Tag Archives: dietary fiber

Is gallbladder sludge linked to your gut bacteria?

Gallbladder sludge is an initial step in the development of gallstones. It causes many people pain but is arguably too early for surgery.  There are, of course, many natural ways to address this issue including a basic protocol, lecithin, and castor oil packs and research is indicating that probiotics might be helpful as well. While it stands to reason that a healthy digestive tract, i.e. one with a thriving colony of beneficial bacteria, will help protect against any digestive disease it is still nice to see the results on paper.

This study, published in the online journal PLoSOne, was actually conducted on different types of mice. These mice were from four groups of genetically related strains that were purchased from different vendors with a very different treatment of the mice in terms of their good bacteria. The researchers use genetically similar mice because genetics plays a role in gallbladder stone and sludge development so having similar genetics eliminates that variable and puts all the mice on an even playing field. The groups of mice differed mostly in their gut flora.  One vendor maintains the mice in a germ-free environment but doesn’t introduce any good bacteria. Another colonizes the mice with a healthy bacterial flora and then maintains a pathogen-free environment after that.

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

All of the mice were fed a “lithogenic diet”  meaning a diet that is known to induce gallstones. This diet was essentially similar to a high-fat human diet. Specifically 1% cholesterol, 15% triglycerides and 0.5% cholic acid (one of the components of bile – in humans we would produce this naturally). Results were based on gallbladder weight, the percentage of mucin (or mucus) in the bile, cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation, and presence or absence of true cholesterol stones.

The study found that the mice with the good flora were more resistant to gallbladder sludge than the mice without the good flora. The total gallbladder weight was lower which is important because it represents a measurable way to test inflammation. Inflamed gallbladders grow thicker walls that have a higher content of immune cells and inflammatory particles.  Also the mice without the good flora showed higher percentages of mucin and researchers were able to determine that the good bacteria actually influence the gene expression of those mice.  Healthy gut bacteria is able to down-regulate the action of mucin genes, which contribute to mucus formation in the digestive tract.

Actual cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation and cholesterol stones were also all significantly less in the mice with healthy gut flora.

What Does This Mean for Humans With Gallbladder Sludge?

Mice aren’t people, and although this is certainly something to think about, we can’t jump to the conclusion that gallbladder sludge can be prevented by good bacteria.  We can, however, use common sense to say that chances are having healthy digestive bacteria can help our bodies to maintain healthy digestion. That means that gut inflammation will probably be lower with good flora, there will probably be less mucus, and digestive processes will run more smoothly.  Logically it makes sense that this would lead to less gallbladder sludge formation.

How Do I Get Healthy Gut Flora?

Of course, there are a million probiotic formulas out there all claiming to be the “best” and as a consumer, it can be very difficult to wade through unless there is specific research on a specific product for the specific issue you’re having (which happens only in a handful of cases). There are not any products currently on the market which are researched for gallbladder sludge.  There are a number of ways to increase your good bacteria, many of which are from food.

Increasing Your Good Gut Flora

Your gut bacteria are 100 trillion friends you didn’t know you had. Take care of them!

