A gallbladder cleanse is a specialized diet designed to keep a person from getting gallstones or for treating existing gallstones. Some people may also call a gallbladder cleanse a “liver flush.” Gallstones are hardened deposits that can develop in the gallbladder and cause pain, nausea, and vomiting if they block one of the gallbladder’s ducts.
The gallbladder is responsible for storing the bile that the liver makes. This fluid can help you digest fat more effectively. While the gallbladder helps with digestion, you don’t need a gallbladder to live. If a person has gallstones that cause symptoms, most doctors will recommend surgical removal of the gallbladder. But some people may try a gallbladder cleanse to avoid surgery. However, there isn’t a specific gallbladder cleanse that all people follow. There’s little research that supports using a gallbladder cleanse as an alternative to medical treatments.
What are the claimed benefits of a gallbladder cleanse?
Some natural and alternative medicine proponents recommend a gallbladder cleanse to reduce gallstones. They claim the gallbladder cleanse causes the gallbladder to release the gallstones. Ideally, the gallstones then pass through the stool. If this occurs, a person would have fewer gallstones remaining to cause unpleasant symptoms and could possibly then avoid surgery.
Different gallbladder cleanse types exist. There are several “recipes” and folk remedies on the internet from alternative medicine practitioners. Here are some of the cleanse methods named in the journal Alternative Medicine Review:
Some people may also use enemas along with drinking olive oil and lemon juice to encourage bowel movements. Enemas may contain soap suds or warm water that a person instills into the rectum. The extra water can stimulate the bowels to move. These methods are just some of those described as a gallbladder cleanse. They typically promote passing stool and can also cause diarrhea. Most don’t involve making dietary changes for more than a night or two.
Is there any research to support a gallbladder cleanse?
There’s little research supporting gallbladder cleanses. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person may see lumps in their stool that appear to be gallstones but are actually lumps of the oil and juice used in the cleanse itself.
According to the Alternative Medicine Review, few people who complete a gallbladder cleanse have had follow-up imaging studies to determine if they actually have fewer gallstones after the cleanse. Like the Mayo Clinic, the journal article found the lumps that appear to be gallstones weren’t usually made of the common components of gallstones, such as cholesterol or bilirubin.
The journal did point to an early 1990s study that found, using ultrasound, that some people had fewer gallstones after completing a gallbladder flush. However, no significant medical studies supporting gallbladder flushes have been published since that time.
What are the side effects of a gallbladder cleanse?
The side effects of a gallbladder cleanse can depend upon the “recipe” a person uses to do the cleanse. For example, many people use olive oil in their gallbladder cleanse. This can have a laxative effect when taken in large amounts. Some people may report the following symptoms from using a gallbladder cleanse: diarrhea, nausea and or vomiting. Other side effects may depend upon the herbs or other ingredients a person uses in their cleansing. It’s also possible that a person can do a gallbladder cleanse, and the cleanse won’t work to clear out their gallstones. At that time, they likely need to seek surgical treatment to keep their symptoms from worsening or their gallbladder from getting infected.
Identifying Gallbladder Problems and Symptoms
What is the gallbladder?
Your gallbladder is a four-inch, pear-shaped organ. It’s positioned under your liver in the upper-right section of your abdomen. The gallbladder stores bile, a combination of fluids, fat, and cholesterol. Bile helps break down fat from food in your intestine. The gallbladder delivers bile into the small intestine. This allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Symptoms of a gallbladder problem
Gallbladder conditions share similar symptoms. These include:
Pain: The most common symptom of a gallbladder problem is pain. This pain usually occurs in the mid- to upper-right section of your abdomen. It can be mild and intermittent, or it can be quite severe and frequent. In some cases, the pain can begin to radiate to other areas of the body, including the back and chest. Nausea or vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of all types of gallbladder problems. But only chronic gallbladder disease may cause digestive problems, such as acid reflux, gas, nausea, and vomiting.Fever or chills: An unexplained fever may signal that you have an infection. If you have an infection, you need treatment before it worsens and becomes dangerous. The infection can become life-threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body. Chronic diarrhea: Having more than four bowel movements per day for at least three months may be a sign of chronic gallbladder disease. Jaundice: Yellow-tinted skin may be a sign of a common bile duct block or stone. Unusual stools or urine: Lighter-colored stools and dark urine are possible signs of a common bile duct block.
