Did you know the gallbladder is a top reason for hospitalization in the first years after having a baby?
With so many women experiencing gallbladder issues, which then leads to many other issues during the postpartum years, we want AND need to know why this is happening.
I’m going to share some of the top reasons that you can be seeing gallbladder issues and offer some different things you can do to help heal it.
If you have had your gallbladder removed, I also offer some tips in this episode on how you can continue to have good function of your liver and other organs that take on the load to ensure proper function once the gallbladder is gone.
If you are a Mama experiencing gallbladder issues, please listen to this episode and take this information to heart so you can start on the path to healing.
Of course, if you have questions, be sure to join my Facebook group, The Postpartum Circle, and reach out!
I’d be honored to assist you in your journey to healing in postpartum!
In this episode, I’m sharing:
- Gallbladder complications and dysfunction
- The gallbladder is a top reason for hospitalization in the first years after giving birth
- The function of the gallbladder
- Why is bile essential?
- The Gallbladder, A storage unit
- The lack of understanding & research on the root of gallbladder disfunction
- Your gut microbiome & the effects it has on proper gut function
- Gluten & Dairy
- Liver issues
- The Liver & Gallbladder: How they work together
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and antibiotics
- The root cause of gallbladder dysfunction
- While removing the gallbladder sometimes has to happen due to the extent of disease. It is NOT the only option and can usually be healed!
- Ways to make the the gallbladder function better
- Castor oil packs
- If you have MTHFR gene mutation, your liver function is absolutely critical
- Importance of bowel movements in cleansing your body and organs
- How to balance your gut microbiota
- How to help dissolve gallstones
- Ox bile
- Focus on your health and wellbeing through managing your stress levels, the food you eat, and by making sure that you’re getting enough sleep!
- Come join us at The Postpartum Circle group on Facebook!
We all get it. Postpartum and the years after having a baby is no walk in the park. But you know what? It isn’t just about depression or anxiety either. Hey, my friend, I’m Maranda Bower, a homesteading mama with four wild kids. My life’s passion and education is all about supporting mothers and providers in understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth.
What we know as common sense in the postpartum years has many women feeling just plain awful. It’s time to bring back the truth. Get you the tools you need to heal and thrive in motherhood and beyond. Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s episode. I’m Maranda Bower, your host for the Postpartum Circle podcast, and I have a subject here that is near and dear to my heart, and I absolutely need to share this with you. That is on gallbladder dysfunction and postpartum. Now, this was a training that I had just recently put on for those who were certified as postpartum nutrition coaches through my Postpartum Nutrition Certification program. Because that episode with my certification students was so long and in-depth, I’m actually going to be giving you a short synopsis of what I had shared with some very important points and addressing the topic of gallbladder complications and dysfunction.
Let’s go ahead and dive in. The reason why I wanted to bring this topic up is because this is one of the top reasons for hospitalization in the first years after giving birth. We really want to investigate why this is happening. So many women are experiencing gallbladder issues in the postpartum years, and we want to know: why is this happening? Why is this becoming a pretty consistent thing that we are seeing? Before we can really answer that question, we need to understand what the gallbladder function is within the body.
I will tell you, overall, the function of the gallbladder is to store bile until it’s needed for digestion. We’re going to get into more details about bile and all of that in a minute. Essentially, when we eat, the gallbladder contracts and sends bile to the digestive tract. This helps break down your foods into digestible forms so that you can absorb those nutrients.
When we dive into a little bit more about what this means, I’m going to tell you and walk you through the picture here. I actually have a picture that I’ll probably post in my Postpartum Circle Facebook group. If you are a visual person, you can tune in there and see that image. Just to share with you and break down what happens, even before you start putting food in your mouth and start the digestion process, your brain recognizes your hunger, and your salivary glands get to work. Your stomach fills with hydrochloric acid. When you put the food in your mouth and chew, you signal even more digestive support from other organs, one of them being the gallbladder. Before we get to that, the hydrochloric acid that’s in your stomach breaks up foods into tiny particles. That allows the gallbladder and pancreas to work together in the small intestine. After the food is released from the stomach into the small intestine, the gallbladder and the pancreas receive a hormonal message saying, “Hey, food’s here, there’s these kinds of foods in here, there’s fats, there’s proteins,” and then they release specific enzymes. The pancreas releases digestive enzymes, and then the gallbladder releases this bile.