  • Reduce Antibiotic Use. If at all possible, minimize or eliminate all antibiotics from your life.  Life-threatening illnesses are a different matter and some situations do require antibiotics but work with your doctor to minimize usage that is not absolutely necessary. Antibiotics kill off your good bacteria along with any bad bacteria and overuse is linked to obesity, serious digestive disease along with the more globally threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Moderate Processed Foods. Processed foods are typically filled with preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, colors and other chemicals that are foreign to your body and to your more fragile gut flora.  A whole food diet has been shown to foster a very different digestive environment than a processed food diet and so eating foods with fewer chemicals will help your host of tiny helpers.
  • Increase Dietary Fiber.  If you’ve read this blog before you probably know I’m a big fan of fiber. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to feed the good bacteria and provides material for fermentation in your gut.  All of those good bacteria really like fermentation and need the “prebiotics” or bacteria food that the fiber provides.
  • Get More Fermented Foods. Naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sourkraut and other fermented veggies like spicy kimchee are all rich sources of good bacteria and can help to reintroduce those good strains into your digestion.
  • Grow Some (Organic) Veggies. Many of our good bacteria are soil microorganisms that we are supposed to through contact with, well, soil.  We are supposed to have these good bacteria from the earth and historically we would have got plenty of them by gardening, harvesting, farming and eating vegetables that aren’t “sanitized” before being put on grocery store shelves or irradiated to prevent foreign plant diseases from entering the country with produce. So growing some of your own or buying from a good local organic grower.  Rinsing your veggies as you normally would won’t eliminate all of the healthy bacteria so as long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides they’re a great source of some of your most potent good flora.
  • Take a Supplement.  The supplements are always an option if that is easiest for you, but don’t forget to do some of the rest of it too. In terms of supplements, every digestive tract is different so it can be helpful to rotate through different types of products with different strains of beneficial bacteria because there isn’t a great way to predict which strains will colonize best in your system.



5 Biggest Weight Loss Blockers

So many people struggle with weight loss.  No matter what anyone tells you, it is never easy.  There are always challenges and hardships because in order to lose weight you really do have to change the way you view food, time, yourself and your social habits.  Piece of cake, right? The problem is that in addition to changing lifestyle you have to worry about weight loss blockers. These are hidden things that get in the way of your weight loss goals, even when you’re doing everything right. Here are 5 of the most common.

1.  Sluggish Thyroid

Low thyroid function has become almost “normal” in our society, simply because it is so common.  Your thyroid determines your resting level of energy.  It is basically the gland that controls how fast your engine idles, and it does that via thyroid hormones.  If these hormones aren’t doing their job properly then the resting idle slows and you don’t burn nearly as many calories or have nearly as much energy to do things like exercise.  This makes low thyroid one of the biggest weight loss blockers. You could be at risk of low thyroid function if you have any of these:

  • Chilly, get cold easily, cold hands and feet
  • Tired, slow moving, slow thinking, sluggish feeling
  • Dry skin, dry hair, brittle or coarse hair, puffy looking face
  • Depression, lack of motivation, increased need for sleep

Of course the best thing is to have your doctor test your thyroid hormones, but many people experience symptoms of low thyroid, including weight gain or difficulty losing weight, when they are within normal limits.  Usually what that means is that your thyroid doesn’t have any major problem, but is slowing down enough to give you warning signals. These things can help to re-balance your thyroid and increase it’s performance:

  • Limit your soy intake – excess soy slows down thyroid function
  • Increase your iodine – either with a supplement like iodoral, prolamine iodine or kelp supplements or by eating more sea vegetables.  Your body can’t make thyroid hormones without iodine and the receptors for your thyroid hormones don’t work without iodine so this is really important.
  • Check yourself for wheat sensitivity, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – dairy sensitivity can also be an issue. Un-managed sensitivities can wreak havoc on your thyroid.  If you don’t know how to check those things then read up on it here.

2.  Hormone Imbalance

Your thyroid isn’t the only player in this game.  Unfortunately, all of your hormones play some role in metabolism, fat distribution and use, hunger, satiety and general weight management. This includes estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, adrenal hormones and hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin.  You may have these types of hormone imbalances if:

  • Your body shape has changed (like from pear to apple) or the areas where you are gaining weight are different
  • Your menstrual cycle (in women) or sex drive (both genders) has suddenly changed
  • You are seeing weight packing on around the waist, stomach and back
  • Your stress level has spiked lately or you’re not sleeping because of stress
  • Your blood sugars and triglycerides have been increasing lately

This isn’t a complete list, but it’s the most obvious signs. If this is the case work with your doctor or practitioner to get to the root of the problem.  Until you address the hormones the weight isn’t going to go anywhere.  Some simple things you can do to help begin to address any hormone problem naturally are:

  • Exercise – this is your great regulator and can decrease stress levels, change sugar processing and even help to balance your sex hormones.
  • Water – boosting your water intake helps your body to regulate hormones better and to detoxify them more effectively.
  • Fiber – increasing fiber allows the hormones that you eliminate via your liver to attach to fiber in the gut and actually be eliminated from the body – you can read more about it here.  Without the fiber you tend to pull the hormones back into your bloodstreams to be recirculated.
  • Balance your diet – reducing carbs, which are sugars and starches, will help your body to cope with your hormones far more effectively.  In the long-term this is one of the most effective things you can do for your weight. Eat frequently and every time you eat make sure you’re getting protein, fiber, low carbs and moderate fat.

