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The Gallbladder: What You Need to Know

By Kate Gardner 

It seems everyone is having their gallbladders out lately. In the last year, three people in my family have undergone the surgery. And they're not alone. Each year roughly 300,000 people have their gallbladders removed, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). 

The Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small organ located under your liver. Its job is to store the bile made by your liver and then release it after you eat. Bile's job is to help you digest fat. The gallbladder isn't considered absolutely necessary. If you're missing your gallbladder, your liver can typically pick up the slack and help you digest the fat in your diet. 

Common Gallbladder Problems 

There are several different ways your gallbladder can act up. 

  • Gallstones - Gallstones happen when crystals form in the bile stored in the gallbladder. Gallstones can cause nausea, fever, and pain. If a gallstone is large enough to block the bile duct, it can cause jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Gallstones that don't cause symptoms don't need treatment. Many gallstones will pass on their own, but if they don't, there are several procedures that can remove or dissolve them. 

  • Cholecystitis - If a gallstone blocks the bile duct, you can develop an infection called cholecystitis. Symptoms of this infection are fever and severe pain in the upper right abdomen and right shoulder. You will likely need to stay in the hospital while doctors work to rid you of the infection. 

  • Gallstone pancreatitis - Your gallbladder is very close to your pancreas. It is possible for gallstones to block the tubes that drain your pancreas. This causes pancreatitis. Pancreatitis symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. 

If you experience any of these problems with your gallbladder and other treatments don't help, your doctor may want to remove your gallbladder. 

Gallbladder Surgery 

Gallbladder surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is a very common procedure. Most gallbladder removals are done laparoscopically, meaning through one or more small incisions instead of one big incision. It is often done as an outpatient surgery (you don't have to stay in the hospital overnight). Full recovery takes 6 to 8 weeks. Most people have no problems after gallbladder removal, though some will have digestive issues that require them to eat less fat. 

If you want to avoid gallbladder problems, it's best to eat a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat. Studies have also shown that cooking with olive oil can reduce the chance that you'll develop gallstones. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Atlanta, Ga. 

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