Why are we dealing with so many illnesses? Why are people losing their gallbladders in their forties? Why is dementia and alzheimer's on the rise? What about the dramatic decrease in sperm count? How come so many people have vitamin D deficiency? With all of our technology, mapping the human genome and all, huge sums of money for research -- where are the answers? We'll be doing at least a four-part series on these topics.
For more than the past 50 years, we've been told that we need to reduce our fats. Even today's American Heart Association continues this mantra:
Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients, and limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Read labels carefully — the Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains.
So, since we seem to always question the status quo, (because it's not working) let's look into this from the position of evidence and facts. Perhaps we'll discover the answers together.
First you need a little Anatomy-Physiology 101
I mentioned in my WHY the challenges of being a teacher with all the constant goodies that are always left for anyone in the break room. I am a high school Chemistry, Biology and Anatomy Teacher. This write up will feature the scoop on the way our livers and gallbladders interact with the foods we eat, in a simple and generalized way so it is easy to understand the basics.
Our livers are responsible for cleaning toxins out of our blood, making cholesterol (or transforming it into different types), getting rid of bilirubin (the remains of dead red blood cells), and supporting digestive processes. Toxins are released from the blood into the liver and end up in the bile ducts that feed into the gallbladder as the toxins drain from the ducts. Not every toxin travels this way, but many metabolic toxins do.
When the day is done, up to 1,500 mL of bile has been produced. If the small intestines are empty, the gallbladder is in storage mode, holding all the bile to be released once food comes along. When food comes through the intestine, the duct will open from the gallbladder and bile will begin to drain. However, when fats or proteins come through the intestine it signals the release of cholecystokinin (CCK). This hormone causes the gallbladder to contract and empty its contents into the small intestine and stimulates the release of pancreatic juices to also be released. The more times the gallbladder empties, the more bile will flow out of the gallbladder and out of the liver. When the gallbladder doesn’t contract regularly the bile salts irritate the lining of the gallbladder so that the bladder produces mucus that causes a thickening of the bile contents. Continued storage of this substance causes the formation of stones -- gallstones.
Since toxins are released from the body through the liver/bile processes, it stands to be smart to make sure the gallbladder receives the signal for full release of the gallbladder contents frequently to keep the liver and gallbladder clean.
America has been experiencing epidemic levels of gallstones followed by gallbladder removal surgeries. Another issue of note is the frequency needed for the cleansing of the liver using herbal remedies, that is being touted by the alternative health community for the past 15-20 years. It is interesting to consider the drop in the consumption of animal fats and the rise of liver and gall bladder issues; could there be a connection?
I realize that many reading this may no longer have their gallbladders, but the gall is still flowing from your liver. You should still be able to enjoy living on this food plan if you space out your fat consumption and figure out your rhythm of when your body does better with the fat, as in finding when your body is releasing more bile. I am aware of the pain and discomfort that can come from the lack of bile. Choosing which fats is also key.
In conclusion, keeping your liver clean and your gallbladder healthy takes fats, lots of fats and good protein.
If you are interested in cleansing your liver, even if you have had your gallbladder out, here’s a terrific resource that has proven effective for us and family members that have used it.
The Liver and GallBladder Miracle Cleanse by Andreas Moritz, Ulysses Press, 2007
Cheers to a healthy liver! Lynette
On the Atkins site, this article addresses things directly and is well cited: "In recent years surgeons have been increasingly removing gallbladders, presumably in an attempt to treat gallstones and related disorders. But the gallbladder is fundamental to your well-being. Among other functions, it stores bile, a powerful fat-emulsifying substance that the liver makes from cholesterol. A healthy gallbladder works with flawless precision, releasing bile just when it’s needed to help digest food. It also absorbs nutrients and keeps your cholesterol levels in check. Even as many doctors subscribe to the myth that eating fat and cholesterol leads to gallstones, research indicates that eating too little fat and too many carbohydrates in the form of grains, sugars and starches actually leads to gallbladder ailments."(1)
One study did discover that low fat, high carb diets caused more gallstones than expected.
"Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a high intake of carbohydrate, glycaemic load, and glycaemic index increases the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in men. These results add to the concern that low fat high carbohydrate diets may not be an optimal dietary recommendation."
Another study stated even more clearly: "In the obese during rapid weight loss from a very low calorie diet, a relatively high fat intake could prevent gallstone formation, probably by maintaining an adequate gallbladder emptying, which could counterbalance lithogenic mechanisms acting during weight loss."
There were several studies that discussed the side-effect of gastric banding and the dramatic weight loss actually caused gallstones to develop in obese subjects.
Dietary fat and cholesterol promote normal gallbladder function.(2) If you take cholesterol-lowering drugs, be aware that they can raise the risk of gallstone formation.
Consuming sufficient healthy fat (saturated & monounsaturated) while shunning sugar and other carbohydrates promotes gallbladder contractions and prevents gallstones better than anything else. So, long before surgery becomes a necessity, look at changing your diet. It’s a lot safer. For those of you who have lost your gallbladder, you can still eat a low carb/high fat diet.
1. Tseng, M., Everhart, J.E., Sandler, R.S., "Dietary Intake and Gallbladder Disease: A Review," Public Health Nutrition, 2(2), 1999, pages 161-172.
2. Gebhard, R.L., Prigge, W.F., Ansel, H.J., et al., "The Role of Gallbladder Emptying in Gallstone Formation During Diet-Induced Rapid Weight Loss," Hepatology, 24(3), 1996, pages 544-548.3. Michielsen P.P., Fierens, H., Van Maercke, Y.M., "Drug-Induced Gallbladder Disease. Incidence, Aetiology and Management," Drug Safety, 7(1), 1992, pages 32-45.
Tim & Lynette Jenné are learners first and foremost. We love to ask "why?" We question the status quo. We also love to research and find answers for ourselves. As parents of four adult children, we've learned a few things along the way that may be helpful to others. We love to live & eat clean, simple lives.