With gallbladder disease rates through the roof, affecting up to 15% of the adult population, you may be wondering how to prevent this painful condition. Here are 3 food groups to prioritise for a healthy gallbladder, plus a few foods you'll want to steer clear of.
The gallbladder is an organ beneath the liver which helps us digest our food by releasing bile into the small intestine. A diet loaded with ultra-processed foods and added sugars can lead to gallbladder diseases like gallstones and gallbladder cancer – many may even need to have the organ removed. Take a look at some of the signs of gallbladder disease:
- Dark urine
- Rapid heartbeat
- A sudden blood pressure drop
- Fever, chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
Now let’s dive into a few foods to prioritise if you're looking to lower your risk for this condition, or even if you're looking to manage it.
Whole fruits and veggies
Eating a diet packed with a variety of fruits and veggies is one of the best ways to boost not only your gallbladder health, but your whole-body health too. From essential vitamins and minerals to fibre, these foods are key to a functioning system. Fibre is known to improve the digestive process, which in turn lowers your risk for developing gallstone disease. Make sure to add some of the following to your meals:
- Whole fruits – especially those high in vitamin C like kiwi fruit and strawberries.
- Whole veggies – again, high vitamin C is the priority, so broccoli is a good contender.
- Leafy greens like spinach are loaded with fibre, antioxidants and vitamins.
In fact, the Mediterranean diet, which is known for its emphasis on fresh produce, has been found to lower the risk for gallstone disease. This diet also values other whole foods like legumes, seeds and nuts, along with healthy fats, while limiting refined grains and processed foods.
Healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides may protect the health of your gallbladder, according to research. It’s believed to be a result of lower triglyceride levels that come with these healthy fats, which then increases the bile’s quality, along with maintaining healthy gallbladder function. Take a look at some of the best sources of healthy fats:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Fish and algae oil
Protein – and specifically plan-based protein – has been found to offer protective benefits to the gallbladder. This is because of the lack of cholesterol in vegetarian protein sources, as high LDL (bad) cholesterol can contribute to the condition. You’ll find these health-boosting proteins in the following foods:
- Legumes like lentils and chickpeas
- Tofu and tempeh
Eating smaller, more regular meals is another great way to boost your gallbladder health. This is because long gaps between meals can strain your gallbladder, while eating more frequently means this organ will empty, thereby reducing your risk for gallstones.
Foods to avoid for gallbladder health
- Foods with excess added sugars like chocolates, cereals and processed snacks
- Refined sugar
- Fast food and deep-fried food
- Foods with high saturated fat
- Foods with trans fats
- A low-fibre diet
If you’re already dealing with gallstones, your body may be less equipped to deal with foods high in saturated fats, so consume these in moderation. Trans fats are worth cutting out as they have been found to disrupt the gallbladder’s function by increasing triglycerides in the blood, which, as we mentioned earlier, puts us at a higher risk for gallstones. High blood sugar levels are another major contributor to gallbladder disease, and we know that eating excess sugars can contribute to these unstable blood sugars. The issue comes from the disruption of the gallbladder’s ability to empty its bile, and, as we mentioned before, when the gallbladder can’t contract and empty itself properly, we have a higher chance of developing gallstones and all kinds of other gallbladder conditions.
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