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The Amazing Gallbladder
Dr. Eric Berg DC
Hey, Dr. Berg here. We’re going to talk about the digestive system. The purpose of the digestive system is to take the food that you eat, to break it down into very small particles, and to extract nutrients from it to allow you to convert food to body tissues, like hair, nails, skin, heart, liver, lungs, all of the body parts.
And it’s really simple; there are five parts of the digestive system:
The purpose of the liver is to help make digestive juices. That’s one of its purposes.
The gallbladder is a reservoir or holding tank for the digestive juices that come out of the liver.
The purpose of the stomach is to produce acid to break down proteins and the strength of that stomach acid is so powerful – so acidic – that it can dissolve a razor blade.
We need to digest the protein here (stomach) and the digested mass goes right into the small intestine where it’s activated by the digestive juice from the gallbladder that comes out – which is called bile – B-I-L-E. Not Bowel.
The purpose of the bile is to break down fats and to extract nutrients from the fats, like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Those are the fat-soluble vitamins.
You have the water-soluble vitamins but you also have fat-soluble vitamins. You will find vitamin A, D, E, and K in fatty foods.
The pancreas produces a lot of different enzymes to digest protein, carbohydrates, and fats. It also makes certain hormones. And all these bacteria down here (in the intestines) – you have over 100 trillion bacteria that are helping you break down food further.
There are little hairs in the small intestine like little roots that absorb all the nutrients like a root in a plant. It pulls it in and then the nutrients go to the cells.
This is a summary of the five areas of digestion.
The gallbladder does not produce anything. It holds something. It holds bile. What happens is it fills up with bile when you eat. It squishes and contracts, and the bile goes down the little tubes.
The tubes are called bile ducts. Now, if there’s a problem with not enough bile, you will start developing stones. So now, the bile can’t be released because the gallbladder gets all plugged up – and then they have to remove it.
Now, when it swells up and gets too big, it pushes on a nerve that goes all the way up to the right shoulder and can cause all sorts of issues. We’ll get into that in a second.
A normal gallbladder should be free of gallstones and should be able to push the bile through the duct.
What is bile?
It’s the detergent that dissolves the grease or oil/fats from your food. And that includes even fats from vegetables as well. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are extracted from the food.
Here’s what happens – a little demonstration here. We’re going to take this dishwashing liquid, which is the detergent and pour it into the oil. What’s happening now is this detergent is breaking down the oil (shakes it up). This is what the gallbladder does with fats. Look at what happened. It’s breaking down the fats into small little particles so we go from fats to fatty acids.
Bile Is the Detergent That Dissolves the Grease
Fatty acids are small little particles of the fat. This is exactly what bile does to the fat that you eat. It breaks it down so you can use it and extracts the nutrients – vitamin A, D, E, and K. The thing you need to realize is that it also acts as a detoxifier.
So if there’s anything toxic in the liver or if there’s dust in the body or particles you breathe in or preservatives… whatever – it will go to the liver and come out through that bile. So the bile is important in the detoxification of chemicals and toxins.
Each year, 20 million people are diagnosed with gallbladder problems and over half that number – 10 million people have their gallbladder removed. When the gallbladder is removed because it’s dysfunctional, that doesn’t mean the problem is gone. It means you aren’t going to have enough bile to be able to help you digest (fat).
Symptoms of Having Too Little Bile in the Body
Here’s a list of some common symptoms that occur with bile deficiency:
1. Bloating because you don’t have what it takes to digest the fat. Because bile is a lubricant, everything is going to be constipated as well.
2. Burping also occurs because the lack of bile creates an undigested effect of foods, causing gas bubbles to leak up through the digestive track.
3. Belching is a form of burping or gas coming back up through the digestive track because of lack of bile.
4. Right shoulder pain because when it enlarges, it will push the phrenic nerve that travels up from the shoulder up to your neck so there will be heaviness on the right side of the body.
6. Headaches or migraines – 98% of all headaches are related to the gallbladder or to the lack of bile. If you have a headache and press on this point, the headache will be relieved.
7. Not satisfied after eating: When you eat, if you don’t have enough bile, you will not feel satisfied. You will feel like there’s something missing because you’re not pulling out the nutrients from the fat in the foods. So you’ll always want to keep eating.
