Now that the link between saturated fat and heart disease has been thoroughly debunked, we can freely enjoy butter, cream and coconut oil to our heart’s content, right? Maybe—but maybe not!
Written By: Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Americans are finally breaking up with sugar and starting a new love affair with fats. Fat is back as a healthy macronutrient that’s key for brain health, hormone production and reduction of belly fat. Fats are also the precursor to eicosanoids, localized hormones or “signalling molecules” that target nearby tissues—prostaglandins being just one example.
Whether you’re doing an ancestral or ketogenic diet, or you’ve gone vegan, beneficial fats have captured the spotlight—and deservedly so. Your brain is more than 50 percent fat, and apart from nerves, every single cell in your body uses fat as its primary fuel source. However, the truth is that many individuals are not in love with their new higher-fat diets. Some experience bouts with indigestion or reflux, others sluggish thyroids. Some drop weight like a rock on paleo, whereas others’ waistlines won’t budge.
So, what gives?
These issues can be traced to bile and the gallbladder. Bile is responsible for breaking down fats and plays a key and underappreciated role in detoxification. Bile is an important detox mechanism we don’t hear much about.
Contrary to what you’ve read, you DO need your gallbladder, but this incredibly important organ seems to have fallen out of favor over the past century or so. The best diet in the world will do nothing for you if you can’t properly absorb your foods, and this is what’s happening with today’s higher fat diets. If your body can’t process fats, you simply won’t get those fabulous fat-blasting, immune-boosting, membrane-protecting, fuel-providing benefits from fats.
I have been warning about the risks of low-fat diets for decades, but only recently did I gain a full appreciation for the role our gallbladders play. While diving into the latest research for my book, New Fat Flush Plan, I made a remarkable discovery. Problems related to gallbladder dysfunction are almost completely being ignored by medical professionals who essentially thumb their noses at the lowly gallbladder, as if it’s a throwaway organ. But in reality, your gallbladder performs an impressive number of important tasks. Is yours working as well as it should be?
NEWSFLASH: THE Gallbladder May Be the “Sexiest Organ” of All
The gallbladder is a muscular pear-shaped organ located just beneath your liver whose purpose is to store, concentrate and eject bile when needed. Without this infusion of bile, you can’t absorb your fat-soluble nutrients, vitamins A, D, E and K, and those all-important essential fatty acids.
But sexy? This might not be the FIRST adjective that comes to mind when someone says the word “gallbladder”!
Ladies, your gallbladder may actually be your sexiest organ—it’s at least the most underappreciated. Consider this: without bile, you lose the lubricating benefits of those fat-soluble nutrients. Vitamins A and E lift your estrogen levels and help maintain mucous membranes. Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fats help keep vaginal tissues healthy and encourage your body to produce the hormones necessary for preventing vaginal dryness.
The problem is, many gallbladders have become lazy, congested, and even blocked with sludge and bile stones. When bile stagnates in an underworked gallbladder, it thickens and begins to stick to itself and form gallstones. Decades of processed foods and nutritionally bankrupt low-fat and non-fat diets, compounded by increased toxic exposures, have created a gallstone epidemic.
Quite literally, your gallbladder is a use-it-or-lose-it organ. Cholecystectomy (surgical gallbladder removal) is now the most common “elective” abdominal surgery in America with more than 750,000 operations performed each year.
If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you’ve lost your natural ability to properly digest fats, as well as your ability to remove toxic hormones and waste from your system. Without your gallbladder, there’s a continuous trickle of bile from your liver directly into your intestine—regardless of whether you’ve consumed fats. The problem comes when you need a large bolus of bile to process a fatty meal. Without a gallbladder, you have no bile reserve, and this has adverse effects on fat digestion and nutrient absorption.
Even among those who still have their gallbladder, bile deficiency is a massive problem today due to aging, diminished stomach acid, and inadequate intake of fat-metabolizing foods. Food allergies and sensitivities, stress and overeating further compound the issue. In order to gain a better appreciation for the problem, let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of bile.
Bile is brilliant, Bile is beautiful
Bile is an emulsifier—a type of soap for fats. It breaks them down into smaller particles so they can be absorbed by your gut. Every day, your liver synthesizes and secretes more than a quart of this thick greenish-yellow liquid and sends it to your gallbladder for storage.
Not only is this miracle molecule the key to absorbing and assimilating fats, but bile serves as a toxic waste sponge, soaking up excess chemicals, hormones, drugs, heavy metals and other toxins for elimination. Your liver continuously uses cholesterol for bile production, which helps keep cholesterol levels in check—another benefit. If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you’re at greater risk for weight gain and nutritional deficiencies, as well as toxic overload. The number of toxins you can eliminate directly depends on the amount of bile your body can produce each day.
Without a gallbladder, your risk for weight gain increases substantially as oversized fat globules make their way into your bloodstream, and because they’re not broken down into a usable form, your body has no other option than to store them as fat—along with fat-soluble toxins.
Congested bile is linked to a whole host of seemingly unrelated symptoms including hormone dysfunction, hypothyroidism, hot flashes, constipation, depression, migraines, insomnia, dry skin, chronic fatigue, yeast overgrowth, parasites—and the list goes on. Finnish researchers found hypothyroidism is seven times more likely in individuals with reduced bile flow. Release of bile triggers the release of an enzyme that converts T4 into T3, the usable form of thyroid hormone. Those who improve their bile enjoy a whopping 53 percent bump in metabolism.   
The worse your bile gets, the more toxic and nutritionally compromised your body becomes. The result is big-time fat storage, along with accumulation of toxins stored in body fat—and this has serious implications. By the time you have a 75 percent bile deficiency, you’ve already begun developing allergies, arthritis, and/or inflammation in your joints and muscles. By the time your deficiency hits 90 percent, you may be receiving a cancer diagnosis or another equally devastating illness. Early 20th Century health pioneers held bile as sacrosanct—it’s about time we rejoin them.
