Chronic Constipation and the Role of the Gallbladder

Constipation is becoming an increasingly chronic issue for Americans. Some children and adults deal with the uncomfortable issue, and higher amounts of seniors deal with this issue. There are many different products on the market to help provide relief and move the bowels. While these are needed to reduce discomfort, what is also needed is for us to look at some of the possible root causes of constipation. If you aren’t addressing the root, you may just be putting a bandaid on the situation.

There are several factors that can contribute to constipation:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating enough fiber (mainly this comes from lack of fruits and veggies, though flax seed and chia seeds can be helpful)
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise/excess sitting
  • Lack of probiotics
  • Gallbladder not functioning optimally

All these factors combined and separately have an impact, but what I wanted to focus on today is how the gallbladder can be one of the culprits in chronic constipation. Most everyone has bouts of occasional constipation, and that is usually created from life circumstances like traveling or being dehydrated. Chronic constipation is an ongoing issue dealt with on a daily and weekly basis.

The Gallbladder’s Job

The gallbladder’s main job is to store, concentrate and release bile. Bile is made by the liver and then transported to the gallbladder to be stored. As it sits there, it is concentrated into a more potent product that is made up of fatty acids and cholesterol and designed to be excreted when fat from food we ingest enters into the duodenum (the start of the small intestines). Bile has two main jobs. It carries toxins out of the liver and it enhances the digestion and utilization of fats that we eat by emulsifying them and breaking them up into smaller fat globules in the small intestines. Once the fats are broken down, they can be absorbed by the body and utilized for fuel.

The other key component of bile is that it helps move things along in the intestines, meaning it moves stools through the intestines and out as waste. If the body is not digesting something well, it tends to stay around for a while, which is what can happen with undigested fat when there is limited bile. This decreases GI motility (or bowel movements).

Without appropriate amounts of bile to break up fat, you will have a harder time digesting the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is important that we eat good fats as they play many important roles in the body. Fats are used in the body as fuel, to satiate us and keep us fuller longer, and they help us to regulate inflammation (omega-3 and omega-6 are important in the right balance for this). Fats also make up part of the structure of our cell walls, and are used to form key hormones.

Signs of a poorly functioning gallbladder

Intense cravings of sugar and fat can be a sign that your gallbladder needs a little more support. If you aren’t digesting fats well, you can tend to crave them, or crave sugar, as fats are like the slow burning fuel and give us longer sustained energy and satiate us. When we don’t eat fats or aren’t digesting them well, we are hungrier more often and can turn to sugar instead to give us quick energy as it digests very quickly and the body uses the glucose for fuel. Of course, dysregulated blood sugar and a constant intake of sugary foods will also contribute to cravings for more sugar, so limit your intake as much as possible. Other signs of gallbladder issues can be pain under the right rib cage where the gallbladder is located, motion sickness/nausea, frequent diarrhea or fatty stools that float due to not digesting fats. If you increase your fiber content and your constipation gets worse or you take liver cleansing herbs and don’t do well, it could be because the bile is not flowing freely like it should and so the fiber isn’t being effectively moved along or the liver cannot get rid of the toxins through the bile appropriately. Fiber helps bind up the bile and toxins and safely escort it out of the body in the form of stools.

Bile and Fats

To have a healthy gallbladder with healthy bile, we need to be eating healthy fats regularly. Healthy fats are fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, butter, and ghee. Unhealthy fats are highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and any liquid oil that is heated and refined. These oils are not heat stable, are sensitive to light and therefore should be stored in opaque jars, and are often from gmo crops. Unhealthy fats also include consumption of trans fatty acids and fried foods as these fats have been altered and can be rancid and oxidized, contributing to inflammation and poor quality bile. You need healthy fats to make healthy bile!

When you don’t eat fat regularly, meaning you eat low fat or no fat, your gallbladder doesn’t get the signal to release bile regularly, as it is released due to the presence of fat in the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestines). When the bile doesn’t move out regularly, it gets thick and viscous and can lead to gallstone formations. This can lead to inflammation and pain down the road, but also means limited fat digestion takes place. Remember, fats are needed for a healthy inflammation response, cell structure, hormones, and more, so it is important that we digest them to use them.

So how do you take care of your gallbladder?

