Instructions for a Happy Gallbladder

Instructions for a Happy Gallbladder

Have you ever thought about your gallbladder when you last sat down to your favorite meal? No? Well, you’re not alone. This friend to our digestive system is commonly forgotten.

Your gallbladder’s job is to store bile, which is made by the liver. And bile plays a big role in our digestion. It’s main job is to emulsify fat, but it also contains any fat soluble toxins the liver wants removed from the body. Emulsifying fat is a super important part of digestion. Take a moment and think about an oil and vinegar salad dressing in a jar. When you shake it up the fatty oil mixes with the watery vinegar, and this changes the texture of the oil and makes the fat globs much smaller. That’s emulsification. This is what bile does in the small intestine. It emulsifies the fat we eat so the globs are much smaller. This allows digestive enzymes to attack those smaller fatty globs and break the fat down into single fatty acids. We can only absorb single fatty acids. This also allows us to absorb really important fat soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as essential fatty acids like omega-3 & 6. Signs your gallbladder is struggling can be quiet and easy to ignore. They’re symptoms like; fatty stools, abdominal pain when eating fatty meals, and sometimes heartburn and indigestion. If you ever feel severe abdominal pain, especially if it radiates into your right shoulder, have nausea, fever, or yellowing of the eyes, please seek medical attention immediately as it could be a much more severe issue.

Keeping your gallbladder happy is easy, just add a few simple steps to your daily routine:

  1. Lemon & water, first thing in the morning

A refreshing glass of lemon and water when you first wake up awakens your taste buds, as well as it can stimulate your gallbladder to squeeze out any excess bile. Use ¼ - ½ of a lemon in room temp water, and wait at least 15 mins before eating or drinking anything.
  1. Emulsify your fats

Do your gallbladder a favor and emulsify the oil you add to your food whenever possible (i.e. shake your favorite dressing in a jar so it’s thoroughly mixed before adding it to your salad).
  1. Make friends with virgin coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil and other unprocessed medium-chained triglycerides don’t need bile for digestion, so it takes some pressure off this very important organ.
  1. Cut out fried food and refined/over-processed oils

Refined oils like vegetable oil, refined canola oil, or margarine are really hard on the gallbladder. They’re hard to digest and they’re inflammatory.
  1. Use Flora Swedish Bitters before each meal

Traditionally, it was common to start a meal with a bitter vegetable or a bitter tonic, but this went out of fashion due to our love of sweet-tasting foods. Even our salad greens have a sweeter taste than they used to (farmers always grow what we’ll eat). The bitter taste stimulates the gallbladder, making sure it releases enough bile to help you digest your meal. Take 1 tsp. of Flora Swedish Bitters (US/CA) before each meal, mixed in a small amount of water or herbal tea. The first time I tried Flora Swedish Bitters I struggled a bit with the taste. Like many of us, I prefer sweet flavors. But, it didn’t take long (about 3 tries) before my taste buds loved my dose of bitters before my meal. Our body knows what’s good for it, so give some bitters a try and your gallbladder will thank you.
About the author: Lisa Kilgour
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Founder of, and a faculty member at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.