What is the Gallbladder?

Apr 13, 2023 | Gallbladder Support | 0 comments

What is the Gallbladder?What is the Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a  small organ (only 4 inches long by 2 inches wide), and it is incredibly important for proper digestion. This tiny sack is located just below the liver.

What is the Function of the Gallbladder and How Does it Work?

The primary function of the gallbladder is to concentrate and store bile. Bile is composed of bile salts, water, cholesterol, lecithin, and a pigment called bilirubin. The bile salts help break down dietary fat from the food we eat so the body can easily absorb it. Our liver cells produce up to 34 ounces of bile daily, and this bile is sent through ducts that lead to the gallbladder and small intestine. When we eat a meal, the liver sends bile directly to the small intestine. In between meals, bile is stored in the gallbladder for later use (IQWiG, 2018). 

Unfortunately, the gallbladder doesn’t always function correctly. There are two main diseases that can arise in the gallbladder: gallstones and gallbladder cancer.

Gallstones are a common and growing health condition, estimated to affect 20-25 million Americans. Gallstones are primarily made of hardened deposits of bile that form in the gallbladder. Risk factors include higher age groups, high fat and low fiber diet, female gender, family history of gallstones and having an ethnic background. There are other risk factors like obesity, losing weight quickly and living a sedentary life which can also increase risk of developing gallstones (Stinton & Shaffer, 2012).  

Symptoms of gallstones include intense abdominal pain just under the ribs, vomiting and indigestion. However, many people have gallstones and don’t even experience symptoms (NIDDK, 2022). They are usually found by accident due to another procedure.

Gallstones can sometimes pass through with the help of medication or resolve on their own, but typically the gallbladder must be removed. The body can function without the gallbladder, but dietary modifications usually need to be made.

Gallbladder cancer, on the other hand, is a rare but serious form of cancer. The symptoms are vague which can make it difficult to diagnose quickly. Risk factors are similar to those for gallstones, and having gallstones can increase risk of gallbladder cancer (Stinton & Shaffer, 2012).

It is important to focus on what we can control: lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity, so that we can reduce risk of gallstones and gallbladder cancer. That is the purpose of the Gallbladder Diet!



Gallstones. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones

How does the gallbladder work? (2018). Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

Stinton, L. M., & Shaffer, E. A. (2012). Epidemiology of gallbladder disease: cholelithiasis and cancer. Gut and Liver6(2), 172–187. https://doi.org/10.5009/gnl.2012.6.2.172

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