Now, bile is essential for fat absorption. It acts like a detergent, breaking down the fat particles so that the enzymes from the pancreas can further break down that food. And then the body can start absorbing those tiny, tiny nutrients into the body. The gallbladder’s main function essentially serves as a storage unit for the bile that’s needed for the initial steps of breaking down fat in particular. And it’s essential for the absorption of your food. Fat is absolutely important for the absorption of cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s an absolute essential for the body. Without this breakdown, without this process, the body becomes malnourished from these particular vitamins.
So, there are numerous problems that tend to go wrong with this little gallbladder. We have issues in terms of bile flow backing up into the liver, gallstones, inflammation, and infections that can arise. The most prominent issue that we see, especially in postpartum, is gallstones and colostasis. We want to investigate a little bit more about why that happens. Understanding the root cause has multiple facets here that we’re going to explore.
Now that you kind of understand a little bit about the function of the gallbladder in its basic form and some of the problems that generally arise, let’s talk about why this is happening and why women in pregnancy and postpartum are at such an increased risk. We know from statistics that women are twice as likely to develop gallstones. That is on par with the statistic that 78% of those who experience autoimmune disease happen to women. These are overwhelming issues that women are experiencing today. And as I said earlier, gallbladder issues are one of the top reasons for hospitalization in the first year after giving birth.
So, we really want to dive into this. And I will say outright that science today has yet to fully understand the root cause of gallbladder dysfunction. Many providers, even those who practice more functional or holistic care, will tell you that its cause is not fully understood. That is absolutely true. We need more research. We need to understand the body as it works and functions as a whole.
Because we have this idea that the body works as this mechanical robot with all of these individual parts, we tend to not quite understand how one piece of the body interacts and fully engages with the rest. This is, you know, something that I’ve been preaching about, especially in postpartum, for such a long time. This is a whole body approach to healing. And we can’t segregate one vitamin or one mineral or one body part and not understand the effects on the rest. We have to know the whole entire story.
So, unfortunately, that’s not something that science has yet to fully dive into. So when we’re going to talk about these components, I want you to just keep that in mind. But what we do know, what science is telling us, is based on these five main points, right?
The first is that your gut microbiome affects proper gut function. So when there is an imbalance, usually which presents as food sensitivities in the beginning or allergies, you will develop gallbladder issues. This happens because the imbalance of the gut microbiome signals inflammation in the body and throughout the bloodstream. And these inflammatory signals called cytokines affect the function of bile being transported from the liver to the gallbladder. So it makes the liver more stagnant. The liver is where this bile is produced and created, and then it becomes stored in the gallbladder. But when there is this inflammation, that transport from the liver to the gallbladder becomes stagnant. And that causes an imbalance in the gallbladder. It causes that sluggishness, a word that we often hear in terms of gallbladder function. And that often leads to stones and causes that sluggishness or a cholestasis.
It’s also important to know that when there is less bile entering the small intestine, this can also cause a gut microbiome imbalance. So the biliary system, which is your liver and the ducts and the gallbladder, all of that functioning together is so incredibly important to the overall balance of your gut microbiome. It’s a two-way street. So if your gut microbiome is off balance, then that’s going to cause your gallbladder to malfunction. And if your gallbladder is not functioning well, that’s gonna cause even more of a disbalance or imbalance within the gut microbiome. So that is first and foremost.
The second, we need to understand that inflammation, one of the top contenders for inflammation, actually two of them, are gluten and dairy. There is plenty of evidence that supports the fact that many people who have celiac disease or allergies to gluten in particular have a significantly increased risk of having gallstones. Stress also causes significant increases in inflammation. And we know that in postpartum, we are very sensitive to stress, as well as the foods that we put into our body, particularly gluten and dairy. That’s why I always, always recommend, even if you feel you can tolerate gluten and dairy, omitting them in the healing process is absolutely essential. We need to eliminate all potentials for inflammation so that we can make sure that our body is getting everything it needs from us initially.
Now, the third component to this is liver issues. When the liver is inflamed or has any disease, you can guarantee that the gallbladder will be too. These two organs work simultaneously together. The dysfunction in one means the dysfunction in the other. Actually, in Chinese medicine, the liver and the gallbladder work together. And in order to heal one, you have to treat both. And that applies to so much of our body as well. Again, one of the greatest medical myths is that our body is working like a machine with individual parts. So you fix one part and the rest continues on, but our body is created as a whole. And when it doesn’t function well, this means that other parts of our body also don’t function well. So in order to address this, we have to also address the liver.
