People rarely give their gallbladder much thought until they have a problem with it, however, those of us with SCI should be giving this little pear-shaped organ a lot of thought and care long before that. People with SCI have an increased prevalence of cholelithiasis, the formation of gallstones. Studies indicate that the risk of developing gallstones is three to six times higher compared to able-bodied individuals belonging to similar demographic groups. In fact, the risk is of cholelithiasis is so significant that is now considered a secondary complication of SCI.
Gallstones range in size from a speck of sand to a pea! And what’s the big deal of have a few sand-like specks in your gallbladder? Lots! Your gallbladders role is to store and secrete the 1 Litre of bile produced by your liver each day. Bile is a critically important digestive secretion that plays a multitude of roles in your digestion and health. Bile acts like a detergent to emulsify fats, meaning it breaks down fat globules into smaller fat droplets, so that they can be properly digested.
It is extremely important that the fats you eat are properly digested because fat molecules are responsible for carrying vitamins D, E, K & A throughout your body. These four fat soluble vitamins also happen to be four nutrients people with SCI are commonly deficient in and they play vital roles in the prevention and management of several SCI related secondary health complications, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and pressure sores. Therefore, sufficient amounts of
bile is essential for the proper digestion of fats, absorption of essential nutrients and prevention of serious secondary health complications. Bile also helps neutralize acidic food to prevent it from burning the lining of your intestines, keeps your small intestines free of microorganisms, reduces bloating, helps stimulate peristalsis of your small and large intestines and helps prevent constipation by incorporating water into your stool.
Often when people develop gallstones, the stones block the bile duct through which bile is released into the intestines, the gallbladder can then become inflamed and no longer able to perform its vital role. In extreme cases of inflammation surgery is required to remove the gallbladder, which drastically decreases the amount of bile reaching the small intestine. So gallstones, even the tiniest sand-like specks, can significantly impair your digestive system and overall health.
Symptoms of Insufficient Bile Secretion:
consistent gas and bloating from most foods
fat/greasy foods cause nausea or headaches
onions, cabbage, radishes, cucumbers cause bloating or distress
chronic bad breath or bad taste in mouth
excess body odor
So now that you’ve given your gallbladder some thought, here’s what you can do nutritionally to help take care of it. Studies indicate that diets low in fibre and high in sugar and food allergens are associated with increased risks of developing gallstone. Be sure to reduce your sugar intake, eliminate all know food allergens and boost your diet with fruits, vegetables whole grains and legumes. Drink dandelion tea, which helps increase bile secretion and the solubility of bile, thus decreasing the risk of gallstones. Consume plenty of lecithin, a natural fatty substance found in high concentrations in eggs, beef liver and peanuts, which has also shown to help reduce gallstone development. Below is a lecithin-rich recipe to help keep your gallbladder healthy and happy. P.S. Lecithin is also a great brain food so you’re getting a double dose of healthy here!