I’m sorry. So, here’s the thing, life just happened and I forgot to take care of you. I guess I took you for granted and figured you would always be there churning out fresh bile. No, a year gorging on vegan ginger scones and mounds of squash-a-roni was not my most brilliant move to date. While we’re at it, I suppose we should talk about this weekend. A Mexican fiesta (ole!), Superbowl home-brewed IPA, immediately followed by the Chinese New Year’s 400 # Monkey. Ouch, I beg your pardon gallbladder, please don’t give up on me.
Lauren (the nut butter junkie)
Indeed, I’ve been feeling some tenderness in the gallbladder/liver area for months, maybe even years. Want to test your gallbladder? Here’s how: find the rights side of your abdomen and poke around in the area above the line of your navel and below the ribs. Yikes! For me, this prodding instantly burns. I can feel the sensation radiate all the way to the other side of my spine and behind my belly button (nabhi in Sanskrit). Quick and sharp, like licking a 9 volt battery (What can I say? My Dad owned a Radio Shack, someone had to test the batteries). Not good.
Until recently, my sole plan of attack was to roll on a Gertie ball each morning and night. Basically any 8” soft-plastic bouncy ball will work, kick-balls, or what they sell in the big wire bins at the Piggly Wiggly. Rolling on the ball helps to loosen this area as well as stimulate the gallbladder. It actually feels similar to the action created by uddiyana bandha kriya.
In Yogic philosophy, the band around the solar plexus is said to be our “fear belt”. This is where our doubts and self-defeating thoughts reside. Coincidentally, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotions that get bottled up in the liver are anger, frustration and unprocessed resentment. Overtime, this pent up anger will display as irritability, a bitter taste (literally and figuratively), headaches and excessive thirst.
Hmmm. Well, lately, I have been compared to the needling Pinecone from the children’s book Stick and Stone AND the Cranky Cat from Room on the Broom. Oy Vey! I suppose my next letter of apology will be to my family and colleagues. It’s not you, it’s my gallbladder.
Before I move onward with some remedies, what does the gallbladder even do? The gallbladder is basically a storage receptacle for concentrated bile. Bile gives us the ability to digest all the fats, the good the bad and the ugly (yes, you, Oreo filling). Bile is also responsible for processing toxins and gives us top-notch bowel movements. Finally, and arguably, most importantly, the bile serves as a buffer to the caustic digestive acids in the stomach. No bile= no poops, toxin overload, stored fat and ulcers. Good grief, the gallbladder should be given a National Holiday. How about the Monday after Superbowl Sunday?
If you continue to pound cheeseburgers, French fries, and other fatty-fatty-fat-fat foods, your gallbladder is going to wave the white flag in defeat. More often than not, the liver begins to congest due to poor diet, stress, lack of elimination…the American dream. As a result, the bile becomes viscous and stagnant. In time, the body will begin to function below optimal levels and this will spill over in other areas of your life. Dr. John Douillard often compares viscous bile to washing the dirty dishes in the same water, 19 times. Did that just make you shudder? Me too.
Save the Gallbladder! Here’s a checklist to see if you need an intervention.
- Tenderness when poked
- Constipation or gassy, greasy stools
- Excessive thirst
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Difficulty digesting wheat, dairy and corn
- Feeling of sluggishness or nausea after eating fatty foods
- Waking between the hours of 2-4 AM, the liver/gallbladder organ time. If one has liver or gallbladder sensitivities, theys may begin to ache during these hours.
If you checked off a majority of the list, it’s time for Operation Flush the Gallbladder.
Alkaline foods are your friend. I know, it’s the winter and one should be favoring more acidic foods such as wheat, nuts, meats, and beans. However, I, for one, needed alkalizing foods, stat. I suspect it was the homemade paneer and ghee remnants that put me over the edge.
For now, refrain from consuming deep-fried food, dairy products as well as saturated and animal fats. These foods will expedite the coagulation of our beloved bile, potentially resulting in the formation of gallstones.
