Current Gallbladder Pain – Blame Your Younger Years

Sure-you remember fondly back on your youth, high school and college days.  I remember doing things as a child that, if I saw my son doing them, I would think he’s out of his mind and I was doing a poor job as a father.  Then there’s the near-permanent frontal lobe damage so many seem to accomplish in college (which, by the way, is not true–the brain remains plastic long into our adult years).  But did you ever think about about what damage is being done to our gallbladders?

Given the state of medicine today, one would think that the gallbladder is near-vestigial and can be taken out on a whim with nary a price to pay. 

First, we need to understand some of the basic functions of the gallbladder.  The absolute most important job of the gallbladder is to store the bile that is constantly produced in the liver and release bile in response to the hormone CCK in response to a fatty meal.  The bile released then helps to emulsify and absorb the fat and fat soluble nutrients of our meal.

So what happens after a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal)?  There are several negative consequences.

  1. Most common is diarrhea.  This is because there is now unabsorbed fat in the intestinal tract (no bile to help with the absorption) which contributes to the osmotic diarrhea commonly seen.  Luckily, supplements containing bile acids can very successfully relieve the diarrhea.
  2. Fat soluble nutrient absorption problems.  This includes the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but also fat soluble phytonutrients like lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes that are known to protect the prostate and heart) and a long list of others.  Supplementation with certain vitamins is essential.
  3. Increased risk of colorectal cancer.  The reasoning is not quite worked out, but it likely has to do with the constant slow release of bile acids from the liver that are no longer stored.  Because they aren’t stored and released to bind up with fats as needed, they are free to float down into the intestinal tract and create problems among cells that are not designed to handle the acids. Eating certain foods regularly may help bind up the bile acids and lower the risk of harm.

These little tidbits are rarely shared with patients prior to their surgical removals (which, by the way, is actually required–it’s called informed consent and is grounds for malpractice).  All too often, even severe gallbladder attacks are NOT grounds for gallbladder removal, despite popular opinion.  Recent studies suggest less than a third of patients with severe symptoms will continue to have problems.  This means that more mild symptoms should not even initiate the conversation.

Of course, the real answer is not damaging our gallbladder in the first place.  And this, while trying to avoid sounding like a broken record, is almost always a result of being prediabetic.  I’ve always told patients that gallbladder problems can occur decades before someone actually becomes diabetic.  So, of course, fixing the gallbladder has everything to do with pulling back from a pro-diabetic lifestyle.

This particular article gives us some insight into just how early this process starts.  Researchers found that obese preadolescents actually began to have problems with gallbladder motility long before they became an adult. 

I do not need to stress to anyone just the life altering importance of raising our children with good lifestyle habits and maintaining an ideal body composition.  If your child is NOT in this category, you need to understand fully that the damage to their delicate bodies has already begun.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.