  • Eat healthy fats like olive oil, ghee, tallow, butter, lard, avocado oil, and oils that support healthy inflammation pathways like borage oil, hemp oil, fish oil, flax seed, chia seeds, and black currant seed oil.
  • If you no longer have a gallbladder or have trouble digesting fats due to a sluggish gallbladder, coconut oil is a good fat to use for cooking and baking, as it is high in MCTs and gets digested quickly and doesn’t need as much bile to digest it. Our goat ghee is also high in MCTs and therefore should be easier to digest.
  • Eat foods that thin the bile and support the liver like beets, lemons, apples, dandelion greens (and other bitter foods or Swedish Bitters), carrots, and flaxseed oil.

Want a tasty recipe that helps support a healthy gallbladder and bile flow? Check out our Gallbladder Salad recipe.

EZ-Go Herbal Stool Softener for ease of bowel movements

For those that do need some extra support, Mt. Capra offers an excellent product that enhances elimination. It is called EZ-Go and is an herbal stool softener that is gentle and non-irritating. It includes mucilaginous herbs like aloe, slippery elm, and marshmallow root that soothe, as well as magnesium, and triphala to add some bulk to the formulation for ease of movement.

Please note: Nothing in this blogpost is making any health claims. This information is for informational purposes only and does not substitute the advice from a qualified medical professional. If you have any concerns about your health, see your primary care provider.

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7 thoughts on “Chronic Constipation and the Role of the Gallbladder”

  1. Thank you for your article. I actually had my gall bladder removed several years ago. I have noticed over time I am dealing with chronic constipation, bloating and slow digestion. Could not having a gall bladder play a part in this issue? And if so what can I possibly do if anything to fix this issue? I am currently taking probiotics, bitters and consuming fermented foods. In hopes of fixing potential gut health issues and assisting with digestion. But any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hello, Lori. I am not a medical doctor, so you need to take my comments with that in mind. I had my gall bladder removed 30 years ago. I did not immediately notice a difference…but in a few years I began to notice that I too had developed similar digestive issues. I lived with it, because I simply didn’t want to change my diet. Doctors had told me to reduce fats in my diet, since bile (which comes from the pancreas, and is stored in the gall bladder) would forever be in short supply.

      5 years ago, when I came to work at Mt. Capra, I learned of their product known as Capra Mineral Whey. I began taking it and with 2 weeks of daily use my stomach problems went away. ALL OF THEM. Bloating, gas, diarrhea – all gone. I Now I take Capra Mineral Whey every day without fail. I would highly recommend that you try it. If you do, stick with it daily for at least 2 weeks and possibly a month.

      In the meantime, here is a great bit of info on just what bile has to do with digestion. Good luck!

      http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/bile.html

      Lori, one thing you should know is that before I started taking Capra Mineral Whey, I was NOT having constipation. Quite the opposite…but Capra Mineral Whey did fix my problems. It may or may not address your constipation issue. Just giving you full info, you understand.

      Reply
    • Hi Lori,

      I am sorry to hear of your digestive issues. Something you might want to look into is bile salts. Bile salts are a supplement that can be taken with meals containing fat that basically replace the bile that the gallbladder would have been releasing if you still had one. I am not a medical doctor, so this should not be taken as medical advice, just some educational information. I suggest you consult with your health care physician and do a little more research on your own to see what would be best for you.

      Best wishes,
      Shanda

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this article. It makes so much sense with what is going on with me this month. I made a big dietary change which was ‘working’ for weight loss, but 6 weeks later I’m having gallbladder pain and constipation. (I may have cut the good fat back too much!?! It is the one area of guidance from my coach that I wasn’t paying attention to; since I thought if I was short on that, I would just lose more. I now see the error of my thinking.)
    After lab work and an Ultrasound, I just had an abdominal MRI today, so I will be speaking with my doctor very soon. But I was curious if the increased constipation could be related. Your article explained how one affects the other and gives me a good basis to evaluate my diet and have an informed discussion with my doctor.

    Reply
    • Hi Ruben, SIBO is a whole other issue that comes with it’s own problems. SIBO can have alternating diarrhea and constipation due to the issues going on with the small intestines and may not be linked to gallbladder issues. The root cause of constipation can be different for different people, it depends on what is going on with the body. We recommend consulting your health care provider for help with your specific situation.

      Reply

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