What to eat?
Bile movers and shakers-
- Raw Beets
- Green Apples
- Cranberries (non-sweetened)
- Leafy Greens
- Aloe vera
- Red berries
- H2O- lots of water, give the body a rinse
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- More water
Together, these alkalinizing fruits/vegetables and bulky, fibrous foods, will act as a scrub-brush on the system. Draining out the old and bring in the new. Holla.
Here’s what my diet looked like yesterday (if you get squeamish with bow-wow movement talk, you may want to skip the results section):
- 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds soaked in 4 oz of water
- One raw Gala Apple
- A shot glass full of 100% pure cranberry juice, added to the chia seeds once that had soaked.
*Please note, it is critical to soak the chia seeds in water or other absorbing liquid. Like psyllium husks, if they are not soaked they will actually cause constipation because they soak up the moisture in the large intestine. Pure cranberry juice does not work, perhaps due to its astringent nature.
- Green Juice (kale, spinach, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger).
- More soaked Chia
- Another shot of cranberry juice
*Ayurveda often frowns upon juicing, as we have teeth for a reason, not to mention it has a significant amount of sugar and only a tiny bit of fiber. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, even if it is February. Let me also say that I attempted to remedy this coldness from eating raw, by doing an oil massage followed by a long sauna. I drank ginger tea throughout the day and took a hot bath before bed , slathered my feet with heating castor oil and donned my nerdiest socks (thanks Mom!).
- Beet/Apple/Carrot slaw with Lemon/Ginger/Raw Honey dressing
1 ½ inches of peeled ginger root
4-5 Lemons or Limes (Meyer lemons are incredible), juiced/pressed
1 T of Raw Honey
Salt + Pepper to taste
Cayenne (optional, but gives a most welcome heat)
2 Green Apples, unpeeled, quartered
4 Orange Carrots, peeled
3 Medium Sized Beets, peeled and quartered
Handful of unsweetened, unsulfured, dried cherries
Dressing- throw the knob of ginger in the food processor equipped with the regular blade. Process. Add the lemon juice (or lime) and raw honey. Season to your liking adding salt, pepper, and/or cayenne. Empty the contents into a glass measuring cup. No need to rinse out the Cuisinart, as it is required for the next step.
Slaw- using the grater attachment, process the apples. Empty into a large bowl. Repeat this step with the carrots, then the beets. I try and keep the colors from running as it is a beautiful tertiary color scheme, green, orange, purple. Thus, emptying the food processor after each addition for the aesthetic.
Pour the dressing over the slaw, and sprinkle with the dried cherries. Integrate with your hands, this way you will look like you’ve been finger painting all afternoon.
Let the slaw marinate for a few hours, the cherries will plump up and be delectable. Enjoy! I added this slaw to a bowl of baby arugula and topped it with cilantro, sliced avocado and raw pumpkin seeds. I was not disappointed.
This morning I was awoken by desperate bowels. I was expecting a beet red toilet, however, what I found was a greenish almost black cow plop (sorry Dad, I know this makes you squeamish). No squatty potty was needed for this profound movement.
Why did I chalk this up as a victory? According to Dr. Vasant Lad, after a gallbladder flush, the AM feces will be predominantly dark green. This greenish hue is the thick coagulated bile (dirty dish water), sometimes it even contains gallstone crystals. Neat.
In addition to the prolific purge, I woke with far-less tenderness under the ribs. The dark circles below my peepers were not as visible. Coincidence or not, I intend to send love to my gallbladder on a regular basis by finding a balance between acidic and alkaline foods. Eat red and green fruits and vegetables, lots of fiber and throw back the room-temperature water.
In the end, not only will I feel better, but my gallbladder and my family will thank me for my dedication to this most precious organ. Perhaps one day I will be seen as the dog or even the frog from Room on the Broom, fingers crossed.