By Josh Redd, DC on November 30, 2016
Gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgeries today and considered almost commonplace. But did you know you actually really need your gallbladder? And that going gluten-free can considerably lower the risk of needing gallbladder surgery?
This is especially true if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Autoimmune Hashimoto's thyroid disease causes the liver and gallbladder to be sluggish, making you more prone to gallbladder disease and the potential need for surgery. Also, numerous studies link gluten with Hashimoto's, another reason to avoid it.
Why is gluten problematic for so many? In those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten causes a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including joint pain, poor brain function, skin issues, and autoimmune diseases.
Recent research also links gluten with gallbladder disease in those with gluten sensitivity.
Gluten sensitivity goes undiagnosed for many
It is amazing how many people are gluten intolerant but don't know it. If you eat gluten and have gluten sensitivity, you may suffer from leaky gut, chronic pain, inflammation, neurological damage, and autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue).
It's estimated gluten sensitivity affects between 20 and 40 percent of the US population. It is less frequently identified than celiac disease due to inadequate testing, though this is changing. (Ask my office about state-of-the-art gluten sensitivity testing.)
Rates of gluten sensitivity are especially high among those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Several studies and countless patient anecdotes show a link between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
How gluten can raise the risk of needing gallbladder surgery if you have Hashimoto's hypothyroidism
So how can gluten raise the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery
? The damage begins in the small intestine, where it inhibits the secretion of a hormone called cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin signals the gallbladder when it’s time to release bile, which is necessary for the digestion and absorption of fat. When it is not released appropriately with meals, bile builds up in the gallbladder. This causes inflammation in the gallbladder, raising the risk of disease and the need for gallbladder surgery.
It's estimated about 60 percent of people with celiac disease — an autoimmune reaction to gluten — also have gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic conditions. This inflammatory mechanism is apparently one reason why.
People with unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also typically suffer from digestive issues such as leaky gut and gallbladder issues. This is because low thyroid hormone compromises digestive function.
Why you need your gallbladder if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
Although many people have shown us you can live without your gallbladder, the organ is essential to immune health. This is because the bile stored and secreted by the gallbladder enables you to digest fats. If you don't have a gallbladder your liver still produces bile. However, if there is no gallbladder to store it, the bile “leaks” continually into the small intestine. This means when you eat there is no bile stored to break down fats when needed.
These fats then become rancid inside the digestive tract and inflame it. Likewise, the small intestine is unable to absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids if they have not been emulsified by bile. Ultimately, this compromises the function of your entire digestive tract. In fact, studies have linked gallbladder removal with an elevated risk of colon cancer.
Also, a diseased or unhealthy gallbladder can be detrimental to liver function.
If you are working to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you must ensure all aspects of your digestive system, including the gallbladder, are functioning as well as possible. The gut is the seat of the immune system and influences autoimmunity.
Methods for caring for your gallbladder beyond going gluten-free
It is worth paying attention to your gallbladder in order to preserve the health of your digestive system, and hence your immune system and autoimmune thyroid condition. It is important to go gluten free if have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and wish to preserve your gallbladder health (studies show most people with Hashimoto's are gluten sensitive).
To further support your gallbladder, eat a diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, free of processed oils and hydrogenated fats, and low in starchy carbs (potatoes, processed flours, refined sugar, etc.).
Various herbs and nutrients can support liver and gallbladder health. They include milk thistle seed extract, dandelion root, ginger root, and phosphatidyl choline. Ask my office about supplements for your gallbladder.
Already had your gallbladder removed? Don’t despair. Take ox bile
with your meals to help you emulsify and absorb your fats.
For more information about gallbladder health and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, please contact my office.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease
, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease
, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center
with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto's disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto's, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here