How can a tiny little, bile secreting organ be related to your hormones? It’s funny to think that even when I was in school, the only role that the gallbladder was known to have was to help breakdown fats. But, now we know so much more, I think it’s amazing that we’re really still in the beginning of understanding all the science about how the body actually works.
Bile Acids are stored in the gallbladder and when we eat fatty foods, they are excreted into the small intestine. But, did you know that bile acids can be used as hormone signaling compounds? Yes, that’s right, the amount of bile you have can affect how your hormones can function.
When there are high amounts of bile acids in circulation we see the development of specific hormonal disorders. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Type 2 Diabetes are conditions where we see higher levels of bile acids and an excess of hormone function.
PCOS is often associated with high estrogen, Type 2 Diabetes is associated with a high amount of circulating insulin and NAFLD is associated with a lack of the liver to process all hormones, leading to insulin resistance and fatigue. Sometimes we see all three of these conditions together in one individual.
High amounts of circulating bile acids, or a bile acid back up, can cause fatigue, poor thyroid function and it can lower cortisol as it influences the Hypothalamic Pituitary (HPA) axis. Your bile can impact the thyroid, adrenals and ovaries, amazing right?
How to Support Your Gallbladder?
Although this research is just coming to light now, as naturopathic doctors, we find this actually just supports the knowledge that we already had when it comes to hormonal imbalance; treat the gut and the liver first. So often when we address the liver, it will clear up an estrogen issue and when we work on the gut, we can see similar improvement in thyroid hormones, more regular cycles, better energy and blood sugar control, lower insulin levels and less weight loss resistance.
Ready to Start Regulating Your Hormones and Your Gallbladder?
Try a castor oil pack— this traditional home remedy helps to improve circulation to the liver and digestive tract, it improves lymphatic flow, engages the parasympathetic nervous system and is very healing to all the internal organs. Never tried one—check out this instruction sheet.
Eat organic berries—consuming the polyphenols found in berries will help to support your gut microbiome and help to regulate insulin. These include: blueberry, black currant, blackberry, strawberry, Saskatoon berry, raspberry, and red currant. There are other important foods that contain polyphenols, but we know that those found in berries will support the most beneficial species of gut bacteria and promote proper bile signaling. Aim to eat 2/3 – 1cup of berries a day.
Stop Snacking—this is a big one, and I know this could be a triggering statement for many people, but when you give your digestive tract time to rest between meals, we get better at producing and using bile. Similarly, if you can handle intermittent fasting, this is also very helpful at regulating bile and hormones.
If you’ve had gallbladder issues for a long time, you may also need more ongoing support, we are able to work with you on supporting bile and your hormones with numerous herbal formulas, nutrients and fiber supplements. If you no longer have your gallbladder, it is even more important to take a either a digestive enzyme that contains ox-bile or take ox-bile on it’s own, it may be good for your hormones.
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND