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Keeping Your Gallbladder Happy During the Holidays

Authored by: Kristine Stein, B.Sc., MS

That time of year is upon us again, the holiday season! That means more social gatherings, which probably means indulging in things we would normally have in moderation or avoid all together such as alcohol and processed foods. Consumption of these holiday goodies can wreak havoc on our digestive systems, including the gallbladder. However, there are some helpful things we can do to help offset the negative effects from overindulgence.

How the Gallbladder Works

First let’s talk about what the gallbladder actually does. It is known as an accessory organ that lies right under your liver on the right side of your abdomen. It is pear-shaped and about 3-6 inches long. The gallbladder stores bile that is produced by the liver and it excretes it in the digestion process. The bile helps to break down fat into fatty acids for the body to utilize nutritionally.

We need good fats to survive, there is no way around it. All of our cells in the body are lined with fat (which our bodies contain trillions of cells). Our brains are about 60% fat, and we need certain amounts of fatty tissue to produce hormones; and this is just the short list of how fats contribute to our health! Because of this, it is important that we maintain good gallbladder health to facilitate proper digestion, so that we can utilize the good nutrition we feed our bodies.

Foods that Harm Gallbladder function

It is estimated that one million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones per year! That is a staggering statistic! And it is no wonder because many Americans eat a diet high in processed foods that include trans fats, which can severely impact gallbladder health. Trans fats are found in oils such as corn, canola, soy, and margarine. These oils are highly refined, nutritionally deficient, and pro-inflammatory. They can interfere with your gallbladder’s regular functions by raising the level of triglycerides in your blood. This can increase your risk for sluggish bile which eventually can lead to the formation of gallstones. Another culprit of sluggish bile and gallstones is refined carbohydrates and sugar. These items act in the same way as bad fats and it has been demonstrated in many studies.

Other Ways to Support the Gallbladder

Now let’s talk about some things we can do to support the gallbladder. One of the main things that we want to do is to allow the gallbladder to contract properly during digestion is to keep the bile flowing. When bile flow is frequent, the gallbladder contracts and excretes bile which prevents sluggish flow and the formation of gallstones.


Besides eating a healthy diet, there are a few supplements that can assist in keeping the bile thin. These include beets (which can be found in tablet and powder form), choline (also found in foods like egg yolks and fatty fish), and healthy fats (omega 3’s, extra virgin olive oil), just to name a few.

Herbs and Bitter Tasting Greens

Certain herbs and bitter tasting greens are beneficial to the gallbladder. These items are known as cholagogues. Cholagogues help keep the bile thin as well as allowing the bile to flow properly. Some examples include dandelion leaves, arugula, watercress, and Swiss chard.

By having a small salad of these greens with dinner you are promoting sufficient bile flow (which flushes the gallbladder) and improves digestion. Some people may not enjoy bitter tasting herbs and greens so another option would be to take 1-2 milliliters of bitters before meals. Bitters are an extract of bitter tasting herbs like artichoke leaves, dandelion leaves, and gentian in either an alcohol or glycerin base. Although bitters do indeed taste bitter as the name implies, it’s a quick way to reap the health benefits without eating a bitter salad.  

Implementing These Things

If you have gallbladder disease, gallstones, or even if you are just looking to give your gallbladder some love, the above foods and supplements are safe and easy to implement into your daily life.

However, if you have had chronic digestive issues, pain around the gallbladder area, or elimination issues, it may be time to get help.

We Can Help!

At Total Health you can receive a thorough assessment and a personalized program that includes nutrition to get your digestion and gallbladder health back on track.

Please contact our clinic to work with one of our holistic practitioners by calling 262-251-2929 or by email:

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