3. Food Sensitivities

Eating a food you’re sensitive to raises your resting level of inflammation, keeps your body in a state of panic and makes it much harder to lose weight.  Part of the problem is that one symptom of the food sensitivity is a craving for that food (the food you’re sensitive to) that has nothing to do with what your body actually needs, or even hunger.  It’s literally an addictive response to the inflammation created by that food. The inflammation and the addiction both help you to pack on the pounds and act as huge weight loss blockers. Finding and eliminating your food sensitivities will not only help you drop those unwanted pounds, but also help reduce any symptoms you may be having.  Find out more about eliminating your food sensitivites!

Get rid of your weight loss blockers and find reasons to love your measuring tape again. © Ragne Kabanova | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Get rid of your weight loss blockers and find reasons to love your measuring tape again. © Ragne Kabanova | Dreamstime Stock Photos

4. Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Drugs are among the guiltiest of guilty parties in the weight loss game.  Anti-depressants, steroids, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and some anti-psychotic medications.  There isn’t really a test for this – just think about any medication changes you may have had in the 1-3 months before you started gaining weight.  There may be other drugs you can switch to that would give you the same benefits without the extra pounds, but sometimes there aren’t. Talk with your doctor about this one – sometimes you just have to try a few things before you find the one that’s right for you.

5. Poor Sleep.

If you’re not sleeping then you’re not losing weight.  It’s just a simple fact.  Poor or inadequate sleep causes an increase in hunger, more carb cravings, a decrease in the hormone that makes your body feel “full” and it slows down your ability to lose fat.  Basically this means that even if you’re doing everything else right, if you’re not sleeping then you’re going to have a hard time shedding the pounds. Sleep is complex and takes time and work to fix, but here are a few basic tips and if this isn’t enough, check out the sleep post:

  • Keep your bedroom DARK and restful.  No loud TV, block out lights and even LED lights.   Your body really is meant to sleep in the dark.
  • Try to begin “winding down” a couple of hours before you actually go to bed.  Dimmer light, quieter atmosphere, no work and calming activities like yoga, meditation, reading, journaling or cozy time with your partner are great for this time of day. Did I mention no work?  That includes the last minute email checks too!
  • Developing a sleep routine can be helpful, almost a sleep ritual.  This helps you get into the state of mind for sleep.
  • If you are having sleep problems that are more complicated then talk to your doctor or practitioner.  Sleep is a big deal and your health and happiness suffer in every way without it.

The biggest thing to remember with weight loss is don’t give up.  Sometimes it just comes down to finding that one key to unlocking your body and then the pounds just melt away.  I’ve seen it happen many times – one of my patients fixes their inflammation, their hormones, or their sleep and all of a sudden the pounds come off without any other changes.  Weight loss blockers can add frustration, create stress and keep you discouraged so if your weight isn’t moving then it’s time to look for the blocks. Just keep trying to listen to the signals your body is sending you!

Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge and Detoxification

Fiber is about the least sexy thing I could choose to talk about, but in terms of helping your body to eliminate toxins it’s at the top of the list and fiber for gallbladder sludge is essential. Especially helping to eliminate fat soluble toxins like hormones, bile salts and cholesterol residues that often make up gallbladder sludge. In fact, fiber is one of the key ways to help your body eliminate sludge from the gallbladder as long as it’s used correctly.

