For a Sluggish Gallbladder, Try These 4 Ayurvedic Herbs and Foods

Beets, fenugreek, cinnamon, and shilajit can help you dial in digestion, support a healthy microbiome, and beat bile sludge and liver congestion.

In This Article

How Refined Vegetable Oils Started a Gallbladder Crisis

In the 1960s, when cholesterol was mistakenly deemed the cause of heart disease, saturated fats were replaced with polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats were derived from seed oils, and because these seed oils were so volatile, they had to be highly processed and refined to become stable.

Today, clear plastic vegetable oil-filled bottles line brightly-lit grocery store shelves–while even one photon of light would normally oxidize unrefined vegetable oils. These refined vegetables oils are used as preservatives in packaged foods, but are unappetizing to the residents of your microbiome.

Why You Should Care About Gallbladder Health

High consumption of these vegetable oils has been linked to digestive, cognitive, joint, blood sugar, liver, and gallbladder concerns.3

These oils are one of the major culprits behind thick, and viscous bile. The medical term for this is “bile sludge,” and it’s the result of congestion of the bile ducts, the liver (which is in charge of making bile), and the gallbladder (which is in charge of storing bile).

In today’s world, gallbladder concerns have become the norm. Worldwide, one out of four women over the age of 60 will experience gallbladder issues.1 Cholecystectomy (the removal of the gallbladder) is the most common elective abdominal surgery in America, with more than 750,000 surgeries per year. Gallbladder disease has increased by 20%in the last 3 decades, costing America $6.2 billion a year in collective medical bills.2

Ayurvedic Herbs for Bile Sludge and Gallbladder Health

Thanks to Ayurveda, there are certain herbs that can help you defend against refined vegetable oils and beat bile sludge.

For years I have found beetroot, fenugreek, cinnamon, and shilajit invaluable for supporting healthy digestion, particularly for supporting the liver and gallbladder, which I believe are the kingpins of digestion and detox pathways in the body.

These four herbs have been used for thousands of years, and are now backed by science to support optimal liver and gallbladder health.

poor digestion beet root image

1. Beetroot

The star of the show in this formula is beetroot. Beets are very rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, and powerful antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid. All of these support healthy liver function and bile flow. Poor bile flow is extremely common and is linked to weak stomach acid, inadequate liver detoxification and poor fat metabolism.9

In one study, both beets and okra were found to attach to bile in the intestines.8 Once the bile is attached to certain types of fiber, in this case beet and okra fiber, the fiber’s job is to escort toxic bile to the toilet. This is important, as bile carries toxic cholesterol particles, environmental pollutants, and a variety of other fat-soluble toxic substances that it picks up on its journey through the liver and intestines. Without adequate fiber, up to 94% of this toxic bile can be re-absorbed back to the liver and put back into circulation.9

Other beetroot benefits include:

Powerful Liver Protection Support: In another study, mice who were fed beets for 10 days (2g/kg of body weight) produced a significant amount of enzymatic antioxidants. The mice who ate beets produced a large amount of the body’s two most powerful antioxidant liver enzymes: superoxide dismutase and glutathione.11

Blood Sugar-Balancing Boost: Surprisingly, beets, which are loaded with beet sugar, have been shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.10 Much of these benefits can be attributed to the high levels of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) found in beets, which seems to offset the effects of the beet sugar. ALA is both water- and fat-soluble, which allows it to penetrate any tissue in the body. For this reason, it has become a popular skincare ingredient. As an antioxidant, it penetrates many deep tissues of the body and helps resolve free radical damage.

Performance Boost: Beets happen to be one of the highest sources of performance-enhancing nitrates. That’s right, nitrates from plants such as beets, celery and cauliflower are actually good for you, while nitrates found in packaged meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats, packaged ham, pepperoni, and salami, are quite toxic.

Plant-based nitrates in the diet convert easily into nitrites, which have a powerful vasodilation effect. Vasodilation refers to the widening of blood vessels, bile, and pancreatic ducts. This can result in better circulation, more efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, as well as improved physical performance and digestion. Poor blood flow, due to a lack of healthy vasodilation, may be a factor in the decline of physical and cognitive function associated with aging.5,6

Brain Boost: Beet juice has also been found to increase cerebral circulation to certain parts of the brain that govern executive function. Execution function is what allows us to do things like organizing, planning, remembering details, and managing time. As a vasodilator, the nitrates in beets may support healthy cognitive function and memory by enhancing blood supply to these specific areas of the brain.6

Circulation Boost: The vasodilation effects of beetroot have also been shown to support healthy blood pressure. In one study, drinking just 500ml of beet juice lowered blood pressure by 10 points in 3 hours, possibly due to the blood vessel-dilating effect of the nitrates in beets!7

I often recommend my patients eat one fresh beet a day for three months to help thin bile and flush the liver and gallbladder. Beets are best grated raw with lemon juice, but also have benefits when eaten cooked.

