Tag Archives: natural remedies for gallbladder

Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy – What Now?

Go figure that pregnancy with all of it’s rapidly and vastly changing hormones is one of the most common triggers for gallbladder sludge, and it’s also one of the hardest times to do anything about it. Let’s look at why it happens and what you can do about it. If you’re unclear about what the gallbladder does, and what sludge is then read this post first.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy

Gallbladder can cause a wide range of issues ranging from mild to severe, but any issue is worth discussing with your doctor because untreated disease can lead to complications for the pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Itching – on belly, palms and soles or all over. This can happen with or without a rash. If it’s serious, go to your doctor.
  • Right sided digestive pain – at the bottom of your rib cage on the R side or radiating into the R shoulder blade, R shoulder or even L shoulder blade.
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Why is Gallbladder Sludge So Common in Pregnancy?

Gallbladder sludge essentially happens when your gallbladder is overwhelmed by too much cholesterol and not enough bile.  You’ll recall that the bile acts as kind of a “soap” to emulsify fats and make them more water soluble so that they can be both excreted and absorbed in the digestive tract. Just like with dish soap, if there is too much fat or grease and not enough soap you get a sludgy goo that tends to stick to everything and generally get in the way. Hence gallbladder sludge. But why does this happen in pregnancy? Many reasons:

  • Huge hormone shifts – Rapid changes in hormone levels mean that lots of hormones (fat soluble) are being excreted by the liver, and fat soluble toxins are excreted via bile. In fact, below are pictures of a cholesterol molecule and an estrogen molecule – no doubt you’ll notice the similarities (and estrogen along with the other sex hormones is made in your body from cholesterol).

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it's not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it’s not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

  • High Water Use – Pregnancy uses a lot of water – your body is building a human and that’s no small task. It requires that you also create lots of extra blood, extra fluid to protect and support the baby and of course, all the water that goes into the baby.  Not only that but there are thousands of extra metabolic processes happening to make all of this go.  It’s just a big time for water, and so mild to moderate dehydration is incredibly common – especially in early pregnancy before mama’s intake has adjusted sufficiently to cover it all.  Dehydration is also a risk factor for gallbladder sludge just because all bodily fluids, including bile, get a little thicker and sludgier if there is less water to go around.
  • Estrogen – High estrogen is a risk factor for gallbladder sludge, or cholestasis, independent of pregnancy as well (at least it is in animal studies). In fact, the risk factors for gallstones are called the five F’s – Fair, Female, Fat Fertile and Forty. Lovely.
  • Genetics – There are some genetic conditions associated with gallbladder sludge (more specifically with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, or ICP). So chances are if your mother, aunties, sisters or grandmother had troubles, you may be at greater risk.

Are There Natural Ways to Help Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

Yes and no. Pregnancy is a risky time to use any natural or medical treatment and many drugs and supplements are off limits because they may cause harm to the baby. If you’re not pregnant, then here’s a whole post about gallbladder sludge and stones. If you are, then here are the things you can do:

  • Diet – Pregnancy is a great time for a healthy diet anyway, so might as well do a healthy gallbladder-friendly diet. This means:
    • No fried foods
    • Lots of fruits
    • Limited red meat, butter, shellfish and eggs
    • LOTS of veggies – especially dark green leafy veg
    • Good lean meat, poultry and fish
    • High fiber foods – aim for 30 – 50 g per day – some examples below
      • Split peas – 16.3 g per cup cooked (split pea soup. Yummy.)
      • Lentils – 15.6 g per cup cooked
      • Black beans – 15 g per cup cooked
      • Artichokes – 10.3 g each and also gently boost liver function
      • Broccoli – 5.3 g per cup boiled
      • Raspberries – the yummiest 8 g per cup ever
      • Bran flakes – 7 g per cup
      • Avocado – 12 g each