10 Tips to Turn Up Your Metabolism While Tuning Up Your Gallbladder
If you have symptoms of poor fat digestion such as nausea, bloating, constipation or pale stools, or if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, then it’s wise—I might even say critical—to increase your intake of bile-building foods and consider supplements to improve your bile.
If you’ve lost your gallbladder, don’t despair—it IS possible to be healthy without one. However, the same cannot be said for living without healthy bile.
In the table that follows, I have outlined 10 great bile-building strategies. For many more strategies, specific name-brand products, and a list of the 3 most gallstone provoking foods for those with gallbladder issues, please check out my new book, New Fat Flush Plan, an updated version of my New York Times bestseller that’s loaded with protocols for boosting your metabolism and sleuthing out hidden weight gain factors. This is the only major diet book that talks about the role of bile—which I’m convinced is the missing link.
Beets contain betaine which thins the bile and helps prevent gallstones. Betaine is also a rich source of hydrochloric acid, which is critical for digestion and triggers your gallbladder to release bile. Beetroot protects your liver from chemical toxicity.
Artichokes are a fabulous bile-producing food and liver protector. They may boost your glutathione levels as much as 50 percent.
Bitter foods trigger your pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and your gallbladder to release bile. Although digestive bitters are particularly important if you’re vegan or vegetarian, they are really helpful for everyone, with or without a gallbladder. Bitter greens such as arugula, endive, dandelion and radicchio offer wonderful benefits—as well as horseradish, which is also anti-cancer. Orange peel, gentian root, bitter artichoke and Angelica root are also excellent bitters. Stay away from Swedish bitters, which typically contain herbal laxatives such as rhubarb and senna.
Choline is an essential nutrient that acts as an emulsifier, assists fat digestion, reduces cellulite, decongests the liver, improves nerve and brain function, and builds hormones. Ninety percent of us are choline deficient.
Lecithin is one of the primary emulsifying agents in bile, containing significant choline. Lecithin breaks down fats making them more digestible. Lecithin also helps keep your homocysteine levels low, thereby reducing your cardiovascular risk. Lecithin from non-GMO soy or sunflower seeds makes a great fat-flushing supplement.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
I call apple cider vinegar a “miracle in a bottle!” ACV contains malic acid, which helps your body digest protein and thins the bile. Take one tablespoon of raw ACV in a glass of water before meals,
Taurine is a key component of bile acids, made in the liver. Many are deficient, especially vegans and vegetarians, because taurine is derived from organ meats and other animal proteins. Taurine helps thin the bile, assists detoxification, improves lipids, and lowers the risk for obesity.
Capsaicin will ignite your fat burning engine! Found in sweat-inducing foods and spices like cayenne, capsaicin stimulates metabolism by activating brown fat, as well as helping optimize your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The smoky-peppery spice cumin can boost your metabolic rate, promote weight loss, reduce body fat and LDL, and stimulate pancreatic enzymes. In one study, just one teaspoon of cumin increased weight loss by 50 percent. I use cumin in just about everything from soups to salad dressings to casseroles.
Omega-7 (palmitoleic acid) is the amazing omega you might not yet know about. Omega-7 operates as a “lipokine”: a hormone-like molecule that optimizes energy utilization and storage in body tissues at very low concentrations. Omega-7s really shine when it comes to improving your blood glucose, insulin and lipid levels. Omega-7s will even help build collagen! Where do you find them? Macadamia nuts, sea buckthorn, and deep sea anchovies.
Your New Mantra: Bile is Beautiful
Without good bile, you simply cannot digest and assimilate fats, no matter how many friendly fats you consume—and this means you can’t eat fat and lose weight without it.
Bile’s many functions boggle the mind, yet incredibly no one is talking about them. These days everyone mentions hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, fiber, acidity, alkalinity, toxicity, exercise and many other factors, but rarely is the gallbladder ever brought into the equation. Bile is disregarded, ignored—even shunned!
If your weight loss is at a standstill, or you have indigestion, constipation, allergies, sluggish thyroid, or a myriad of other persistent problems, congested bile should be your number one suspect. Without proper bile, you’re not breaking down fats or absorbing fat-soluble nutrients. You’re not getting rid of your excess hormones, heavy metals, toxic waste, bacteria, viruses or parasites. To my thinking, a healthy program must include a new and better relationship with your gallbladder—and if you don’t have a gallbladder, some serious bile support for your liver is in order. Think of bile as the new probiotics.
For more information on gallbladder disease, visit the GreenMedInfo.com Research Dasboard.
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 Laukkarinen J et al. “Increased prevalence of subclinical hypothyroidism in common bile duct stone patients,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Nov;92(11):4260-4 PMID: 17726069 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2007-1316
 Laukkarinen J et al. “The Underlying Mechanisms: How Hypothyroidism Affects the Formation of Common Bile Duct Stones—A Review,” HPB Surgery 2012 April;2012: Article ID 102825 http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/102825
 Guerrerio AL et al. “Choline intake in a large cohort of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;95(4):892-900. PMID: 22338037 PMCID: PMC3302364 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.020156
 Tsuboyama-Kasaoka N et al. “Taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) deficiency creates a vicious circle promoting obesity,” Endocrinology 2006 Jul;147(7):3276-84 PMID: 16627576 DOI: 10.1210/en.2005-1007
 Yang ZH et al. “Chronic administration of palmitoleic acid reduces insulin resistance and hepatic lipid accumulation in KK-Ay Mice with genetic type 2 diabetes,” Lipids in Health and Disease 2011 July; Article accesses:14363 10:120 DOI: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-120
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