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The Health Benefits of Beets

Check out LifeSpa’s Beet Cleanse supplement.

lifespa-image-fenugreek-seeds

2. Fenugreek

Numerous studies suggest that fenugreek may be one of the most powerful herbs for liver, gallbladder, and digestive health. Fenugreek works by taking cholesterol out of bile and increasing bile acid concentration by almost four times.12,13

Better bile flow is what it’s all about. Think of your bile as a Pac-Man that gobbles up toxic cholesterols, environmental toxins and other bad fats circulating in the blood. Bile breaks down the good fats we need for the heart, brain, and skin and also buffers the stomach acids required to digest wheat and dairy.

Without adequate bile flow and liver function, the ability to break down fats and use them in the liver to manufacture hormones, like muscle-building, belly fat-burning testosterone, will be compromised. This suggests a strong link between better bile flow that is supported by fenugreek and the muscle strength, libido, sexual function, belly fat-burning, and more lean body composition mentioned above.

Blood Sugar Support: Perhaps the most well-documented benefit of fenugreek is its effect on blood sugar. Poor blood sugar regulation is linked to weight gain, along with a plethora of serious health concerns. Remember, blood sugar imbalances start in the liver–generally not in the pancreas–and the liver is where fenugreek shines! In one study, there was a 54% reduction of glucose in the morning urine of study subjects, along with significant positive changes in the ability to regulate fats in the liver.14

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The Health Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek can be taken as a tea with meals, used as a cooking spice, or taken as a supplement.

lifespa image, cinnamon sticks and powder white background

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used traditionally in Ayurveda to support healthy blood sugar levels by supporting healthy bile flow and digestive enzyme flow through the pancreatic and bile ducts.9 In about 91% of the population, the bile ducts join the pancreatic ducts, carrying digestive enzymes before they reach the small intestines. Bile sludge can negatively affect the function of both of these ducts.

Blood Sugar Support: Cinnamon has made headlines as an effective herb for blood sugar support, but its benefits have also recently been found to support healthy brain, liver, and cognitive function. Studies show that whole cinnamon exerts health-promoting effects on blood sugar, insulin, and lipids, in addition to promoting antioxidant activity and the brain’s natural ability to break down dangerous tau proteins, associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.15

Brain Boost: New studies have looked deeper into the brain-boosting benefits of cinnamon and have found it mimics melatonin21 and supports the manufacture of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs)17-19, joining the prestigious company of16:

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Cinnamon: The New Dopamine Booster For Your Brain

Cinnamon converts into a chemical known as benzoate in the liver, which is linked to an increase of BDNF production, reducing brain glial cell activation, boosting neurotransmitter activation, and supporting dopamine receptors and the natural regeneration of dopamine-carrying nerve cells.

Benzoate has also been shown to act as an antioxidant for the brain, as well as support the body’s natural ability to up-regulate proteins involved in the maintenance and regeneration of dopamine receptors in the brain. Optimal function of these receptors is necessary to maintain the integrity of nerve cells responsible for locomotion and fine motor control.17-19

Researchers are investigating cinnamon and other natural substances to better support healthy brain function, as they are more easily delivered into the brain and generally non-toxic.17-19

4. Shilajit

About 50 million years ago, the Indian continent collided into Asia and formed the Himalayan Mountain Range. As the mountains formed, tropical forests were crushed and compacted between massive boulders.

The compressed forests gradually transformed into a nutrient- and mineral-rich biomass loaded with medicinalhumic and fulvic acids.

Now, every summer as the mountains warm, India’s most prized herbal remedy literally oozes from these biomass resins in high mountain crevasses.

Known as shilajit, this resinous and nutrient-rich biomass has been touted for millennia by Ayurveda as the best carrier of energy and nutrition in the human body.

