Getting parts of the body hacked off as we age is considered normal these days, and is indeed a testament to the wonders of modern science - a reason to celebrate modern surgical knowhow. And let’s face it, it is pretty damn amazing what can be chopped off and sewn up, but I’m not so sure this is a reason to celebrate.
Surely this was not in God’s evolutionary plan…
Surely it is an indication that something is amiss, and our capacity for technological and surgical solutions merely obscures the fact…
Gall bladder removal is second only to Appendix removal as a great example. So commonplace in our culture, that we barely notice the traumatic nature of the event, and consider it more a life-extension than a major symptom management technique.
The Work & Rest Balance
To understand anything about the body, the best place to look is past history into evolution. And with comparison to our closest relatives - those that evolved in similar situations to us - we find much natural wisdom.
Considering that our gut is essentially identical to that of the great apes, we can see more or less what we were designed to be eating. And therefore looking at their natural eating patterns reveals just how far from that we have drifted, and what the consequences might be.
Apes tend to eat one things at a time, which gives the various digestive organs time to create digestive environments particular to that kind of food.
A belly full of figs will require much sugar and water assimilation, but not a lot of protein or fat digestion, so those organs working hard (pancreas) have time to optimise their task, while the others rest.
Moving onto the walnut tree requires a switch, as they are relatively low sugar & water, but much higher fat and protein content, so the stomach and liver are working harder.
As different digestive organs are switching from ‘on’ to ‘off’ allows them to rest and rejuvenate before they are ‘on’ again. A system designed over millions of years for optimum digestion.
Optimum Fat Assimilation
The liver has many roles to play in the body, and its digestive duties are but one. Aside from the alkaline balance that it is keen to manage with the stomach, its primary focus for digestion is the assimilation of emulsifying materials to assist the uptake of fats and oils.
It is producing these emulsifying materials all day and all night, and they would trickle into the small intestine via the bile duct, but nature notices that this isn’t very efficient.
Primate diets don’t contain a lot of fat, so the majority of the emulsifying salts from the liver would be wasted, so it regulates them - enter the Gall Bladder.
This humble little sack sits on the side of the bile duct, and has the capacity to relax and absorb the emulsifying bile.
When no significant amounts of fats are tasted in the current meal, the gall bladder relaxes and does just that.
Later on, when a fatty meal is tasted, the gall bladder contracts, exuding its concentrated emulsifying contents back into the bile duct, and onward into the small intestines to work their wonders upon the fats in that meal.
Essentially you might say that the gall bladder is there to maximise fat uptake.
This tells us two valuable things about diet.
Fats are vitally essential - so essential that we have an organ whose sole purpose it is to maximise their uptake.
And primates have relatively fat-poor diets, thus the need for this optimisation.
Modern humans definitely do not have fat-poor diets, and the consequences are abundantly clear in any hospital cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) ward.
Eat meal contains abundant fats to stimulate the contraction of the gall bladder, so it rarely gets to relax.
Keeping an organ stressed like this is going to cause symptoms at some point.
Stoned to Death
There is another player in this so far simple drift from nature.
Modern humans are also predisposed to forming stones in the gall bladder - this is a less simple affair, but no doubt equally lifestyle related.
We tend to run quite dehydrated, because most of the food we eat is cooked instead of high-water content raw foods.
This means that all the fluids in the system will run a bit to thick, so the bile entering the gall bladder for concentration is already more viscous than it should be, so concentrating it further results in solids rather than thicker fluids.
Most stones are made of cholesterol - no longer considered the biproduct of excess meat eating, but more a messenger that flags up damage or cells in need for attention from the immune system.
Whilst the rest are misplaced calcium salts or bilirubin - debris from broken down blood cells (1 & 2).
Too much of any of that in the bile, will accumulate and concentrate in the gall bladder, and condense into stones.
The stones themselves are not a problem - formed in the folds in the near-constantly contracted gall wall.
Symptoms begin when one such stone comes out of its nested position and begins to travel towards the bile duct. If it lodges anywhere along the way, then the increased pressure from a contraction (in response to fatty foods) will be felt as crippling pain in the abdomen.
The real problems can begin when a stone lodged in the bile duct restricts flow of other fluids from liver or pancreas… digestion falters and fails, and then the liver backs up, showing first as jaundice, and if the pancreas is restricted too, then pancreatitis and death are a distinct possibility…
So, avoiding all of this is best of course - der !
