7 Top Supplements for Gallbladder Support

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One of the most common areas of interest for people exploring holistic and functional health is gallbladder supplements. Gallbladder health issues are relatively common, and there are gallbladder support supplement options that are well-studied and researched. Below, we talk more about supplements for gallbladder support and health so you can decide for your health.

The Role of the Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small organ below the liver. It’s located on the upper right side of the abdomen. The primary role of the gallbladder is storage and concentration of bile. Bile is a liquid that’s produced by the liver to help with digestion. Bile is needed to digest and absorb fats in the small intestine.

The gallbladder plays the following role in the process of digestion:

  • The liver continuously produces bile, containing bile salts as well as cholesterol and bilirubin. Bile helps break fats down into smaller particles that are then ready for digestion.
  • The gallbladder is a bile reservoir, so bile is stored and concentrated here when you aren’t eating. This concentration makes bile more potent when it is released as you eat.
  • When you eat, especially if the meal contains fatty foods, the gallbladder contracts and releases concentrated bile to the small intestine via the common bile duct. The bile then helps with the breakdown and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

The gallbladder is an important but not necessary organ. Some people undergo gallbladder removal, at which point bile is released directly from the liver into the small intestine. However, that bile isn’t as concentrated as it would be if it were stored in the gallbladder.

Gallbladder problems can include:

Gallstones (Cholelithiasis)

Gallstones are solid particles formed from components of bile. The cause isn’t always known, but factors including a high-cholesterol diet, obesity and rapid weight loss can all be contributors. Not everyone with gallstones will have symptoms, but if one blocks a duct, then it can cause intense abdominal pain in the upper right side, nausea, vomiting and jaundice. Jaundice is yellowing of the eyes and skin.

Gallbladder Inflammation (Cholecystitis)

An inflamed gallbladder can be caused by gallstones blocking the flow of bile. This can, in turn, lead to infection and irritation. Symptoms of cholecystitis include severe abdominal pain, tenderness over the area where the gallbladder is located, nausea, fever and vomiting.

Gallbladder Polyps

These may be related to inflammation or abnormal tissue growth in the gallbladder. Most gallbladder polyps don’t cause symptoms.

Gallbladder Dyskinesia

This condition involves abnormal contractions of the gallbladder. Symptoms can include nausea, pain and vomiting, but the gallbladder appears normal on imaging, so it’s challenging to diagnose.

The Importance of Fat Digestion for Health

The gallbladder plays a critical role in fat digestion through the storing and release of bile. When dietary fats enter your small intestine when you eat, the presence of fats triggers the release of cholecystokinin or CCK. CCK is a hormone that signals the gallbladder to contract and then release bile into the small intestine. Bile salts in released bile help emulsify fats for efficient digestion.

Fat digestion is an integral part of overall health, and the reasons it’s an essential process include:

  • Fat digestion is necessary to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, which include A, D, E, and K. Fat-soluble vitamins play roles in vision, antioxidant defense, blood clotting, and bone health. If you don’t have a proper fat digestion process, the absorption of the vitamins can be compromised.
  • Fats are a dense source of energy. Their proper digestion lets your body extract and use this energy efficiently. Fats are stored in adipose tissue, and when you need additional energy, they can be mobilized.
  • Adequate fat digestion helps make sure that your cell membranes are properly constructed and maintained.
  • Cholesterol serves as a steroid hormone precursor, including cortisol, testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol is a type of lipid, and its role in hormone health is important because hormones regulate your stress response, metabolism, reproductive functions and more.
  • The brain contains a large amount of fat, and proper fat digestion is needed to ensure that the brain has the fatty acids it needs for proper structure and function.
  • Dietary fats contribute to feelings of fullness. Consuming healthy fats regularly can regulate your appetite and prevent overeating because it extends the time it takes your stomach to empty.
  •  Fat digestion helps with the absorption of nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals. Fats can also enhance the absorption of beneficial compounds from fruits and vegetables.