  • Water – Bump the water WAY up. Aim for 12 eight ounce cups with 8 eight ounce cups being the absolute minimum. This will suck because pregnancy makes you pee all the time anyway and drinking this much water will have you running to the bathroom constantly. Sorry! It’s better than a gallbladder attack, believe me.
  • Lecithin – Lecithin is safe in both pregnancy and nursing because as it turns out, one of it’s major ingredients, choline, is great for baby. Typically midwives and doctors suggest 1200 mg 3-4 times per day with lots of water, but here’s more information about lecithin and it’s use in gallbladder issues. It’s also great for blocked ducts when you’re nursing and gallbladder sludge even when you’re not preggers.
  • Gentle Exercise Regularly – Exercise is good for everything in the human body, including the gallbladder. For many women this will actually eliminate mild symptoms.
  • Castor Oil – Topical (NOT INTERNAL) castor oil over the right side of your abdomen and back can help your body to deal with some of the sludge in a gentle way. Here’s a whole post on it with more detailed information. And Here’s info on a great lazy method of doing a castor oil pack. This is both anti-inflammatory and also good for the functioning of the liver and gallbladder.
  • Lukewarm Epsom Salts Baths – The magnesium in the Epsom salts will help to relax the bile duct and allow sludge to pass more easily, and the lukewarm bath can help to relieve the itching.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn't easy! Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn’t easy! Gallbladder is one of the places that fallout can happen. Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

What About Not-Natural Ways to Relieve Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

If you’re having gallbladder attacks on top of the already uncomfortable state of being pregnant, then sometimes you want a faster option. Also severe gallbladder attacks with protracted vomiting, inflammation or infection can be a serious risk to your baby, so there’s that too.

  • Ursodiol – this prescription drug may be suggested by your doctor to help manage symptoms and increase bile flow.
  • Surgery – It is possible to have your gallbladder removed during pregnancy and sometimes it’s necessary. The second trimester is considered the safest time for both mother and baby to undergo this procedure. Depending on your doctor they  may suggest laparoscopic removal or open gallbladder surgery.

Remember pregnancy is a rough time anyway because your body is doing so much, changing so fast and generally working so hard. Be gentle with yourself, talk with your doctor, and don’t judge – sometimes you can use the natural methods for working with gallbladder sludge in pregnancy and sometimes you really do need something more intense, like surgery.



Benefits of Lemon Water for Liver, Gallbladder and Energy

We’ve discussed lemons for skin health and beauty, but what about the awesome benefits of lemon water for your liver, your gallbladder and even your energy? Not to mention the zesty taste! Lemon water has this sort of ambiguously detox-y reputation on the interwebs.  Seems like a lot of people like the way it makes them feel, most people seem to feel it does something related to detox but isn’t sure quite what, and some people claim it’s the cure-all. I’m not going to ever call anything a cure-all because every person’s physiology is unique, but there are some things that are pretty universally good, and as it turns out having a nice, hot lemon water in the morning is one of those.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.




The Actual Benefits of Lemon Water

Detoxify

  • The acidity of lemon juice makes it a much-used cholagogue for herbalists and even the doctors of yore (yore has to be one of my favorite words – I couldn’t resist a chance to sneak it in there). Cholagogues promote the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.  In plain English, that means that when you eat or drink lemon or lemon juice it stimulates your body to release bile into your intestinal tract to pass through into the stool. Bile helps you to digest fats that you eat, and it also helps eliminate cholesterol and fat soluble toxins.  This makes lemon water a gentle detoxifier.
  • Just as a fun factoid, if you’re not sure if something is a good cholagogue (the new word of the day), just taste it.  Cholagogues are usually strongly sour or bitter and you can feel that little salivary gland at the back of your jaw start to freak out.  Lemons are all over this!
  • Your liver does much of it’s heavy lifting overnight while you sleep. In the morning there can be a back-log of toxins from the night before that your body would love to eliminate. To do that it honestly benefits pretty greatly from both the water – especially warm water, and the lemon juice itself.
  • Lemon juice may even stimulate healthy production of both bile and stomach acid and it was used historically to do just that, although there isn’t research out there to support this use.

Hydrate

  • In addition to the lemon, there’s the water and the water is actually key to this whole thing.  Detoxification, which is essentially cleaning, requires water just like every other washing job you’ve ever done.  Have you ever tried cleaning the dishes without water? Washing the car? Yup. All hinges on water.
  • Let’s face it – we all struggle for that 8-10 glasses of water we’re supposed to get every day. With lemon water at least one of them tastes good!

