Help yourself to good health, says Carole Baker from The Self Centre in Bury St Edmunds as she explores natural ways of targeting gallbladder problems
This month we look at natural remedies, dietary advice and yoga poses that aim to ease problems with the gallbladder, including gallstones.
Gallstones are like their name suggests stone-like lumps of bile that form in the gallbladder and 10-20 per cent of people can develop them – they are common in developed countries and more common in women over 60. They can be tiny like a grain of sand or large like a golf ball!
We think they are caused by an imbalance in the chemical make up of bile – the fat digesting juice that is made by our liver and stored in our gallbladder and normally they don’t cause any symptoms unless they lodge in a bile duct when they can cause a blockage and anything from abdominal pain, back pain and nausea to much more painful symptoms.
So how can we reduce them occurring?
1. Watch your weight – being overweight doesn’t help, but don’t crash diet as that can cause problems, too
2. Eat nuts – rich in fibre, good fats and magnesium – raw ones are best and unsalted
3. Eat more fibre – whole grains, beans, lentils, flaxseeds, and green vegetables – more vegetarian the better
4. Get more magnesium – we have spoken about this before and how intensive farming can often deplete the soil of magnesium, so if you cant get enough from things like leafy green, quinoa, avocado, black beans and pumpkin seeds then take a supplement
5. Stay active – studies have shown more active people have less likelihood of developing gallstones
6. Several supplements and natural herbs can help improve liver health and reduce inflammation, which are both important for regulating the production and use of cholesterol. These include:
* Turmeric (aids in digestion, fights inflammation and supports liver metabolism)
* Milk thistle (eliminates build-up of medications, heavy metals, etc, helps process alcohol within the liver)
* Dandelion root (helps the liver eliminate toxins by acting as a natural diuretic)
* Activated charcoal (binds to toxins and helps remove them)
* Extracts of artichoke have been shown to stimulate bile production and aid both gallbladder and liver function
7. Check your medication as some may have gallstones as a side effect – read the labels carefully
8. Avoid the following: Dietary factors that can increase gallbladder risk include eating high levels of cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fatty acids and refined sugar. Consuming a vegetarian diet is associated with decreased risk, as is avoiding allergenic foods. To help cleanse the liver, remove the following foods from your diet as much as possible:
* Hydrogenated oils
* Refined sugar
* Too many eggs
* Convenience foods and biscuits and cakes
* Processed meats like salamis etc
* Excess alcohol
* Dairy products (which are difficult to digest and high cholesterol
9. Some yoga poses are said to aid gallstones, although no studies support this claim. The following poses are believed by some to be beneficial for people with gallstones:
Cobra, Bow, Seated Forward Bend, Shoulderstand, Lying Twist and Locust – these are all available as video tutorials on my website: carolebaker.co.uk/videos.
Lie on your front on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders and shoulder width apart. Hug the elbows back into your body.
Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubic bone firmly into the floor.
Breathe in, lengthen your nose forward like trying to roll a marble away from you and begin to gently straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubic bone to your legs, don’t clench the buttocks!
Drop the shoulder blades down together into your back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine. Go more for length rather than height.
Don’t lose the length in your neck and end up looking like Shrek!
Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an out breath.
Be careful if you have any of the following:
Back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, suffer headaches, are pregnant.
The benefits of this pose are said to be:
Strengthens the muscles of the lumbar spine, stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen, firms the buttocks
Stimulates abdominal organs, helps relieve stress and fatigue, opens the heart and lungs, soothes sciatica
Therapeutic for asthma.
Don’t overdo the backbend. To find the height at which you can work comfortably and avoid straining your back, take your hands off the floor for a moment, so that the height you find will be through extension and the strength of your back muscles. If you are very stiff in the lower back, it might be better to avoid doing this pose on the floor. Brace a folding chair against a wall, and do the pose with your hands on the front edge of the seat, balls of the feet on the floor.
NOTE: Please take care with all postures, never push yourself, always respect your body’s limitations and with patience you will improve. Practice little and often with care and attention, never pain or force. I recommend you come to class or book a private one-to-one session.
With thanks to yogajournal.com, draxe.com, medicalnewstoday.com
The suggestions in this article are the personal opinion of the author. Please do not take any new remedies if you are currently on any medication without the consent of your GP.
Carole Baker is founder of The Self Centre, Bury St Edmunds