8. Crave fried foods or a little bit of sweet foods after you eat. The bile is very essential in regulating the blood sugar because if you’re pulling nutrients out, you’re stabilizing the blood sugar.
9. Itchy skin, itchy eyes, hives
Facts on Cholesterol
Bile is made out of cholesterol. Now, I know people have this idea that cholesterol is bad but here are the facts on cholesterol:
1. 75% of the cholesterol in your body is made by your own body.
2. Cholesterol surrounds the raw material that builds all your cells in the body.
3. Cholesterol is the raw material used to build all the sex materials in your body, including cortisol, which acts as an anti-inflammatory.
4. The lens of your eye and the retina need cholesterol.
5. It’s used to balance out estrogen in a female so it’s very necessary to regulate hormones, to help heal the tissue, especially under stress.
6. Without enough cholesterol, there would be a lot of other symptoms because your body will basically try to catabolize tissues that contain cholesterol to use it.
7. Cholesterol is not a bad thing but excessive amounts can be a bad thing. As long as you’re eating enough greens and vegetables, you’re safe because all the vegetables will flush out any type of buildup of cholesterol.
I’m not saying to eat huge steaks and all this fat and bacon grease. I’m not opposed to it if you eat a lot of vegetables to clean out the liver. So there’s nothing wrong with some fatty foods as long as your liver is healthy.
The point is that when you mix all the breads, cereals, pasta, breaded meats, and cooked fried foods and you have this little side salad, that’s not going to be enough to get the liver going. That’s why there’s a problem with cholesterol.
Refined sugars, carbohydrates and bread, and pasta convert into cholesterol as well.
So those are the common symptoms and if you don’t have the bile, you won’t be able to ultimately break down the cholesterol and it can build up in the body as well.
Bile Deficiency Causes Fat-soluble Vitamin Deficiencies
1. Vitamin A Deficiency
Because the fat-soluble vitamins are associated with bile problems, if you don’t have enough bile, you become deficient in vitamin A. That’s when the vision at night and dry skin become problems.
Vitamin A is for the skin and the eyes so you get dry eyes or corneal issues. A lot of skin problems result if there’s a vitamin A deficiency. Accutane is a type of vitamin A. It’s used for acne, skin problems, warts, corneal issues, little growth or deposits on the eye... So vitamin A is really important.
But it’s not necessarily what you eat that makes you healthy. It’s what you digest. Without that bile – and I find out that a lot of people don’t have enough bile – you can’t extract that vitamin A to release the benefits from the vitamin A. Vitamin A supports all the mucous membranes in your sinuses so when you start digesting foods properly and get the vitamin A, the sinuses clear up as well.
2. Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin so you can get winter blues, depression in the winter, bone health...
3. Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E is essential for muscle tissue. The heart has to work really hard because it’s not going to maintain the oxygen from the heart so you would lose endurance with a deficiency. When you go up on an incline, you would get out of breath very quickly. That’s because vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. The heart and muscles need that vitamin E.
The retina needs vitamin E. Retinal degeneration occurs when there’s a vitamin E deficiency.
Vitamin E is a great healer for certain tissues. The pituitary runs on vitamin E as well. During menopause, when you lose the ovaries, the requirement of vitamin E goes up by 100 times because the pituitary isn’t working as before.
You see a lot of women that just dry out. You can’t absorb the vitamin E if you don’t have the bile.
4. Vitamin K Deficiency
Then you have vitamin K. With a deficiency, you’ll have bloody noses.
What Causes a Bile Deficiency?
Now, let’s talk about the causes of the problems associated with a bile deficiency.
1. Junk food
That would include bread, pasta, sodas, crackers, biscuits, waffles, and pancakes. All those wonderful foods.
2. Fatty foods
Too much fat can clog up that whole system. What can aggravate the gallbladder are nuts. When you start eating a lot of nuts, you start eating 'healthy' and start loading yourself up with nuts and peanut butter. You start having right shoulder pain. That’s because it’s aggravating the bile ducts which is going right up to the right shoulder.