Think More Clearly

  • There is a strongly established link between getting enough water and using your brain effectively. The mountain of research on this link for adults is huge and there’s even research showing clearly this link in kiddos.
  • Essential oil of lemon, which is the lemon smell released by the lemon water, is also shown to improve mood and cognitive performance in adults, so double whammy.
  • Triple whammy! The bioflavenoids in citrus fruit are also shown to boost cognitive performance including nobilitin and hesperidin.

Lose Weight and Boost Heart Health

  • A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking more water boosts metabolism by about 30% for both men and women.  That is incredibly helpful! The study went on to say that people who drank 1.5 liters of water per day burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year just through this one simple step. That’s a weight loss of 5 pounds, just by drinking water.
  • An additional study on the lemon detox diet showed that adding lemon detox drink to a low calorie diet actually improves the cardiovascular benefits of that diet.  They compared three groups, one eating a normal diet, one eating a calorie restricted diet and one eating a calorie restricted diet plus lemon water sweetened with maple syrup. Both low calorie groups lost weight, lowered their insulin and reduced their waist-hip ratios but only the lemon water group showed improvements in cardiovascular inflammation.

Get Your Antioxidants

  • Lemon water from the recipe below has about 22 mg of vitamin C, or 36% of your daily value. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Citrus bioflavenoids are an incredibly diverse group of compounds that are high-powered antioxidants and every day there is new research emerging for compounds such as hesperidin, quercitin, rutin, nobilitin and there are literally hundreds of others that have yet to be researched.

Boost Your Happy

  • Lemon essential oil is one of the scents most associated with elevated mood.  It is stimulating to the energy but not agitating – it remains calming to the nerves. In short, it gives you the happy.

Not only that but one of the best benefits of lemon water is that you can drink this, and also your coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine and so won’t conflict at all with that beloved morning ritual. Now – if you want to enjoy the health benefits of lemon water, here’s a fantastic recipe:

Lemon Water Recipe

Juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
Zest from the peel – just a few swipes will do
12-16 oz hot water (I prefer 16 to soften the tartness)
If you can’t tolerate the tartness then a little bit of raw honey

Mix it all together in your favorite mug and enjoy the lovely fresh smell, the tart wake-me-up taste and all those health benefits of lemon water. And no worries – you can still have a coffee or tea if you want without worrying about being over-caffeinated.



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.



Is the gallbladder cleanse safe for gallbladder sludge and stones?

I hear questions all the time about cleanses – especially is the gallbladder cleanse safe for people with sludge and stones? The answer, as usual, is *sometimes*. Let’s go over the cleanse, the effects and results, what to expect and also who it is and isn’t safe for because it certainly isn’t safe for everyone and the gallbladder cleanse does have some risks. For other options for gallbladder sludge and stones there is a detailed post on that here.

The Gallbladder Cleanse

First off, it’s best to use some expert guidance to help make the gallbladder cleanse safe for you.  I would highly suggest working with a practitioner or at the very least getting a good book that can explain all of this in much more detail.  I like The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse by Andreaz Moritz. It’s a nice overview of what is going on in your body, and detailed instructions about the cleanse. These directions are taken from that book.

This is a great book that will help you to determine is the gallbladder cleanse safe for you as well as to walk you through the steps.

This is a great book that will help you to determine is the gallbladder cleanse safe for you as well as to walk you through the steps.

6 days of prep followed by 16 to 20 hours of actual cleansing.

You will need:

  • 6 1L containers apple juice – if intolerant to apple juice can buy food grade
    malic acid at wine making shops. Use 1 tsp malic acid in 32 oz water instead.
  • 4 tbsp Epsom salts dissolved in 3 8 oz glasses of water
  • ½ cup cold-pressed EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2/3 glass fresh grapefruit juice (pink) or fresh lemon and orange juice combined
  • 2 pint jars, one with a lid.