Symptoms of a Gallbladder Problem

If you’re searching for supplements for gallbladder support, you may already know that you have issues with the health of this organ. For other people, it’s a guessing game, and they aren’t sure but suspect gallbladder problems. Symptoms of a gallbladder issue can include:

  • Pain is most often felt in the upper right or middle of the abdomen. The pain can, in some cases, be severe and radiate to the back or the right shoulder blade. Gallbladder-associated pain most often occurs after meals, especially ones that are high in fat.
  • You might have symptoms such as bloating and gassiness, especially after consuming fatty or greasy foods.
  • Stools can appear pale or clay-colored, particularly after a high-fat meal.
  • Jaundice can occur if the bile ducts are blocked and bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream.
  •  Inflammation of the gallbladder or an infection can lead to fever and chills.
  • The symptoms of a gallstone attack can include sudden, intense pain in the upper abdomen, usually triggered by gallstone movement.
  • The area around your gallbladder may feel tender to the touch.

Gallbladder Removal

Along with people who want supplements for gallbladder health while they still have the organ, for a lot of people, the goal is to find natural ways to support their overall health and wellness after gallbladder removal. Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is a surgical procedure that’s most often recommended when someone has gallstones.

If someone has their gallbladder removed, bile is no longer stored there. It moves directly from the liver into the small intestine.

While people can have healthy lives without a gallbladder, removal can have lasting effects, primarily on digestive health. For example, because there’s a constant, unregulated flow of bile from the liver, it can impact how well you can digest fat. Some people experience changes in their bowel habits after gallbladder removal, especially after they consume fatty foods.

With the gallbladder’s storage function, managing large amounts of fat in a single meal can be manageable. Symptoms like diarrhea and bloating can occur.

7 Gallbladder Support Supplements

The best things you can do for your gallbladder are to eat a healthy diet and exercise, but some nutrients and supplements can act as supplements for gallbladder support. They often support the gallbladder by helping you maintain overall digestive health, including bile production and metabolism. Additionally, many of the gallbladder supplement options we highlight work well if you don’t have the organ for additional digestive support and to alleviate related symptoms.

1. Ox Bile

Ox bile supplements contain the same essential components as human bile, like cholesterol, bile salts and bilirubin, but they’re from the bile of cattle. Ox bile supplements provide support for digestive health, especially if you have trouble with bile production or you’ve had your gallbladder removed. Taking an ox bile supplement can provide additional bile salts, improving your digestion of fats.

The bile salts in an ox bile supplement emulsify fat so that lipase, which is an enzyme, can break them down into smaller molecules for absorption. By helping with fat digestion, an ox bile supplement can contribute to your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.

Bile salts have a water-repelling and a water-attracting end. When bile is released into the small intestine, bile salts surround fat particles, creating tiny droplets with a water-attracting surface. This process is emulsification.

Emulsification increases fat’s surface area, allowing lipase enzymes to break down fat more easily into fatty acids and glycerol. These particles can then be absorbed in the small intestine.

2. Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzyme supplements are excellent for gallbladder support and general digestive health. They contain different enzymes that help break down macronutrients, including fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The pancreas and small intestine naturally produce the enzymes, but many people have insufficient production.

Digestive enzymes can break down complex food molecules into smaller parts so they’re more readily absorbed. A digestive enzyme supplement may help with bloating, gas, indigestion, or similar symptoms.

Typically, you take a digestive enzyme with a meal to support the digestive process.

Lipase is a digestive enzyme responsible for the breakdown of fatty acids, and amylase breaks down carbs into sugars. Protease breaks proteins down into amino acids; lactase breaks down dairy products; and cellulase breaks down cellulose, found in plant cell walls.

If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, or it’s not functioning as it should, the lipase often found in digestive enzyme supplements is most beneficial since it helps break down dietary fat into smaller molecules and reduces the effects of fat malabsorption.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a balance of gut microorganisms. They support digestive health by helping with the breakdown of food, preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and promoting nutrient absorption.

