- There doesn’t seem to be an answer to the diet and gallstones debate that makes the most sense.
- Many allopathic and functional medicine believe gallstones clogging up the gallbladder sac and impairing bile flow are caused by your diet and the foods you eat.
- Take cholesterol levels, for example. It was thought that dietary cholesterol caused undesirable blood cholesterol levels.
- However, the liver manufactures cholesterol, and although dietary cholesterol may be somewhat of a factor, most of the cholesterol within the body is produced by the liver.
- So, perhaps our diet doesn’t play a substantial role in the formation of gallstones, as we have been led to believe.
- Your digestive system consists of a series of organs that assist the body in getting the nutrients and energy it requires from the food we eat.
- The biliary system consists of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts.
- Bile is made in the liver.
- Bile neutralizes the acidic pH created by the stomach acid in the digestive process.
- Bile also carries toxins from the body that have been processed by the liver.
- 95% of the time, bile is reabsorbed in the small intestine, as it is very costly energy-wise for the body to make.
- Toxins that were meant to leave the body get circulated back to the liver in the bile.
- Having toxic bile that is continually recycled over and over is partly where bile stones and gallstones come from.
- Toxins can become encapsulated in the thickened bile, forming stones.
- Parasites, such as Giardia, Strongyloides, liver flukes, roundworms, and many others love to inhabit the liver/bile duct area.
- These parasites can get walled off, or encapsulated in the bile, forming stones.
- Other problems which disrupt the biliary system include leaky gut, estrogen dominance, inadequate dietary fiber, blood sugar imbalances, and glyphosate toxicity.
- Two key protocols for opening and draining adequately through the liver/bile duct are TUDCA (supplement) and coffee enemas.
MAYBE YOUR DIET ISN’T TO BLAME FOR YOUR GALLSTONES
There has been a lot of talk about diet and gallstones. A LOT of talk. And a lot of different opinions as well. However, when it comes right down to it, the allopathic and functional medicine communities still don’t seem to have an answer to the diet and gallstones debate that makes perfect sense.
This common belief is: “I have gallstones that are clogging up my gallbladder sac, and it’s caused by my diet and the food I’m eating. I gotta stop eating ______ (fill in the blank) and start eating more ______ (fill in the blank).” Sound familiar? Everyone seems to have different ideas of what foods fit in the blanks, too. This theory follows the same blurred lines as: “My cholesterol is too high, so I have to change my diet and stop eating eggs (or other cholesterol-containing foods).”
However, the “eggs are going to raise my cholesterol” way of viewing the blood cholesterol levels has been shown to be faulty reasoning time and time again. Why? Because the vast majority of cholesterol in our body does not come from what we consume in our diet, it is actually manufactured by the liver.1
WHAT ABOUT CHOLESTEROL?
Let’s think a little more about the cholesterol issue. For years and years (and still to this day) it was thought that dietary cholesterol caused undesirable blood cholesterol levels. But we now know that the liver manufactures cholesterol, and although dietary cholesterol may be a minor factor, most of the cholesterol within the body is produced by the liver. You may consume a lot of cholesterol in your diet but not have any cholesterol problems because the liver isn’t over-producing it.2 So, if you’ve been led to believe that your diet dictates your cholesterol levels, you have been the victim of someone else’s flawed reasoning.
That brings me to the idea that I want to present regarding gallstones. Does our diet play a substantial role in the formation of gallstones, as we have been led to believe? What if gallstones DON’T come from dietary considerations? What if, instead, it has to do with the toxic load and pathogenic burden that so many people, particularly the chronically ill, carry? To explore this, we need to take a look at the anatomy of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and how the gallbladder (and the bile it stores and releases) affects our digestive functions.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE DIGESTIVE PROCESS?
Your digestive system consists of a series of organs that assist the body in getting the nutrients and energy it requires from the food we eat. As the food travels through the digestive system, it goes through a series of processes to break it down, sort it, and reprocess it. Then, the needed nutrients and energy are circulated around the body to nourish, repair, and replace cells and supply energy to organs, structures, and tissues.3
Digestion begins in the mouth where chewing and saliva break down food so it can be more easily processed by the body. As you start eating, the stomach begins preparing to receive the food by producing stomach acid. Then, as the food is swallowed and enters the stomach, the release of stomach acid continues and creates a very acidic pH level in the stomach to break down and digest the food.
Once the stomach reaches a low enough pH, it triggers the release of the food being digested into the small intestine. Since the stomach acid is so acidic and the pH is so low at this point, without some sort neutralization, it would burn a hole in the small intestine. That’s where the bile comes in—it neutralizes the stomach acid so that the pH level is no longer acidic in the small intestine. Then, the small intestine, which is the workhorse of the digestive system, continues to break down the food with bile released from the liver and enzymes released by the pancreas.
So, bile is made in the liver. Just as the liver produces cholesterol (as I mentioned previously), it also produces bile. The liver, which is the detoxification lifeline of the body, is a vital organ with many essential functions. The liver’s two primary responsibilities in the process of digestion are:
- Making and secreting bile
- Processing, purifying, and eliminating toxins
Bile is a bitter, dark green to yellowish-brown liquid that has two primary purposes, as well:
- Helping to absorb fats, nutrients from fats, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, found mainly in fatty foods.
- Carrying waste from the liver that cannot go through the kidneys
Bile made in the liver flows to the small intestine through the bile ducts. If the bile isn’t needed right away, it is stored in the gallbladder.