But given modern lifestyles, etc., it now seems that virtually everyone has some degree of gall stones. Most trundle along without a hint, as long as the stones stay well nested. Others are less fortunate.
Once the gall bladder is removed however, the consequences on one’s lifestyle seem to be fairly minimal - feeding into the ‘get in there and chop out nature’s mistakes’ attitude of modern medicine.
Without a gall bladder to regulate it, the emulsifying bile can only trickle continuously into the small intestine.
But as we tend to eat plenty of fats in all of our daily diet, the lack of regulatory action provided by the gall bladder, is not so essential as it would have been in our ancient forest diet.
In some strange way, the problem is its own solution…
However, because we will only pick up so much of the fats available in the gut, and no longer have the ability to get all of them, it becomes even more important to scape the dad fats from your diet, and eat the right ones… See previous articles on fats & oils
There are practices emerging to deal with the stones without removing the gall bladder, some ancient, some modern.
Ayurveda proposes numerous foods and herbs that can reverse and treat gall stones - such as bitter gourd, Amla, Pattha Chatta, and Tejpatta. (5)
There are ultrasound techniques being developed to break up stones with high energy sound waves called Lithotripsy (6) - it is shown to be successful on Kidney stones so far, but the cross over is being looked at.
The bile of other animals has been used for a while - specifically bears, as they produce ursodeoxycholic acid (7), which has shown some use in this area - but the ethics of such husbandry are highly problematic.
Who needs that on their conscience..
Gall bladder or liver flushes are a long-standing proposal, with lots of anecdotal evidence for improving digestion and general liver health. They typically use large quantities of acidic fruit juice and something oily to squeeze the gall bladder and jump-start the liver - but their claims may be misleading. Many are said to expel gall stones the size of almonds, but as the bile duct is 6mm diameter (not matter how much apple juice or epsom salts are consumed), if a gall stone greater than that was mobilised, you would be in serious trouble. So, many of the results proposed by such systems cannot be gall stones.
Plus the expelled stones are typically green, soft blobs which float in water and melt in sunlight. Cholesterol and Bilirubin (the two main components of actual gall stones) are solid, heavy and very stone-like, so the results of the typical lemon juice and oil flush cannot be producing what we think they are.
These soft, blobby results are far more likely to be just what happens to all the oils and acids when you pass them through a 28 foot digestive system.
However, the consequences of squeezing the liver with such practices will bring some life back into a backed up system, so there is a feel good factor, and often better digestion. So it is not that this is a bad thing to do - it just doesn’t seem to do what we think !
The Etheric Gall Bladder
In Chinese medicine, and its relatives, organs are associated with various emotions and traits in a person.
As the liver is associated with Anger, and the Gall Bladder with Will, we can see some themes here.
Our culture is notoriously suppressive of such emotions as anger, and from a young age, it is judged and squashed. Yet will or ambition is celebrated.
As anger is a fundamentally fiery life force that protects us when necessary, and gets the job done, it figures (for me) that if it is suppressed and comes out in unhealthy ways, then its neighbour, “ambition” will get fuelled by that unhealthy flow. Is this where ambition becomes dominance, and will becomes competition ? This theory works for me.
Staying Attached to yours
As usual, avoidance is best. And a natural diet provides the best route to sensitive expressions.
Staying off concentrated carbs, like grains and beans.
Plenty of fresh, raw, organic, leafy veg.
Sensible amounts of digestible plant oils, and moderate quantities of animal fats.
Expression of emotions as they happen, in ways that do NOT inflict pain, blame or implication on anyone else.
Use of one’s skills, will and ambition for the good of all.
Understanding Gallstones : https://www.healthline.com/health/gallstones
Bruce, W. Et al Pigment vs cholesterol cholelithiasis: comparison of stone and bile composition. The American journal of digestive diseases 1974 No.7 vol.19.
Ko, CW. Et al. Incidence, natural history, and risk factors for biliary sludge and stones during pregnancy. Hepatology. 2005 Feb;41(2):359-65.
Patient UK. Gallstones and Cholecystitis: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Gallstones-andCholecystitis.htm
Ayurveda and Gall Stones https://www.theayurveda.org/ayurveda/herbal-medicine/what-is-gall-bladder-stone-and-how-to-cure-it-naturally
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy - https://www.bupa.co.uk/.../urinary-bladder-problems/extracorporeal-shock-wave-lithotripsy
Harvesting Bear Bile - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bile_bear