Why is it so important to take care of your liver and gallbladder? The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder. When we eat, the gallbladder squirts bile into the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) as part of the digestive process. Bile is essential for breaking down fats—not only from food, but also fat-soluble toxins, fatty hormones such as estrogen, and more. When we consistently eat fatty, hard-to-digest foods, the gallbladder becomes sluggish and begins to accumulate a thick, gluey sludge that can lead to thickened bile, gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, and other issues.
Congested bile lowers digestive fire and slows down fat metabolism. You may feel:
- indigestion (bloating, gas, acid reflux, belching)
- pain under the rib cage, on the right side
Indigestion produces excessive ama (poorly or semi-digested food) in your body and ama creates a vicious cycle of more digestive clogging and even stiffness in the muscles and joints. Long-term bile issues can lead to high cholesterol, weight gain, gallstones, reabsorption of toxins and hormones, thyroid imbalance, and more. Sadly, removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States today.
What Can Cause Bile Sludge?
The foods listed below are hard to digest and can cause gallbladder and bile issues:
- Frozen/ice-cold foods and beverages: The cold causes the fats in the bile to thicken and congeal.
- Deep-fried foods
- Hard-to-digest oils and oil supplements: Vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats and margarines, fish oil, flaxseed oil, and other oils rich in omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) can overwhelm the gallbladder’s ability to break down fat.
- Cold dairy—especially Greek yogurt, cold milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt
- Aged cheeses
- Nut butters
- Red meats
- Refined flours and sugars
Some Foods That Support Healthy Bile Production
- To thin bile: cooked beets, artichokes, sunchokes, carrots, apples
- To flush the liver and gallbladder of congested bile: cooked leafy greens, arugula, fresh lime/lemon juice, aloe vera juice, grapefruit
- To supply soluble fiber: whole grains, lentils, cooked cabbage, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens; daikon radish, celery, berries, powdered psyllium husk
- To stimulate the release of bile: healthy oils in small quantities, such as cultured ghee, olive oil, coconut oil
- To help move stagnation: hot water
- Herbs: Triphala, shilajit, guduchi, hibiscus
- Spices: fenugreek seeds, cinnamon stick, turmeric, ginger
To Learn More on This Topic:
Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum, Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda, Chapter 6: Gallbladder Function and the Thyroid Gland (Healing Arts Press, March 19, 2019).
Dr. John Douillard, Eat Wheat, (Morgan James Publishing, 2017)
Cooked Apple-Beet Smoothie
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe and Beets with Saffron Almonds