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What Is a Gallbladder Cleanse?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 03, 2021

DIY gallbladder flushes, like an olive oil cleanse, are popular. But, do they really work, and do they pose any health risks? Read on to find out.

Gallbladder Cleanse Myths

When you are suffering from gallstones, you may be tempted to try an at-home remedy to flush them from your system. It’s important to know that there are no reliable at-home cleanses that are proven to get rid of gallstones or improve your symptoms.

If you see a gallbladder cleanse promoted, it most likely encourages you to eat or drink olive oil in combination with a particular fruit juice over a certain period of time. Claims include that these ingredients break up gallstones in your gallbladder and stimulate your body to pass them in your stool when you use the bathroom.

Olive oil does have laxative properties, but there is no proof that it has an impact on gallstones. If you look at your stool following an olive oil cleanse, you may see lumps in your stool that you suspect are gallstones. Instead, they are globs of olive oil, juice, and other food from your digestive tract.

Taking in a high amount of olive oil and juice without other nutrition may lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Instead of removing gallstones, you may instead add to your list of health concerns by attempting a DIY cleanse.

If your gallstones concern you, talk to your doctor instead of attempting care without guidance from a medical professional. Gallstones that are not causing symptoms might not need treatment. When they do, your doctor can share techniques that are proven to work with fewer side effects and a better outcome.

Understanding Gallstones

Your gallbladder is very small and located just below your liver. It serves to store bile produced by your liver to aid in the digestion of fats in your diet. The most common concern with your gallbladder is gallstones.

You’re at an increased risk for gallstones if you are a woman, if you are obese, and as you age. There may also be a genetic component, but there is not sufficient evidence to prove this. Sugars and saturated fat also increases your risk for gallstones, although other diet factors are largely unknown.

Safe Treatment for Gallstones

If you’re passing gallstones, your doctor can prescribe medication to address symptoms of pain and discomfort. If the gallstones lead to infection, you may also need antibiotics to treat your gallbladder and surrounding organs.

Surgery. If your gallstones cause persistent pain and don’t pass on their own, they can lead to permanent damage. Your doctor may want to perform surgery to remove the stones. Gallbladder surgery addresses:

  • Gallstones in your gallbladder, which is also referred to as cholelithiasis
  • Gallstones in your bile duct, which is also referred to as choledocholithiasis
  • Gallbladder inflammation, which is also referred to as cholecystitis
  • Large polyps that appear on your gallbladder ‌
  • Inflammation in your pancreas, which is also referred to as pancreatitis, often caused by persistent gallstones

Gallbladder surgery is also called a cholecystectomy procedure. Your gallbladder is a very small organ that sits underneath your liver on the upper right side of your abdomen. The gallbladder collects and stores bile, digestive fluids, that are produced by your liver.

If your gallbladder doesn’t perform that job it was created to, your doctor may want to remove it. The incisions used to take out your gallbladder are very small. Gallbladder removal is considered to be a low-risk procedure and many people go home the same day of their procedure. If a larger incision is needed, your healing may be longer.

As you heal, a special diet is necessary following gallbladder removal. After surgery, you’re likely to experience frequent stools that are loose and watery. This condition may last a few weeks to a month as your body adjusts to not having this organ.

Instead of funneling into your gallbladder, bile now travels directly to your intestines. Usually, your gallbladder releases bile in a controlled manner to aid digestion. Now, there is no organ concentrating or controlling your bile. This leads to an effect similar to that of a laxative until your body adjusts.

The amount of fat you eat also contributes to the condition. If you eat a small amount of fat, it is easier to digest. Larger amounts of fat may lead to more diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

Preventing Gallstones

The following may help to prevent gallstones from occurring:

  • Avoid consuming too many saturated fats and animal fats in your diet
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates that are found in candy, soda, cakes, cookies, and white bread
  • Eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables‌
  • Maintain your weight within your BMI range

Show Sources

SOURCES:

John Hopkins Medicine: “What Causes a Gallbladder Attack?”

Mayo Clinic: “Can you recommend a diet after gallbladder removal,” “Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal),” “Gallbladder cleanse: A 'natural' remedy for gallstones?”

University of Utah Health: “YOUR GALLBLADDER AND YOU.”

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