Sugar puts a strain on the gallbladder. In fact, if you add protein with sugar, you severely spike insulin and insulin alone will deplete the bile reserve.
Grains are just as hard on the gallbladder as heavy fats. Refined grains in the form of bread, pasta, cereals, etc. combined with protein as in hamburger with bun, or breaded meats or pancakes with eggs more than doubles the insulin response, creating additional stress on the gallbladder.
5. Soy protein isolates
It’s known that soy protein isolates can create liver tumors. It’s very irritating to the liver. Where do you find soy protein isolates? In a lot of vegetarian patties that they have at the store and a lot of diet foods; pre-packaged foods. Read the label. A lot of protein powders have soy protein isolates as a cheap protein but it’s very hard on the gallbladder and on the liver.
I had a gal come in who had done a diet and they gave her this protein powder. It was a soy protein isolate shake. She started burping for an entire year and no one knew what it was. It just basically destroyed her gallbladder. She couldn’t stop burping and that’s why she came to see me.
6. Cooked protein
When you cook too much protein, there would be no enzymes left. They get destroyed with the heat. The rest of the digestive organs have to work harder. Even when you eat roasted peanuts, it will make the pancreas enlarge because it has to produce more enzymes to digest that roasted nut.
If you’re eating good overall, you don’t have to worry about the roasted nuts. But if you’re just eating all cooked food, that would be very bad for the liver.
Alcohol is hard on the liver and will deplete the bile reserve. Alcohol kills liver cells and causes the body to work hard to make new liver cells. One drink can set the liver back for 24-48 hours easily because of the repair action it has to go through.
Estrogen constricts this duct and cause problems with the bile as well. That’s one of the side effects. And that would be birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, becoming pregnant (this spikes the estrogen), that time of the month (ovulation), a fibroid, and doing too many soy products.
This is connected in the recycling process of bile. So over a period of time, when you get really stressed out over a period of years, it will deplete your bile and cause digestive problems.
So when you start bloating... you eat something and feel like you’re pregnant. And at night, you’re more bloated. During the morning, your stomach is flatter because there’s less stress. And so there’s a connection between stress and digestion.
10. Lack of the right foods
If you’re not eating enough vegetables, you’re going to end up with a problem with this because the vegetables clean out the gallbladder.
If you find that you sleep on your right side and it’s more comfortable than your left side, the chances are that there’s a problem with the liver and the gallbladder because the heart’s over here. So if you sleep on your left side, the liver is too heavy and will compress and push down like a vice on the heart. And it’s going to be hard to breathe. So the best position to sleep with a gallbladder issue is on your right side.
Also, the thyroid works through the liver. 80% of the thyroid hormone is converted to an active form in the liver So if this is blocked up here (gallbladder), then you may find that the thyroid won’t work as well.
And also with a problem with the liver and gallbladder, you’re going to start building up estrogen and that indirectly decreases testosterone. That’s why you see a lot of men getting breast tissue and breast cancer; they’re losing their chest hair... all these problems with estrogen and progesterone.
The Gallbladder Formula Supplement
One of the products I use is called Gallbladder Formula. I created it not just to give the person some bile salts, but I put some ingredients there because there are a lot of different issues that could occur with the gallbladder.
First of all, it could be too thick. It could be that your stomach is not acid enough to release your own bile. So I put betaine hydrochloride there as well.
I put spanish black radish to thin your bile. There are bile salts to give you bile so you can start recycling it. There’s Spanish black radish, which is good for the liver as well. And that thins the bile to allow it to work better so it’s not so congested.
There’s stone root and that is known to actually dissolve stones. And there’s an enzyme that the stomach needs, too. And there’s slippery elm bark to help lubricate this whole process.
Now, I’m just letting you know that I’m not saying this is going to replace or cure your gallbladder. All I’m saying is this is what I use to support a healthy gallbladder function. So if you need some, you might want to try some. Take one before a meal every time you eat a large meal. Because it’s not a drug, it works kind of slowly.
You’re going to see that you’re digesting better and your stomach’s not going to be so bloated.
So if you need it, go ahead and try it. I hope you enjoyed the video.
I’ll see you in the next video and see more Digestion Advice from Dr. Berg Video Blog.
-Dr. Eric Berg