Prep: Days 1-5
Drink 32+ oz apple juice daily for six days. The malic acid softens the gallstones and makes their passage smooth and easy. May have bloating, diarrhea. Drink the apple juice slowly throughout the day away from food. Be sure to rinse your mouth out to avoid acid damage to your teeth. Avoid cold/chilled foods – room temp or warm foods only. Avoid animal products, dairy and fried foods, avoid overeating. Also avoid medications and supplements that are not absolutely necessary

Day 6
Drink all 32 oz apple juice in the morning. Eat only light food and simple. Steamed veg, rice, no fats or oils. No liquids other than water after 1:30 pm
6:00 pm: Mix 4 tbsp Epsom salts to 24 oz water
Drink 6 oz of the epsom salts mix now – chase with lemon water to take the taste out of your mouth. It tastes gross and this is the start of your actual cleanse.
8:00 pm:  Drink 6 oz Epsom salt mix
9:30 pm: If you haven’t had BM then do water enema to trigger colon release
9:45 pm: Wash and juice your grapefruits and remove pulp. Mix ¾ glass of juice with ½ glass olive oil in pint jar and shake hard to mix this (vile) brew.
10:00 pm: Drink the oil and juice concoction in one go if you can and immediately lay down. Lay with your head higher than your abdomen or on your right side with knees to chest. Meditate on your liver and try to lie still for 20 minutes – may do castor oil pack at this time as well. Go to sleep if you can. You may need to wake in the night to have bowel movements. In rare cases may experience nausea or vomiting during the night – this can be normal.

Day 7
6:00 – 6:30 am: Upon awakening (but not before 6 am) drink the third Epsom salts mixture. If you’re thirsty when you wake up you can drink a glass of warm water before the Epsom salts
Rest, read or meditate – it is best to stay in an upright position
8:00 – 8:30: Drink the fourth glass of Epsom salts
10 – 10:30: You may start freshly pressed juice at this time. Half an hour later you can eat light food. By evening or the next morning you can start light food.

Day 8 – 10
Continue on light, clean foods. Also can be helpful to continue 6-8 oz apple juice daily for the following week to continue to soften any gall stones that are continuing to move
*in case of nausea, vomiting headache try coffee enema, liver support, hot water with lemon.

What to Expect with the Gallbladder Cleanse

Putting the question of is the gallbladder cleanse safe aside for the moment, it is clear that it’s not especially pleasant. Anyone who has had any internal experience with Epsom salts can tell you it’s not one easily forgotten. They taste vile and your body clearly rejects them swiftly via horrible, liquid bowel movements.  Now – will this clean out your bowels like they’ve never been cleaned? Yes. Yes it will.  Again, will you enjoy it? Probably no. The actual cleanse itself is really asking your body to do some serious work.  The malic acid in the apple juice is meant to soften up any small stones and help them to pass more easily and the Epsom salts, in addition to flushing the pipes, will also help the bile ducts to dilate and open so that more sludge and stones can pass through. It is not uncommon to experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and general ickiness.  If you actually had larger stones in the gallbladder then it is also possible to force one into the bile duct and induce a medical crisis – we’ll talk about that more in the Is the Gallbladder Cleanse Safe section.

Effects and Results from the Gallbladder Cleanse

Aside from not feeling terribly well on the actual day of cleansing, many people report feeling fantastic after the cleanse – literally like they have been cleansed or lightened somehow. The bowel movements during the cleanse will often contain bright green residues that area actually bile sludge or tiny stones finally encouraged to come out of the body by the oil and citrus mix.  This causes the gallbladder to contract strongly, hopefully purging the entire gallbladder contents into the intestine.  This is exactly what you’re after with this cleanse – we want to see these little green residues. It means that either your bile is flowing strongly and was able to rise to the challenge of the oil mixture, or that your gallbladder contracted strongly and discharged old sludge and debris. Either of those options are good.

Essentially we’re looking to eliminate a build-up of fat soluble toxins that are bound to the bile and accumulating in the gallbladder in the form of sludge. This will long-term help your overall liver processing, aid your body’s ability to digest fats and generally contribute to well-being. Also if you’ve been having symptoms of gallbladder sludge then this should help to reduce some of those.

So Is the Gallbladder Cleanse Safe for Gallbladder Sludge and Stones?