Now, the fourth component, and this is where we’re getting closer to the postpartum association here, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and antibiotic use have been associated with the onset of this sluggishness and gallstones. So every single one of these listed, the pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and antibiotic use, they go hand in hand. I’m actually putting them together in the same category here. Because we know that when a woman is pregnant, her hormones fluctuate. The hormones in pregnancy change the gut microbiome. And if her gut microbiome is off balance to begin with, this can cause an immediate spiral. This is a normal biological shift. These hormone changes are a normal biological shift, and the gut changes in the microbiome are a normal biological shift. There’s nothing different, there’s nothing abnormal about that. However, if the hormones are off balance, or the gut microbiome is off balance, that is immediately going to send an imbalance within the rest of the body. We also know that hormones like estrogen increase cholesterol secretion, which is if it’s already high in the body, if the body already has high levels of cholesterol, that may lead to gallstones. And the same is true for oral contraceptives. And we have statistical proof that by taking these, not only do you cause deficiencies in several key nutrients, you also change the gut microbiome. And then, of course, antibiotic use, whether pregnant or not, leads to microbiome changes. And we also know that women in pregnancy are at a higher risk of receiving antibiotics.
Quick note for you, my friend: My postpartum nutrition certification program is opening. If you feel called to support women at this deep fundamental level and truly address the root of postpartum depression, anxiety, and postpartum autoimmune disease, then join this group of thought leaders and community builders in this upcoming cohort. You can learn more at www.marandabower.com.
So, let’s now look at postpartum. If you’ve been through the postpartum nutrition certification program, you know that the gut changes immensely after childbirth. If a healthy diet is not used and that food has a hard time digesting in postpartum, it absolutely changes the gut microbiome. It can cause leaky gut or food sensitivities and allergies. And then the spiral can continue on, usually leading into autoimmune diseases. If there were imbalances before, and/or during pregnancy, that can easily crash down in postpartum, especially when inflammation is naturally already present in the healing process of postpartum. And couple that with not eating well in postpartum, and the stress of postpartum when we don’t have the support systems that we truly need to heal, we have a perfect storm for gallbladder dysfunction.
So really, the root cause of gallbladder dysfunction is liver issues, poor gut flora caused by inflammation like stress, gluten, dairy, those kinds of things, and hormone imbalances within pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or antibiotic use. So the big question is, okay, now that we have this root cause, now that we understand this at a different level, how in the world do we make this better?
Now, oftentimes, we are told that removal of the gallbladder is the only option. And I will tell you firsthand that sometimes that’s absolutely necessary when the liver is so diseased or so dysfunctional. Oftentimes, there’s not a way to really turn back the clock to fix that. Sometimes that happens, and it’s just necessary to remove it. However, there are many, many times where that is not the case. But because we’re talking about removal, let’s dive into that a little bit more here. Removal of the gallbladder should absolutely be avoided whenever possible. And we’ll talk about ways to support that here in just a second.
But when there is no gallbladder in the body, the liver still produces the bile. Rather than that bile storing in the gallbladder, it simply continuously leaks into the small intestine. This means that when one eats a meal, there’s generally not enough of the bile to facilitate in the breakdown of fats. And this is why those without a gallbladder often struggle with the digestion of fat. The other component to this that needs to be addressed is the continual leaking of bile from the liver into the small intestine. That will change the overall gut microbes and gut functions necessary to absorb nutrients and cause long-term issues in the gut microbiome imbalances. And if this root problem is not addressed, there’s even gallstones that can continually still be created within the body, which can lead to other really serious complications later down the road.
So always, always, always address the root cause even if the gallbladder has to be removed.
So, how do we go ahead and make this gallbladder function better? If you’re experiencing gallbladder issues, what you absolutely want to do is remove inflammation sources. Avoid gluten, dairy, sugars, and anything that might be causing an allergic reaction for you. Lower your stress. Stress levels cause inflammation in the body, and it also slows digestion down. Okay? Another quick tip is castor oil packs. And you can look this up. It’s a great technique where you take castor oil and you put it on your skin, on your belly, and you put generally a really thin cloth on top of it, followed by a heat source. And this draws the impurities and the issues within the body out into the fabric cloth, thanks to the castor oil.
If you are experiencing an actual gallbladder attack, do not do a castor oil pack. This is great in between when you are needing to kind of expel and kind of do a cleansing of the stomach and the general area. So, look up castor oil packs. They are absolutely amazing for healing.
