Lets just jump to the main recommendation: reduce your estrogen dominance and eat more fiber. As a pharmacist I see the problem of gall bladder issues A LOT. Every day it seems there is someone out there waiting for an appointment with the specialist to further evaluate the problem. The symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness under the rib cage on the right side
- Pain between shoulder blades
- Stools light or chalky colored
- Fatty stools
- Indigestion after eating, especially fatty or greasy foods
- Burping or belching
- Feeling of fullness or food not digesting
- Diarrhea (or alternating from soft to watery)
- Constipation or frequent use of laxatives
- Headache over eyes, especially right
- Bitter fluid comes up after eating
- Constipation or frequent use of laxatives
Unfortunately the stress of experiencing gall bladder issues is intensified when the patient thinks they are having a heart attack. Of course it is important to determine that this is not happening so close investigation of the symptoms and pattern are important as is followup with your doctor.
So why reduction of estrogen dominance so key in dealing with your gall bladder and what is estrogen dominance anyway. While we’re at it, what is the gall bladder for in the first place? The gall bladder is a small thumb sized hollow organ located under the liver. It’s main job is the storage of bile or gall which is produced in the liver. In response to a fat containing meal, the gall bladder releases bile into the intestines and with the help of pancreatic enzymes, emulsifies the fat for absorption into the bloodstream. This is quite a simplified description but basically this is what this organ does.
It takes just a simple understanding of plumbing to understand what causes a gall bladder to act up: constricted flow and thickened secretion. What causes the flow to constrict? Well it turns out that estrogen dominance, a common topic of discussion with me results in a constriction of the Sphincter of Oddi, which controls the flow of bile out of the gall bladder. Estrogen dominance is an imbalance between the amount of estrogen compared to progesterone in your body, and just in case you’re a guy and think this doesn’t apply to you, the truth is you most likely have estrogen dominance as well. How do you know if you have it? Well for men,
- Prostate enlargement – benign prostate hyperplasia / hypertrophy (BPH) and the risk of prostate cancer.
- Urination – difficulty, increased frequency. Constricted urethra.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Low libido.
- Adiposity (fat build-up) and the redistribution of fat. Estrogen stimulates the production of fat cells. However, fat cells also make a small amount of estrogen, causing a vicious cycle.
- Muscle development reduced.
- Body hair reduced.
- Veins become less prominent.
- Breast growth (man boobs).
- Sweat and body odour changes.
- Skin thinning.
Estrogen dominance in women,
- Mood swings, depression, irritability, anger, forgetfulness, inability to focus thoughts, panic attacks.
- Aches and pains, sore bones.
- Disrupted periods. Early, late, high/low blood flow.
- Low energy.
- Weight gain. Fat tends to deposit around the hips, abdomen, and thighs. Estrogen stimulates the production of fat cells. However, fat cells also make estrogen and so a vicious cycle starts.
- Low libido.
- Headaches or migraines.
- Decreased thyroid function (low body temperature and sometimes thinning hair).
- Fluid / salt retention, bloating (oedema) or weight gain due to fluid retention.
- Weak bladder control.
- Fibromas (fibroid tumours).
- Heart palpitations, chest pains.
- Food cravings.
- Insulin resistance / poor blood sugar control / hypoglycaemia.
- Blood clotting, reduced blood vessel tone.
- Breasts. Cyclical breast tenderness – tender or painful, feeling fuller or swollen, particularly in the pre-menstrual week. Use of progesterone cream on days 12 -26 of the menstrual cycle will balance the estrogen dominance. It usually takes three months of use to cure this problem.
- Cancer – increased risk of endometrial or breast cancer.
- Fibrocystic breast disease. Non-cancerous changes and lumps in the breast tissue. They can cause discomfort, varying in relation to hormonal influences from the menstrual cycle. Fibrocystic breast disease affects 30-60% of women.
These are pretty typical symptoms but they often go hand in hand with gall bladder inflammation. So how to you treat this estrogen dominance and allow your progesterone to relax the sphincter that may be causing the gall bladder associated pain? Well it turns out progesterone cream is perfect for both men and women. Also effective is zinc which blocks the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in both men and women. Lowering the fat content in your body will help also as this is the main source for this conversion. Other things can help like avoiding external sources of estrogen, or xenoestrogens in the environment that act like estrogen when introduced to your body. These include herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, plastic drinking bottles, and heavy metals. Eating organic food and using organic products in the home can help with the avoidance of such ingredients. Supplements like Calcium-d-Glucarate, DIM and I3C also help to lower estrogen dominance symptoms as does exercise. Another great way to lower estrogen dominance is through the use of fiber. Fiber not only helps with gall bladder discomfort by decreasing estrogen and therefore estrogen dominance, it also helps to prevent the recirculation of cholesterol that is used in bile production.
A big problem with ongoing bile problems is the production of biliary sludge, a noticeable thickening of the bile with crystals of cholesterol monohydrate crystals and calcium bilirubinate granules. These can come together to form gallstones but even without that action the thickened bile makes for restricted flow of the bile through the bile duct. This is reminiscent of what happens in a sinus infection, thickening secretions obstruct flow and increased bacteria (in the case of the gall bladder, E.Coli, Klebsiella and enterococcus) result causing inflammation. There is a close relationship between the gall bladder and the bacteria in the intestines and these bacteria can work there way backward to the gall bladder when the Sphincter of Oddi is relaxed, but the “precipitating” factor is the sludge production.
Try reducing estrogen dominance and above all increase your fiber. These will help with many more issues than just gall bladder. Food sensitivities also can increase the incidence of gall bladder attacks so finding the offending agent with the appropriate test can help tremendously.