So, the bile combines with the stomach acid to neutralize it. If the bile flow isn’t happening at a sufficient level—perhaps it is thick and sludgy, or the gallbladder (which stores the bile) contains gallstones which are clogging it up and causing it to function poorly—there will be insufficient buffering of the acidity. When there is too much acidity reaching the small intestine, the body compensates by slowing stomach acid production. The body recognizes that there is too much stomach acid, and it not because the body made too much of it, but because there is insufficient bile to neutralize the stomach acid.
So if the stomach slows down acid production because the bile flow is reduced or inadequate, then people have weak stomach acid, which is something that often happens, especially as people age. In order to turn this around, the drainage through the liver-gallbladder-bile duct system has to be improved upon.
WHAT ABOUT GALLSTONES?
So that brings us to the question: Why do people get gallstones and bile stones that clog up the gallbladder? Well, I believe it has a lot to do with toxins. The liver processes the toxins that come from everywhere—our food, our water, our air, our environment, etc.—and then the majority of the toxins the liver processes should ideally be dumped into the bile, and then the bile should move those toxins out of the body. Essentially, the bile acts as the 3rd phase of liver detoxification, as it removes the toxins processed by the 1st and 2nd internal phases of detoxification in the liver.
However, bile is very expensive for the body to make as it uses up a lot of energy, so it is reabsorbed in the lower part of the small intestine and returned to the liver to be recycled 95% of the time.4 So, toxins that were supposed to leave the body can get circulated back to the liver in the bile. The trick is to ensure that the toxins get removed from the body instead of being returned to the liver.
Getting plenty of fiber in the diet will help with clearing out the bile. And BioActive Carbons are helpful, as they bind onto the bile so that it can be eliminated through the large intestine. Furthermore, coffee enemas and a great supplement called TUDCA are two extremely effective ways to open up the flow of bile through the liver/bile duct, so bile can leave the body.
TUDCA (tauroursodeoxycholic acid) is a water-soluble bile acid that can cleanse the liver, counteract the toxicity of regular bile, and aid in cellular protection.5 Coffee enemas are an exceptional method of purging bile and opening flow. Coffee contains caffeine and choleretics, which are substances that increase the volume and secretion of bile.6 These help to ensure the bile (and the toxins) won’t be reabsorbed, and the body will have to make new, fresh bile.
Back to the gallstones—having toxic bile that is continually recycled over and over is partly where bile stones and gallstones come from. The toxins are becoming encapsulated in the thickened bile, forming stones. Additionally, if you have read any of my articles about parasites, you have probably heard me share that parasites, such as Giardia, Strongyloides, liver flukes, roundworms, and many others love to inhabit the liver/bile duct area. The body can wall these off, too (like toxins), by encapsulating the parasites in stones.
As it happens, this could be the same process that goes on in the formation of some cysts, such as uterine and ovarian cysts, and other kinds of “benign” cysts, tumors, or growths. These are not cancerous, which is why they are called benign, however, what if these form in the same type of process as the gallstones? What if the body forms these cysts as a means of walling off a toxin or a pathogen that might create a lot of havoc otherwise?
WHAT ABOUT OTHER BILIARY SYSTEM DISRUPTORS?
Leaky Gut Syndrome
It seems that leaky gut syndrome can affect the biliary system (liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts) as well, in much the same way as described above. Gut bacteria, pathogens, and toxins can cross the intestinal barrier and enter the bloodstream. The immune system recognizes these invaders in the bloodstream and creates an immune response. This pro-inflammatory signaling from the immune response can affect the biliary system by altering the gene expression and function of critical transport systems involved in bile secretion and uptake in the liver.7
When there is an overabundance of innate estrogen production or a buildup of estrogenic substances, like xenoestrogens, within the body, it can cause an increase in cholesterol, leading to thick, sluggish bile. External sources of estrogen such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, or IUDs, can lead to a higher risk for gallstone formation.8 Furthermore, excess estrogen or an estrogen dominance situation in the body has adverse effects on the sphincter of Oddi, a valve which controls the flow of bile out of the gallbladder. It is suggested that estrogen-induced constriction of the sphincter of Oddi can inhibit sphincter flow and contribute to the higher incidence of gallstones.9
Inadequate Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber can help with clearing out the bile.10 Fiber is also critical for the elimination of cholesterol and estrogens in the body. Without adequate fiber, there may be slow bile production, and bile may not be carried from the body easily, causing toxins to be recycled.
Blood Sugar Problems
When there are frequent blood sugar imbalances, the resulting stress and inflammation can cause the liver to increase the production of cholesterol, which concentrates and thickens the bile.11
Glyphosate is a toxic herbicide used on many food crops, particularly genetically modified ones (GMOs) which are altered genetically to be resistant to glyphosate. The toxicity of this chemical (and others that are sprayed in conjunction with it) and its disruption of critical enzymes slows down biliary processes, including bile secretion, production, and movement.12
HOW CAN YOU KEEP GALLSTONES IN CHECK?
Working to reduce the toxin and pathogen load in your body can make a huge difference with regard to gallstones and other dysfunctions of the biliary system. However, it all hinges on the condition of your body’s drainage system. If your liver/bile duct system is clogged and bile is not flowing freely and being eliminated from the body down the line by the large intestine, then toxins, debris, and microbial wastes will remain in the body. Remember, my two critical protocols for opening the liver/bile duct are TUDCA (supplement) and coffee enemas.