The most accurate answer to that question, is no.  I’ve heard a number of horror stories of people starting the gallbladder cleanse only to push a stone into their ducts and end up having an emergency surgery to remove the gallbladder.  Most of the people doing the cleanse were trying to avoid exactly that outcome, so that’s not thrilling.  If your gallbladder has sludge but no stones then typically that makes the gallbladder cleanse safe for you.  If you actually have stones, then this is probably not a good idea. If you haven’t really been to a doctor and don’t know if you have sludge or stones or just poor digestion, then I honestly wouldn’t suggest it – just because there is a chance you do have stones and could push one that’s a little too big into a place it can’t get out of – hello emergency surgery! 

This is a gallbladder with some serious stones - you don't want to get one of those stuck in your ducts anywhere.

This is a gallbladder with some serious stones – you don’t want to get one of those stuck in your ducts anywhere.

I know everyone wants to hear that the cleanse is perfectly safe and harmless, but it isn’t.  This is a powerful tool and if it’s used incorrectly it can be harmful or even life-threatening if you can’t get to the ER. There are risks to the gallbladder cleanse and shooting something out of your gallbladder that gets stuck is one of them. Also you have to be prepared for the dehydrating effects of the Epsom salts – the diarrhea they give you can be quite watery and contribute to a severe loss of fluids if you’re not careful to replace them.  Outside of that the whole process can be reasonably unpleasant – the diet is great, the apple juice is fine, but the cleanse itself is pretty vivid. That’s not a reason not to do it, it’s just important to be prepared.  For some more gentle options for dealing with gallbladder sludge and stones look here, and for help supporting liver function in general look here. The gallbladder cleanse can be a fantastic option with fabulous results, the you have to be sure that you’re a good candidate and that you have enough knowledge to make the gallbladder cleanse safe for you.



Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Natural Remedy for Gallbladder Sludge and Stones

A loyal reader Letty asked me if I had any solutions for gallbladder sludge and stones – which is a great question.  This is an issue that troubles so many people, especially women and many make the tough decision about having surgery, partly because they don’t know about other options. First let’s talk a little bit about gallbladders in general and then we’ll get to why they get sludgy and what you can do about it.

What Is A Gallbladder Anyway?

Your gallbladder sits tucked underneath your liver under the bottom of your rib cage on the right side of your body.  Your liver manufactures bile, which helps you to digest fats and also helps you to eliminate fat-soluble toxins. This bile passes through a duct, which is a narrow tube, into your gallbladder.  Your gallbladder helps to reabsorb water from the bile to make it stronger and more concentrated. Your gallbladder also holds this bile and stores it until you eat something fatty.  When fatty foods enter your stomach your stomach releases signaling molecules that tell you gallbladder to contract, and as it contracts it squeezes that concentrated bile through another duct into your small intestines to help with digestion. For this system to work properly three factors need to be in place.

  1. Your liver has to be in good working order
  2. Your gallbladder has to be free to contract (not filled with sludge and stones)
  3. The ducts between liver and gallbladder and gallbladder and intestines must be clear from obstructions, which are usually sludge or stones.
Gallbladder location and connection to liver- natural remedies for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Gallbladder location and connection to liver- natural remedies for gallbladder sludge and stones.

What Happens in a Gallbladder Attack?

When people have a gallbladder attack it is usually an event they won’t forget for a while.  What is happening is that your gallbladder gets the signal to contract to squeeze out bile, but something is in the way – usually either sludge or stones.  The sludge or stones can be in the gallbladder itself or they can be blocking one of the ducts.  Either way, when the gallbladder squeezes down on something like this, it hurts.  It hurts in a really vivid way. Usually people report severe pain after eating that can cause sweating, nausea or even vomiting.  A lot of time people will take themselves to the ER because it’s really easy to confuse this type of pain with heart attack pain. Your body keeps squeezing to try to dislodge the sludge or stones, which just keeps hurting, and a lot of times the only thing that really makes it feel better is morphine (or surgery).

Why are the Sludge and Stones There In The First Place?