Potential gallbladder problems
Any disease that affects your gallbladder is considered a gallbladder disease. The following conditions are all gallbladder diseases. Inflammation of the gallbladder (Cholecystitis) . It can be either acute (short-term), or chronic (long-term). Chronic inflammation is the result of several acute cholecystitis attacks. Inflammation may eventually damage the gallbladder, making it lose its ability to function correctly.
Gallstones are small, hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder. These deposits can develop and go undetected for years. In fact, many people have gallstones and aren’t aware of them. They eventually cause problems, including inflammation, infection, and pain. Gallstones typically cause short-term cholecystitis.
Gallstones are usually very small, no more than a few millimeters wide. But they can grow to several centimeters. Some people develop only one gallstone, while others develop several. As the gallstones grow in size, they can begin to block the channels that lead out of the gallbladder.
Most gallstones are formed from cholesterol found in the gallbladder’s bile. Another type of gallstone, a pigment stone, is formed from calcium bilirubinate. Calcium bilirubinate is a chemical that’s produced when your body breaks down red blood cells. This type of stone is rare.
Common bile duct stones (choledocholithiasis) Gallstones can occur in the common bile duct. The common bile duct is the channel that leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Bile is ejected from the gallbladder, passed through small tubes, and deposited in the common bile duct. It’s then ushered into the small intestine. In most cases, common bile duct stones are actually gallstones that developed in the gallbladder and then passed into the bile duct. This type of stone is called a secondary common bile duct stone, or secondary stone. Sometimes stones form in the common bile duct itself. These stones are called primary common bile duct stones, or primary stones. This rare type of stone is more likely to cause an infection than a secondary stone.
Gallbladder disease without stones - Gallstones don’t cause every type of gallbladder problem. Gallbladder disease without stones, also called acalculous gallbladder disease, can occur. In this case, you may experience symptoms commonly associated with gallstones without actually having stones.
Common bile duct infection - An infection may develop if the common bile duct is obstructed. Treatment for this condition is successful if the infection is found early. If it’s not, the infection may spread and become fatal.
Abscess of the gallbladder - a small percentage of people with gallstones may also develop pus in the gallbladder. This condition is called empyema. Pus is a combination of white blood cells, bacteria, and dead tissue. The development of pus leads to severe abdominal pain. If the condition isn’t diagnosed and treated, it can become life-threatening as the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
Gallstone ileus, gallstone may travel into the intestine and block it. This condition is rare but can be fatal. It’s most common among individuals who are older than 65.
Perforated gallbladder, If you wait too long to seek treatment, gallstones can lead to a perforated gallbladder. This is a life-threatening condition. If the tear isn’t detected, a dangerous, widespread abdominal infection may develop.
Gallbladder polyps are growths that develop. These growths are typically benign, or noncancerous. Small gallbladder polyps may not need to be removed. In most cases, they don’t pose any risk to you or your gallbladder. But larger polyps may need to be surgically removed before they develop into cancer or cause other problems.
Porcelain gallbladders a healthy gallbladder has very muscular walls. Over time, calcium deposits can stiffen the gallbladder walls, making them rigid. This condition is called porcelain gallbladder. People with this condition have a high risk of developing gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder cancer is rare. If it’s not detected and treated, it can spread beyond the gallbladder quickly.
Understanding gallbladder problems
Symptoms of a gallbladder problem may come and go. However, you’re more likely to develop a gallbladder problem if you’ve had one before.
While gallbladder problems are rarely deadly, they should still be treated. You can prevent gallbladder problems from worsening if you take action and see a doctor. (HEALTHLINE)