5 Surprising Truths About The Gallbladder

It’s hardly surprising that most people never even mention their gallbladder, or even know it’s there unless it gives them problems. Gallstones would be one of those problems, and they are quite painful. Our gallbladder helps us digest fatty foods, but we don’t really need it. While that certainly seems surprising, it’s not the only fun fact. So, let’s discover 5 surprising truths about the gallbladder.

Truth # 1: Even Though The Gallbladder Has A Purpose, We Don’t Really Need It

The gallbladder stores bile secreted from the liver and is capable of storing 30 to 50 ml of liquid. Located under the liver, the gallbladder helps us to digest fats. After eating fatty foods, it releases bile and deflates to become smaller.

The surprising truth is that if the gallbladder is removed, it doesn’t necessarily affect our digestion. We would need to watch how much fat we eat afterwards, and our body will still produce bile, but now it will go directly from the liver into the small intestine. We will have a greater risk of hepatic or liver problems due to the impaired digestion of fats, but we can still live a healthy life.

Truth # 2: Our Gallbladder Was Probably More Important Centuries Ago

Most meat eating animals have a gallbladder, and since primitive man was a hunter, his meals came in spurts. He might catch an animal and gorge on the creature all at once with no food in between the next big catch. The meals were larger and fewer than we enjoy today.  That’s a lot of fat to digest all at once.

Today, besides helping us to digest fats in our food, our gallbladder also helps us to digest fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.  So the gallbladder has a function even for vegetarians.

Truth # 3: Quirky Facts From Eastern Medicine And The West

Centuries ago in China, bold and brave people were thought to have a “big gallbladder.” It was associated with strength.

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates believed that our temperament was influenced by 4 Humours: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood. He also believed that disease was caused by an imbalance in these humours, and for example, the yellow bile made people irritable.

By the Middle Ages gall became a synonym for bile, which also meant “embittered spirit.” Then, in the late 19th century, the word gall became known as having boldness or impudence.  Modern English uses the word gall like : “He has a lot of gall to say that.”

Truth # 4: Record Setting Number Of Gallstones Was In The Thousands

People who suffer from gallstones normally have anywhere from 2 to 20 stones, and that is painful enough. Imagine the pain of the poor woman from England in 1987 who had exactly 23,530 stones removed. This lady was the ripe age of 87. Ouch!

Truth # 5: The First Gallstone Removal Surgery Was A Fluke

In the mid 19th century a physician was trying to discover why his female patient was in such excruciating pain. While performing exploratory surgery, he cut into the gallbladder and several little bullet like objects came out. He may not have even know what it was.

The young patient lived to be 77, but it wasn’t until 15 years later that the first surgery to remove the entire gallbladder was performed in Germany. This surgery is known now as a cholecystectomy.

Don’t be surprised by a gallbladder attack. Talk to your doctor for a referral to Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia if you experience pain or discomfort after eating a meal with fatty content.




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