If you are actively losing weight, if your body has a lot of fat soluble toxins to deal with, if your diet is higher in fat than it should be or if you’re going through hormone fluctuations then sometimes there is just more fat than there is bile.  What can happen in this situation is that the fat and bile bind together to form a sludgy, gluey substance that gets thicker and stickier and eventually clogs up the gallbladder and ducts.  Within that sludgy mixture stones can begin to form and grow and the stones can also block ducts – sometimes requiring emergency surgery if they’re blocking a duct completely. Essentially the sludge is just thick, heavy fats that your body couldn’t deal with properly.

How Can I Get Rid of Gallbladder Sludge and Stones Naturally?

The key to getting rid of sludge and stones is doing four things at the same time.

  1. Increase bile production – Stimulate your liver production of bile or actually take bile salts to make sure that lots of bile is flowing through the gallbladder and intestines.
  2. Liquify and Move the Bile – Keeping the bile liquid and moving quickly so it can start to wash out the preexisting sludge and stones.
  3. Shrink the Stones – If there are stones there, then we have to make them smaller so that they wash out easily. If you suspect stones I would suggest making an appointment with your doctor to see how many there are and how big they are.
  4. Dump the Bile – Once bile gets dumped into your intestines it’s out of the gallbladder, but a lot of times we reabsorb that same bile from our intestines to use again, because we’re just hoarders by nature. In this scenario you have to make sure as much bile as possible is actually leaving your body.

Increasing Bile Production – Choleretic

Increasing the amount of bile produced to help your body flush out gallbladder sludge and stones. Substances that do this are called “choleretics” and fortunately there are some great options out there, and lots of them are foods.  My favorite foods that increase bile production are artichokes – you can actually feel your saliva production increase when you eat them, and that same response is happening with bile. Young beet greens and possibly the beets themselves help too. Herbal bile flow stimulants include chamomile, chicory, blessed thistle, and many of the bitter herbs.  In terms of finding products, I love digestive bitters before each meal (right now I’m addicted to some from Urban Moonshine – their citrus bitters are the bomb!) Another great way to go is Standard Process A-F Betafood, which makes everything nice and simple, or Panplex 2-Phase from ITI which is a strong digestive complex with ox bile in it.




Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Liquify and Move the Bile – Cholagogue

Choagogues promote discharge of bile from the system – keeping it moving downward out of your liver and gallbladder and into your small intestines. In terms of naturally eliminating gallbladder sludge and stones this is key! Again, all of your bitter foods will stimulate bile flow so adding raw bitter greens like arugula and some of the bitter lettuces or dandelion greens will help. In terms of supplements the digestive bitters are a great idea here too, or liver support products.  Some of my favorites include Milk Thistle from Gaia herbs, Lipotrophic complex from ITI or Livaplex from Standard Process.

Shrink The Gallstones

Shrinking gallstones can be tricky naturally, just because we can’t actually break things up, we have to just slowly dissolve them from the surface. This is a long prospect. Essentially we need things that are acidic enough to leech calcium out of stones – but be careful because they’re usually also acidic enough to leech calcium out of your teeth so rinse your mouth out with water after you take them so the acid doesn’t stay on your teeth. My favorites are Standard Process Phosfood liquid – it’s super sour but works great to start shrinking stones.  Apple cider vinegar before meals is a great strategy too.




Dump The Bile

We want to prevent the bile that your body is dumping into your small intestines from being reabsorbed. This means binding it to something like fiber so that you can’t reabsorb it at all.  Fiber a couple of times per day between meals (with lots of water to also help you flush things through). I really like Fiber Plus powder from Orthomolecular because it’s a good blend of soluble and insoluble fiber and tastes great (apple cinnamon) plus it’s a high dose in every scoop. There are also gallbladder cleanses but they aren’t safe for everyone.  You can read more about gallbladder cleanses here.

Now hopefully you have a better understanding of what you’re trying to do when you’re cleaning out liver and gallbladder sludge and stones, but if you have any questions or comments just leave them here and I’ll get back to you.  The natural methods do work, but if a stone gets lodged in a duct then that is actually a medical emergency and requires emergency surgery so go to the ER if you need to.. Don’t worry – if that happens you won’t miss it.  It’s excruciating pain and often jaundice.  Otherwise, naturally eliminating your gallbladder sludge and stones is a great way to go. In general incorporating more of the gallbladder and liver friendly foods into your diet would help almost everyone.