Because the gut is a big part of the immune system, probiotics can also help regulate immune responses and improve the body’s ability to defend against infections. Probiotics are frequently used to alleviate digestive symptoms like abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating, which are common in people with gallbladder issues.

Probiotics are supplements for gallbladder support and health. Some strains can influence bile metabolism, and probiotics may help modulate the composition of bile acid, reducing the risk of gallstones.

Chronic inflammation is linked to gallbladder issues, and probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties. They may help reduce inflammation in the GI tract, including the gallbladder.

Having an imbalance of gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to digestive issues, including ones that affect the gallbladder. Since probiotics contribute to a balanced gut microbiota, they can help create an environment not as conducive to gallbladder-related problems.

4. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb known for its active compound—silymarin. Silymarin extracts in milk thistle are primarily known for their benefits on liver health, but this plays a role in the health of the gallbladder. The two have a closely intertwined relationship.

The liver continuously produces bile-containing bile salts, which the gallbladder stores. The liver and gallbladder work together to ensure proper fat digestion.

If the liver isn’t healthy or functioning as it should, it can affect the gallbladder as well, so supporting both is critical.  

Silymarin from milk thistle is thought to prevent toxins from entering liver cells and promote the regeneration of damaged liver tissue. Silymarin is an antioxidant that can neutralize otherwise harmful free radicals in the liver. Reducing oxidative stress can help deal with one of the underlying factors in both liver and gallbladder issues.

Milk thistle may also help stimulate the production and flow of bile.

5. Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid with many roles, including potentially benefiting gallbladder health. Taurine is involved in bile salt formation in the liver. Taurine may help with the solubility of bile salts, preventing the formation of gallstones by ensuring that bile stays fluid. Improved bile flow can reduce the risk of gallstone formation and promote the overall health of the organ.

Taurine is also considered one of the best supplements for gallbladder support because it’s an antioxidant that can protect liver and gallbladder cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress in the liver and gallbladder can contribute to inflammation and damage in the organs.

Taking a taurine supplement or getting adequate amounts from your diet can have benefits beyond promoting gallbladder health. For example, it may have cardiovascular benefits, and it contributes to cognitive function and the health of the central nervous system. Taurine can help prevent or reverse metabolic disorders because of its role in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, and it enhances exercise performance.

6. Artichoke Extract

Artichoke extract has been traditionally used for potential benefits on digestive health, including the function of the gallbladder.

Artichoke extract is thought to stimulate the production and flow of bile from the liver, helping with fat digestion. Artichoke has choleretic effects, meaning it enhances bile secretion.

There are a number of other benefits aside from supporting the gallbladder that can stem from using an artichoke extract supplement. Artichoke supports liver health, helps with the body’s natural detoxification process and can protect the liver from oxidative stress. Artichoke extract can have general digestive benefits beyond gallbladder health, such as reducing symptoms like bloating and indigestion.

There’s also evidence to suggest artichokes may help regulate blood sugar levels.

7. Betaine HCl

Betaine hydrochloride, or HCl, is a compound that combines an amino acid, betaine, with hydrochloric acid. It’s frequently used as a digestion support supplement, especially for people with low levels of stomach acid.

Adequate stomach acid is necessary for the proper breakdown of fats, and this initial step is crucial in the overall digestive process. Bile must eventually be released from this step. Efficient fat digestion helps with gallbladder support and health by preventing the formation of gallstones and supporting bile flow.

Stomach acid signals the release of bile, and betaine HCl can help with the absorption of nutrients, including various vitamins and minerals.

Final Thoughts—The Best Supplements for Gallbladder Support

Whether you’re dealing with a gallbladder issue like inflammation or gallstones, or you need digestive support because you’ve had your gallbladder removed, the supplements above can be helpful. Incorporating the right gallbladder support supplement into your routine can help promote healthy bile production, fat digestion and overall digestive well-being. Always seek professional guidance when you’re dealing with symptoms that you think could be related to your gallbladder or considering the addition of a new supplement to your routine. 

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