What is the Gallbladder

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 02/28/2024

The Importance of the Gallbladder

Dr. Eric Berg

The gallbladder is a tiny organ but a very important one. This small sac-like organ sits on the right side of your body, right under the rib cage.

bile and gallbladder

The liver is on the right and the liver makes a digestive juice called bile, which is carried by a little tube to the gallbladder and then stored there.

Common Misconceptions about Bile

Bile is not waste or 'bowel-' related. Often, people think bile is a waste product of some kind, perhaps because when you’ve been really sick, that’s all that is left when you throw up.

Not true.

Bile is very important because it helps us break down fat just like how the dish detergent breaks down fat.

Understanding the Bile Fat Digestion Process

What the bile does is it breaks down fat into tiny particles.

Then, enzymes from the pancreas like lipase, for example, go to work on these tiny particles of fat in the small intestines, taking those already broken down fats and breaking them down further into tinier particles called essential fatty acids so that these can be absorbed. And essential fatty acid absorption is so crucial to our health, as I will explain momentarily.

So the pancreas and the GB actually work in combination in the gut to break down the fats that we eat.

Now, the gallbladder function is to secrete this bile only when you eat fat. It also stores and concentrates bile.

So, the bile in that gallbladder is super strong and you don’t need much of it—probably like 1-2 ounces, and it swooshes out into the small intestines and does its work right there.

This is why I don’t advocate this concept of eating and noshing all day or the 'six small meals a day' theory.

If you’re actually consuming six meals all day with snacks, and noshing and grazing all day, every time you’re eating, you’re basically releasing bile, especially if you’re snacking on nuts or something fatty like that.

So you will create a loss of this concentration of bile because if you’re constantly eating, you’re constantly using it up. That will lead to bile deficiency, which can be a big problem for your health.

Intermittent Fasting: Great for the Gallbladder and Bile Balance

That’s why intermittent fasting is so healing to the gallbladder and to the body overall because it allows the gallbladder to concentrate its bile and not have to work so hard.

Fork and butterknife on plate

That’s why on my plan, we focus on eating 2-3 meals only with 0 snacking in between. This not only kicks you into fat-burning mode, but it also concentrates that important bile, which prevents all kinds of digestive issues and, very importantly, kills bad bacteria in your food that can make you sick.

The Importance of Bile 

The word 'emulsification' comes from the Latin word which means 'milk,' which actually means combining water and fat.

That’s what milk is... water and fat together.

Just like oil and water don’t mix, neither do fat and water.

That’s why we call bile an emulsifier.

Bile allows the fat we ingest to be broken down, dissolved, and mixed up with the rest of the food coming down from the small intestine. If you don’t have anything to break down fat, it would go right through you and not be processed.

It also lubricates the colon, so one sign you’re deficient in bile is constipation. Additionally, if your colon isn’t lubricated, you’ll have some pain during a bowel movement.

Also, bowel helps to alkalize the stomach acids coming down from the stomach—and stomach acids are so strong they could burn right through organs, so thank goodness we have the bile to alkalize these acids.

How to Tell if You’re Bile-deficient

  • First, your stools will float in the toilet. Often, you try to flush but the stool will float. That’s a serious amount of fat in the stool. That’s a big sign that you don’t have enough bile to break down fat.

  • Pale-colored stool is an indication of low bile.

  •  A really bad odor of stool is caused by a lack of bile.

  •  Anal leakage that is oily is also a sign of low bile. You’ll probably have some right shoulder pain if you’re low in bile as well.

You’ll also see some deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A (so there goes the eyes and the skin, and the sinuses), vitamin D (bone pain, poorly functioning immune system).

Vitamin E (heart, skin, hormones). Vitamin K (clotting factors, bruising). K2 will also be deficient—and K2 is highly important for getting rid of soft tissue calcium from the arteries, so you need to digest this important fat-soluble vitamin thoroughly.

The Necessity of Bile for Essential Fatty Acid Absorption

Low bile will cause a problem with essential fatty acid absorption.

These essential fatty acids are very important for your heart, as an anti-inflammatory, for cell structure, and for healthy skin and hair as well.

So, if you cannot absorb essential fatty acid, you’ll have dry skin and dry hair.

Dry skin

Even your mood will be affected if you lack essential fatty acids.

So, a lot of people are taking fish oil, omega 3s, and DHEA, but without enough bile, you won’t be able to absorb these anyway.  

If you are deficient in bile, you can get a purified bile salt product. You can learn how to increase bile from the gallbladder with proper nutrition and diet.

The Benefits of a Quality Bile-regulating Supplement 

I use one called The Gallbladder Formula.

  • It has more than just purified bile salts.

  • Stone root to help dissolve gall stones.

  • Pancreatic enzymes to take the pressure off the digestion.

  • Betaine hydrochloride to help acidify the stomach.

  • Spanish black radish and slippery Elm bark. These are good for lubricating everything.

Overall, it helps the stomach, the pancreas, the colon, and the gallbladder.

Take one after a meal and you don’t need more than that.

When do you know you don’t need bile?

When you have diarrhea, as bile will decrease your elimination (of waste), not increase it.

Also, if you have a hyperthyroid and you add bile to it, which you DO NOT WANT TO DO, that will speed up more thyroid hormone and you’ll have a problem.

Taking Gallbladder Formula would be better for someone with hypothyroidism than hyperthyroidism because it is so good for the conversion of T4 to T3, which makes the thyroid work better if it’s slow.  

I hope you learned a lot about the importance of bile today, for helping you absorb full nutrient value from your food.

See more Digestion Advice from Dr. Berg Video Blog.

Let me hear your questions below, please!

Dr. Eric Berg

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