The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ, 10 cm. long and three to five cm. wide, attached to the under-surface of the liver on the right side. The main function of the gallbladder is to store the bile secreted by the liver. Bile is an excretion composed mainly of bile salts and acids, color pigments, and cholesterol. Bile assists in the digestion and absorption of fats and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, minerals, and calcium.
The gallbladder is usually full and relaxed between meals. During the process of digestion, when food reaches the duodenum, the hormone cholecystokinin begins to be produced in the internal mucosa. When this hormone reaches the gall- bladder through the bloodstream, it causes the gallbladder to contract, thereby releasing the bile concentration into the duodenum via a common duct.
The main problems which afflict the gallbladder are an inflammatory condition known as cholecystitis and gallstones. Gallstones are usually caused by disturbances in the composition of the bile. A change in the ratio of cholesterol and bile salts may result in the formation of deposits. At the start, these may be in the form of fine gravel. But these fine particles constitute the nucleus for further deposits, ultimately leading to the formation of larger stones. Irritation of the lining of the gall- bladder due to inflammation may also lead to the formation of particles.
The incidence of gallstones is higher in females than males, particularly in those who are obese.
Symptoms of a Gallbladder Disorder
Indigestion, gas, a feeling of fullness after meals, constipation, nausea, and disturbed vision are the usual symptoms of gallbladder disorders. Other symptoms are intolerance to fats, dizziness, jaundice, anemia, acne, and other lesions. Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and the breakdown of capillaries are also disorders associated with gallbladder troubles.
Causes of Gallbladder Disorders
The main causes of gallbladder disorders are digestive disturbances due to a regular excessive intake of fats and carbohydrates in the diet. They can also be brought on by disturbances of the liver and gallbladder. Meals rich in fats may cause an attack of gallbladder pain or gallstone colic. Often the disorder is caused by a diet rich in refined carbohydrates such as white flour and white sugar. Poor health, hereditary factors, stress, spinal displacements, bad posture, and muscular tension may also cause gallbladder disorders.
Types of gallstones
There are three types of gallstones, depending on the cause of their formation. These are cholesterol stones caused by a change in the ratio of cholesterol to bile salts; pigment stones (composed of bile pigment) caused by the destruction of red blood cells due to certain blood diseases, and mixed stones consisting of layers of cholesterol, calcium and bile pigment (bilirubin) resulting from the stagnation of the bile flow.
Natural Treatment of Gallbladder Disorders
Surgery becomes necessary if the gallstones are very large or in cases in which they have been present for a long. Smaller gallstones can, however, be cleared through nature cure methods. Diet is the basic factor in the treatment of gallbladder disorders. In cases of acute gallbladder inflammation, the patient should fast for two or three days, until the acute condition clears.
Nothing but water should be taken during the fast. After the fast, the patient should take carrot, beet, grapefruit, lemon, and grape juice for a few days. Ensure that the diet contains an adequate amount of lacto-vegetarian, consisting of raw and cooked vegetables, vegetable juices, and a moderate amount of fruit and seeds. Yogurt, cottage cheese, and a tablespoon of olive oil twice a day should also be taken.
Oil serves as a stimulant for the production of bile and lipase, the fat digesting enzymes. All meats, eggs, animal fats, processed and denatured fats as well as fried foods should be avoided. The diet should also exclude refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, sugar products, alcohol, soft drinks, cakes, puddings, ice cream, coffee, and citrus fruits.
The patient should eat small meals at frequent intervals, rather than three large meals. The following is the suggested menu for those suffering from gall-bladder disorders :
On waking up: A glass of warm water mixed with lemon juice and honey or fresh fruit juice,
Breakfast: Fresh fruit, one or two slices of whole meal toast, and a cup of skimmed powdered milk.
Mid-morning: Fresh fruit juice.
Lunch: Vegetable soup, a large salad consisting of vegetables in season with a dressing of lemon or vegetable oil. Fresh fruit for dessert, if desired.
Dinner: Vegetable oil, one or two lightly cooked vegetables, baked potato, brown rice, or whole wheat chappati, and a glass of buttermilk.
Water Treatment of Gallbladder Disorders
Regular applications of hot and cold fomentations to the abdomen improve the circulation of the liver and gallbladder. They also induce concentrations of the gallbladder, thereby improving the flow of bile. A cold hip bath improves the general abdominal tone.
The pain of gallstone colic can be relieved by the application of hot packs or fomentation to the upper abdominal area. A warm water enema at body temperature will help eliminate fecal accumulations if the patient is constipated.
Exercise is essential as physical inactivity can lead to lazy gallbladder-type indigestion which may ultimately result in the formation of stones. Yogic asanas which are beneficial in toning up the liver and gall-bladder are : sarvangasana, paschimottanasana, shalabhasana, dhanurasana and bhujangasana.