Let’s stop treating organs as if they’re disposable

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We need our organs — all of them. We may survive with fewer organs than we were born with, but it is likely that we were born with all of our organs for a good reason.

We live in a medical culture that hastily removes organs rather than offering strategies to solve the root cause of disease. With that in mind, I would like to offer the concept that we can save diseased gallbladders before they reach a critical level of sickness and must be surgically removed.

If your gallbladder has already been removed, this article is for you, too, as I would bet you likely still have some of the same symptoms that led to your gallbladder being removed in the first place.

It is estimated that each year 700,000 Americans have their gallbladders removed (a procedure called cholecystectomy). The medical costs associated with cholecystectomy contribute to the health care crisis to the tune of $10,000 to $20,000 per procedure.

In addition to the financial ramifications, health-related risks include a negative reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, injury to other organs and still feeling as crummy as you did before your cholecystectomy. 

There are two common causes of gallbladder disease. Hold onto your seats, because you will be shocked at what those two things are.

Are you ready? DIET AND STRESS.

So what else is new, right?

The good news is you have control over both of those things. To more fully understand how these two factors are related to gallbladder health, it is helpful to know the functions of the gallbladder.

On a physical level, the gallbladder releases bile (which is produced by the liver) into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of fats. While it is common to think of physiological functions of various organs, in Traditional Chinese Medicine each organ system also has associated emotions. This emphasizes a connection between our physical and emotional bodies.

In a healthy state, the gallbladder influences our ability to make plans and find a sense of direction in life, as well as promotes courage and initiative. Because of its close relationship to the liver, the TCM perspective of the gallbladder also includes helping to maintain health of the body’s connective tissues. 

Gallbladders are often removed when there is a formation of gallstones, which are a collection of bile salts and cholesterol that become lodged in ducts connecting to the liver and pancreas.

Should the stones not be dissolved or dislodged, severe conditions such as liver damage and pancreatitis may occur.

However, gallstones are usually harmless, and symptoms of gallbladder disease can be reversed. Common physical signs and symptoms that the gallbladder is not functioning up to par include pain radiating to the right shoulder or other areas of the chest or abdomen, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Chiropractor Joe Heinecke notes that it is common for patients to mistake gallbladder dysfunction as back pain.

Emotionally, when gallbladder function is compromised, anger, frustration and depression will likely ensue, along with a general inability to make decisions. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of a sick gallbladder, be proactive and take some steps to regain your health. To heal your gallbladder or alleviate the symptoms of having had it removed, take these steps:

1. Avoid fatty and greasy foods. 

2. Work toward achieving emotional balance by voicing and addressing emotions rather than stuffing them. Talk therapy and techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, acupuncture, homeopathy and craniosacral bodywork can help you and your body process emotions healthily.

3. Exercise to keep your body’s energy flowing. For the gallbladder, side stretches are particularly helpful because the gallbladder meridian is a pathway that runs along the side of the body. 

4. Especially in the spring, which is the season associated with the gallbladder (and liver), be extra kind to your gallbladder by avoiding toxins such as caffeine, alcohol and other toxic substances.

5. Eat foods that support gallbladder health. A brief list includes broccoli, basil, lemon, garlic, carrots, and green and peppermint teas.

6. Talk with your Chinese medicine acupuncturist/herbalist about Chinese herbs and other supplements that help improve gallbladder and liver function.

While we can survive without a gallbladder, it is important to realize that it performs crucial functions for optimal physical and emotional health. If you have found yourself slipping into the trend of thinking that we do not need our gallbladders (or any other organ), I hope this column helps you think about it differently.

Take your health back. Choose to consider all of your options before jumping onto the bandwagon of the “if it’s broken, take it out” mentality.

True preventative medicine cultivates balance in our physical, mental and emotional selves while living in harmony with our environment. When this is achieved, the chance of developing a sickness greatly diminishes. 

Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at hhacumed.com, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.


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