Your gallbladder is a little green organ tucked under its yin pair of the large reddish brown liver. It has a very simple job in the body of concentrating bile. Bile salts are released slowly into your duodenum to help with degreasing fats so that enzymes can break down the protein molecules inside. For example, the protein molecules in a much adored food by many, peanut butter, can not be broken down by enzymes unless bile is released to degrease the oil surrounding these protein molecules. The gallbladder’s function of concentrating bile is done by obtaining sodium and water from the blood. The absorption of sodium and water from the blood also neutralizes stomach acid as acidic chyme slowly drips into the duodenum.
If a person’s stomach acid is insufficient this same sodium and water in the bile is reabsorbed into the blood. In other words the amount of acid in your stomach signals to the body to either keep the sodium and water absorbed by the blood in the gallbladder or to return the sodium and water back in the blood if not needed in the gallbladder because the lack of need to neutralize stomach acid from low stomach acidity. So… it is really important have sufficient stomach acid in your stomach to prevent the formation of gallstones in your gallbladder.
Here is a bit of interesting news also, and if you have visited any functional medicine or integrative medicine practitioner recently you have probably heard that if you have acid reflux it is not because you have hyperacidity within your stomach. Your stomach acid needs to be high within your stomach because it is needed for the activation of the enzyme pepsin within your stomach to breakdown large protein molecules into smaller ones. If you have acid reflux it is more likely due to a problem with your mucosal lining of your inner stomach walls not producing enough protective mucus to protect these walls from the acid in your stomach. But I digress….
In order to ensure proper digestion we need our stomach to reach an acidic pH state of below 3.0. It takes about 45 minutes after we eat and the natural stretching of stomach from food for enough hydrochloric acid to be generated by our blood in our stomach to activate the enzyme pepsin. Acid is also created in our stomach from healthy predigestion or the healthy breakdown of protein molecules by enzymes within our saliva and naturally occurring within vegetables. Basically we need to give our stomach the time it needs to do its job. Unfortunately when we put our body in a sympathetic mode right after we eat by eating and getting right back to work our digestion really suffers.
Water and Acid
Also, and if you are a patient of mine you have heard me talk about not drinking fluids with meals. Water is alkaline in nature, which is great by the way, but just not so good when the goal of our stomach is to be acidic to activate healthy digestion.
Putting it together
Now lets go back to the gallbladder and how it relates. Well I said this earlier but if there is insufficient acid in our stomach the gallbladder will not hold onto the sodium and WATER given to it from the blood. The gallbladder basically says, thanks but I don’t need this so here blood you can have it back. This is where the problem occurs when it comes to the formation of gallstones. With the lack of sodium and water within the bile in the gallbladder the bile becomes very thick and sluggish and eventually forms hardened stones. Symptoms of gallstones include pain, gas, bloating and constipation. Allopathic medicine says that if a part of the body is not working well take it out and that will take away the symptoms,… temporarily. This method of removing the gallbladder, however, as you now can clearly see and hopefully begin to understand will not address the underlying problem of insufficient stomach acid. After the gallbladder is removed the amazing body will compensate and function okay until the imbalance becomes to severe and then the symptoms will return.
You Can Do
You can avoid the painful discomfort of gallstones by just giving yourself some more time for healthy formation of acid to form within your stomach. This means properly chewing your food to release enzymes to begin the release of acid molecules, as well as allowing about 30-60 minutes to allow your stomach to stretch and reach its desired acidic state. If you are already in a disease state with poor digestion you may require the addition of certain supplements to help with the following issues: the production of acid within your stomach, the restoration of the mucosal lining within your stomach, and the addition of supplemental bile salts. Thanks for reading.
Please respond with any comments or questions.
In good health,
Joseph Tonzola L.Ac., Dipl. OM