The Basics about Fiber:

Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and  forms a gooey sponge in the gut that grabs toxins and also feeds gut bacteria.  Insoluble fiber is unchanged by water and acts as an irritant to the gut wall, helping it to move correctly. Insoluble fiber can also ferment in the gut and act as a food source for your good bacteria. In terms of fiber supplements that means if you mix it with your drink and can’t tell it’s there, it’s soluble.  If you mix it with your drink and it adds some texture or grit, then it’s insoluble.

Soluble and insoluble fiber have slightly different uses and functions in the body, but for the purpose of this article I’m not going to differentiate.  I just want you to get fiber and lots of it.

General Benefits from Dietary Fiber:

  1. Detoxification – As your body eliminates toxins in the liver they are excreted into your intestines in order to pass out in your stool.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.  Often we reabsorb these toxins, sometimes on purpose as is often the case with hormones and bile salts (both frequent components of gallbladder sludge) and sometimes by accident. If there is fiber in your intestines the fiber binds to the toxin and will not let your body reabsorb it. This means fiber for gallbladder sludge, detox or weight loss (which is a kind of detox) is absolutely essential.
  2. Regularity – This is the part of fiber that most people know about.  It keeps your bowels regular and easy. This also is important for detoxification, simply because the more effective your bowels are, the more of the toxins from your liver are able to be released.  The slower your bowels are moving the more likely it is that toxins will be reabsorbed. Fight your constipation the simplest way, with fiber. Just make sure you drink lots of water every time you take a fiber supplement because without enough water they can cause constipation instead of relieving it.
  3. Hormone Balancing – Most people don’t know that one of the most important mechanisms of hormone balancing is elimination.  Hormones are just signals and in order to end that signal when we don’t need it any more, you eliminate those hormones just like you would a toxin.  If fiber isn’t there to catch the hormones in your intestine then often you will pull them back in to your blood stream in a misguided attempt at being thrifty – we are the ultimate hormone hoarders.  Fiber binds to hormones just like it does to bile salts and pulls them out of your body, helping to maintain your natural hormone balance.
  4. Blood Sugar Stability – This is tragically overlooked.  The simple act of adding fiber to a meal helps your body to more effectively regulate and moderate the sugars that are coming in with that meal.  Given that diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, this simple step seems worth it.  Fiber supplements or fiber-rich foods like flax seeds can also be added to foods like mashed potatoes that have a high glycemic index to help to moderate their effect on your blood sugar.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber and fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge

Fiber for gallbladder sludge is almost essential.  When you’re working on eliminating the sludge it’s always a coordinated effort of liquefying bile, increasing bile flow through the gallbladder to flush the sludge out, and fiber to grab the toxins from the sludge and pull them out of the body so you don’t end up having to detoxify them back through the gallbladder. For more about the other steps of eliminating gallbladder sludge see this article as well as these helpful steps towards boosting liver performance. Fiber is essentially a large floppy molecule that acts like a sponge, catching the toxins that are released and holding on to them so that your body can’t reabsorb them.  Fiber itself isn’t absorbed into your blood, it stays in your gut so it’s only available for use if you’ve eaten it recently – you can’t stock up the way you can with some vitamins and nutrients.  For that reason fiber with every meal is important.

The average American eating the “standard american diet” (or SAD diet) gets between 12 and 15 g of fiber daily.  The recommended daily allowance is 25 g and if you’re working on detoxification, weight loss or gallbladder sludge then it may be  a good idea to get even more than that. Spreading fiber out through out the day so that there is always some in your gut to bind to toxins is extremely helpful. Also as you’re increasing the fiber in your diet it’s extremely important to increase slowly and to add water proportionally because otherwise fiber can be constipating, which is pretty much the opposite of what we want.

For the next week try to count the grams of fiber you take in on a daily basis just to see where you are starting from.  If your fiber intake is too low then one of the best things you can do is add more high fiber foods into your diet or even a fiber supplement if you can’t add the foods.  I try to shoot for anything between 30-50 grams daily.  I don’t always make it, but I always try. Foods like nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate (woohoo!!!) are all high in fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and any other kind of detoxification is absolutely essential.