About 10 years ago, I began having some very uncomfortable symptoms in my gut. I would get horribly bloated after meals, belch unstoppably for hours, and have terrible pain. I remember an old wise doctor at the clinic where I worked as a RN telling me that he thought it was my gallbladder. We ordered an ultrasound, yet everything looked fine. I didn’t have any stones or sludge or anything to indicate disease, so I went to see my primary care provider who encouraged me to move forward with a scan to determine how well my gallbladder was functioning. I have always loved the diagnostic abilities of conventional medicine, so I was on board with getting to the bottom of what was going on.
The gallbladder is responsible for storing the bile that helps to break down the fat we eat. Bile is produced by the liver and moved to the gallbladder for storage. When fats are recognized in food, the gallbladder is signaled to eject bile into the small intestine, where the fats are emulsified allowing them to be digested and absorbed. When the gallbladder doesn’t eject at a normal rate, it’s said that you have a low “ejection fraction” and that was exactly my diagnosis.
When the results were in, I got a call from the nurse at my doctor’s clinic who said that my “gallbladder was abnormal” and that they had a surgery consult scheduled for me. She wouldn’t elaborate any further and had no explanation as to why they scheduled a surgery consult for me without even thoroughly discussing and explaining my results to me. I told her I would get back to her if I felt like surgery was the option I wanted to take. She sounded shocked and annoyed and that was that.
Because I know what I know and because I was already practicing from an Integrative approach, I got to work on treating myself. Here’s what I did and how I used my own WholeU Approach:
On the physical level:
• I used the Doctrine of Signatures which says that plants that resemble parts of the body can be used to treat those parts of the body. The gallbladder is a green organ, so I started eating a lot of green foods, including adding dandelion greens, kale, spinach, and collards in daily smoothies and eating daily salads.
• I took a few drops of dandelion extract about 10 minutes before every meal, because it is a bitter herb. Bitter herbs help release bile from the liver and gallbladder.
• I stopped eating all fats for a few weeks, even good fats. I don’t recommend not eating fats, except in this case. I knew that if I wanted my gallbladder to work correcly again, it would likely need a rest from it’s main job.
• I worked with the inflammation in my body, in general. I knew that if my gallbladder wasn’t ejecting properly, that more than likely, there was inflammation causing swelling that was inhibiting its ability to eject bile. I also cut out sugar, alcohol, and other high-inflammatory foods.
• I used over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, like Zantac/Pepcid if symptoms got really uncomfortable.
On the emotional/spiritual level:
• I knew stress was a major component. I was working full-time and taking classes to start NP school. When we have an abundance of stress, we walk around in the “fight-or-flight” response. This response is the body’s natural response to stress and is meant to come and go quickly when a stressful event is taking place. When stress occurs, the hormone cortisol is released to help us manage the stress.
When we live in chronic stress, cortisol is released more than normal. This triggers an inflammatory response. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body and it was more than likely occurring in my gallbladder. To reduce stress, I began meditating, using Emotional Freedom Technique “Tapping”, and saying “no” to anything and everything that I could avoid which added extra stress.
I spent time considering whether there was anything on the social and financial levels that could be adding to the stress and remedied those, as well.
More than anything, I didn’t want to lose an important organ that simply seemed stressed out and overworked. It took a while to get it back in working order—around 6 months. It was uncomfortable, at times I wanted to give up and give in. I had to face my stress head on and do something about it. I had to make changes in my diet that weren’t that fun to make.
And…it was worth it. These days, I rarely ever have any issues with my gallbladder. Everyone once in a while on a vacation or if a restaurant uses a junky oil (palm oil seems to be a major irritant), I’ll have a short flare. If I’m careful for a week or so and check in with my emotional/spiritual state, it passes.
It’s hard to believe that our medical system has come to this. An organ isn’t functioning correctly, so our medical reaction is to take it out. I was lucky that I knew what I knew and I also trusted my body’s ability to heal itself with the proper support. This, my friends, is Integrative Medicine. We use physiology to determine what is really going on and we use the least-invasive support available to encourage the body to heal itself. We used modern technologies to diagnose and then choose the best treatment for each person, using food as medicine as much as possible. We utilize prescription and over-the-counter meds as the short-term fix and not for the long-term solution.
What symptoms are you struggling that only receive medication or surgery as the answers? How might an Integrative Medicine approach make the difference you’ve been looking for?
If you live near me and want my help, you can schedule an Exploration Session now. If you don’t live near me, I hope you will seek out help in your area. Your body knows how to heal, too. Often it simply takes some detective work and thoughtful planning to allow it to do what it already knows how to do.