Shilajit is used in this formula as a driver to support the function of the beets, fenugreek, and cinnamon. Shilajit was classically used as a bio-enhancer, or what Ayurveda calls yogavahi. It’s also used as an agent to roto-rooter the bile and pancreatic ducts in support of healthy digestive function.20

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Top 10 Benefits of Shilajit: Ayurveda’s Only Panacea

Experiment with these herbs and let us know how you feel!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899548/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3343155/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23862644
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22709704
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20951824
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18250365
  8. Food Chemistry. 2007, Vol.103(2):676–680, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.07.056
  9. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 12th Edition. Saunders. 2011
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24116330
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17234508
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21756271
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21215764
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2194788
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901047/
  16. https://lifespa.com/3-herbs-to-boost-bdnf/
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4357107/
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167597/
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3854496/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296184/
  21. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.7b00853

23 thoughts on “For a Sluggish Gallbladder, Try These 4 Ayurvedic Herbs and Foods”

  1. Do you have any recommendations for those of us who, unfortunately, have had our gall nladders removed. What supplements should we be taking to assist our liver etc? Thanks

    Reply
    • @Kathy. Try adding a bit of lemon juice to your beet drink and of course I hope you are diluting it with water or celery juice.

      Reply
  2. I get pain in shoulder blade (both right and left)
    it comes to ease when I press the are below rib cages.
    it is related to gallbladder.
    please help.
    what i should do to heal it permanently.

    Reply
    • I am having the same issue. i had an ultrasound done and all seems normal with a slightly enlarged liver due to weight. I would love to get rid of this pain, It has to be gallbladder issues as I feel worse after eating a fatty meal. I am just starting a medically supervised diet and my doctor said sometimes weight loss can heal it (30% of patients) or make it worse, so we are keeping a close watch on it. Look up supplements for an inflamed gallbladder for a list of herbals and what type of food to eat. I already eat beets regularly and love healthy green veggies, so I am lucky there. It is just taking the time to plan ahead and make sure get them in my diet. I have been relying on easy meals lately and my gallbladder is protesting!

      Reply
  3. You mention cinnamon. There are several kinds of cinnamon. Cassia and Ceylon are the ones I am most familiar with. For this purpose of blood sugar support and brain boost, is either one preferable?

    Reply
      • Completely incorrect.

        Cassia is actually more effective at controlling blood sugar, you just cannot have it in large doses, but neither can you with Ceylon (you can just have more Ceylon as it has less of the substance which actually is the blood sugar controlling substance called coumarin).

        Anyways Cassia is also stronger in taste so you use less naturally (unless you start taking it via supplement form).

        The actual best one (tasting and for controlling blood sugar out of all of them is Saigon cinnamon (also sometimes called vietnamese cinnamon).

        Reply
        • Cassia should be taken in a 20:1 extract where you get a lot more medicine to fillers and this is the only safe way to take does that are actually therapeutic. You have to take it easy with this if you have gastritis because it’s a spice and can irritate the intestinal lining. As far as gallbladder issues, inflammation should be at the forefront of our minds and that’s where all that discomfort comes from. Grape seed works well here without irritation. Considering both is the real key here because it does you no good to take something like a lot of Vitamin C, ginger, or turmeric when you are so prone to irritation. This only addresses the symptoms though and we need to also fix the problem by stimulating better liver and gallbladder health. It’s the liver that feeds bile to the gallbladder which is just a bladder that stores it so the liver is the organ we need to focus on the most. This includes improving glutathione levels with NAC.

          Reply
  4. I also think im having problems with my gallbladder and liver high on enzimes . I get pain and burning feeling on the right side under my rib . I had an Endoscopy and Colonoscopy a few months ago its shows i have Cronic Gastritis and DIVERTICULITIS in my stomach some say irs because my gallbladder and liver are not functioning well is that correct please advise. Thank u kindly.

    Reply
  5. What ayurvedic medicine/supplements are there on the market which are effective and good in treating gallbladder sludge and stones please?

    Reply
  6. I have A Gall stone in my bile duct not moving. and Gastritis in my Digestive system have been told nothing can be done while my system is inflamed. . Just a waiting game. 5 weeks now. am passing glue like slime with Diarrhoea/hard gloating bits. Am on low fat diet. anything i can take to help. pain in my lower back and right hand side now. thanks

    Reply
  7. “there was a 54% reduction of glucose in the morning urine of study subjects, ” Well, that’s great for prediabetics, diabetics and people with a tendency in that direction. However, most of us wake up with rather low blood sugar and the last thing we need is to think that fenugreek is good for us. We need to do things to raise our blood sugar in a healthy way, instead of loading up on coffee with tons of sugar to “get going”. I hope that you will deal with this issue. Thank you.

    Reply

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