The second is care for your organs, especially your liver. Bitters is a great tool for liver and stimulates bio flow. Bitters is exactly that. It’s super bitter foods. We often are attracted to the sweets, but the bitters is what stimulates our liver and gets that liver working really nicely and flowing appropriately. You can actually get a little tinctures called bitters or you can eat foods that are very, very bitter. Look up dandelion roots. That’s one of those that are really important.
Now, liver support for those of you who have the MTHFR gene mutation, okay? If you have the MTHFR gene mutation, your liver function is absolutely critical. Most of us who have this MTHFR gene mutation do not produce a phospholipid that helps support liver function and it helps cleanse the body and gets the liver functioning appropriately. So if you don’t produce that, you want to absolutely make sure that you are taking this. And it’s called phosphatide A-coline. It is a byproduct, a phospholipid from coline. So this is incredibly important and you definitely want to do your research and learning more about that.
And of course, make sure your bowels are always moving. Your bowels, you need to make sure that you are pooping. This is the awkward pooping conversation. You need to be pooping at least once a day and making sure that you are cleansing out your bowels so that your organs can function appropriately because the backup in that causes bacterial infections. It also changes your gut microbiome, but also changes the way that your organs function.
Now, the other component of this is balance your gut microbiota, okay? Increase vitamin K2 and D and only healthy fats. Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and even avocado oil are absolutely amazing. Take those with vitamin K2 and vitamin D to help increase your liver and gallbladder function. Oftentimes, we are told that we are not to consume any sort of fats whatsoever when we’re experiencing gallbladder issues. And this can actually create more issues down the line because you’re teaching the gallbladder not to function, not to release the bile that is necessary because the hormones within the small intestine are what tells this to release. And we want our body to be releasing this bile and what it needs to in order to digest this food. So eating healthy fats is absolutely essential for the rebalancing of our liver function as well as our gallbladder function.
Probiotics and fermented foods are absolutely essential. If you know that you have gallstones, if you’ve been diagnosed with gallstones, a couple of ways in which you can get rid of that is through the use of food. Beetroot, taurine, lemon, peppermint, and vitamin C in high doses are very much known for their properties in eliminating and dissolving gallstones. So be sure to talk with your provider and do your research on that.
Ox bile or bovine is necessary as well. So, ox bile is bile that essentially comes from an ox and you can take it in pill form. And this is sometimes necessary for those of us who don’t have a gallbladder. So if you’ve already had a gallbladder removed, you absolutely wanna be taking ox bile with every single meal to help you break down those fats. And if you know that your body is just struggling and you wanna give it a little oomph, ox bile can be really helpful as you are healing your liver and your gallbladder.
I always get asked about gallbladder flushes as well. I will tell you there are many out there that are on the market and most lack any clinical trials and testing and they don’t generally address the root cause of the problem. So I don’t generally recommend them especially if they’re not food-based, you need to be very, very careful with that. When you focus on health and wellbeing through your stress levels and through food and making sure that you’re getting enough sleep, that in itself is enough to dramatically change the way the body is functioning, especially with the gallbladder. So, I’ve seen so many of my clients have gallbladder issues, have been diagnosed with that, and then just by changing their diet, see a dramatic improvement that takes them out of needing a surgical procedure later down the road.
So, I am going to leave you with all of that amazing juicy information. I know it’s so much. And if you want to come over to the postpartum circle group on Facebook and ask questions, you are more than welcome to do so. There is a lot of information here in this training. And again, I went very deep with my certification students, but unfortunately, that’s not possible here in a podcast episode. And it gets really overwhelming at times, especially if this is not something that you find really fun to investigate. So, if you’re a mom and you’re listening and you’re having gallbladder issues, take my considerations to heart and feel free to reach out if you need additional support.
And with that, I will leave you with all of this juicy goodness. Check back soon and we’ll chat some more. Thanks for tuning in and taking the time to learn about how to support your body in deep healing. We don’t do this work just for us or for you. Your healing impacts your children, your relationships, and your community. We do this work because the health and vibrancy of our world begins with its mothers. I hope you have taken some valuable information today and applied it to your own life. If you aren’t sure where to begin, reach out about working together one-on-one or at minimum learning about my postpartum nutrition plan, which is where I start every single one of my clients. And you can do that by going to MarandaBower.com.
Hope you enjoyed this episode. Let us know by leaving a review and we will see you next time.
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