating bile flow and regular gallbladder contractions by following a nutritious high-fat diet, taking bile salt supplements, consuming choline-rich foods, and promoting a diverse microflora is an excellent strategy to prevent gallstone formation.


While it may be possible to dissolve small crystallized gallstones by improving bile flow, larger gallstones may require surgical removal.  


5. Does apple cider vinegar flush the gallbladder?

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which has been found beneficial for gallbladder function as it stimulates gallbladder contraction and bile flow, which helps prevent bile sludge and gallstone formation.   


6. Does drinking fruit and vegetable juice help soften gallstones?  

Certain gallbladder flushes involve consuming large amounts of apple and vegetable juice in combination with olive oil. 


However, no scientific evidence supports that these routines help treat gallstones. Performing these cleanses may, in fact, increase the risk of gastrointestinal issues, pancreatitis, and bile duct obstruction.



Sources


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10115254

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12837851/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3681860/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10524409 



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