How to Heal Gallbladder Disease

Over the last 3 decades, there has been a 20% surge in people suffering from gallbladder disease. It is estimated that 20-25 million Americans (10-15% of the population) have gallbladder complications (primarily from gallstones) that lead to 1.8 million hospital visits and $6.2 billion dollars in health care costs every year.

An increasingly common “solution” to this problem is surgery. In fact, there are over 750,000 cholecystectomies (gallbladder removal surgeries) performed annually in the US. That’s three quarters of a million people losing their gallbladder every year! Unfortunately, 10-33% of people who get their gallbladder taken out never resolve their symptoms of gallbladder disease; and in fact those who have their galbladder removed may suffer from a whole new set of symptoms like fat malabsorption and vitamin deficiencies after surgery.

What if there was a less invasive way than surgery to relieve symptoms in people with gallbladder disease? 

You may be able to prevent gallbladder surgery by eliminating certain foods from your diet.

Back in 1968 a doctor by the name of J.C. Brenemen published a paper in the journal Annals of Allergy. He was able to relieve symptoms associated with gallstones (cholelithiasis) in 100% of his subjects by doing an Elimination Diet for 1 week. Most symptoms improved within only 3-5 days. When certain foods were added back in the diet, the symptoms would return. Three common foods accounted for the vast majority of reactions. Egg was problematic in 93% of people, pork in 64%, and onion in 52%. Other foods included fowl, milk, coffee, oranges, corn, beans, nuts, apples, and tomatoes. By simply removing the foods, these patients were able to eliminate their symptoms.

Over my ten years in clinical practice I have noticed that those clients who went on an Elimination Diet would often heal their gallbladder symptoms, and avoid gallbladder surgery. By observing my clients, I found that there was one additional food reaction contributing to gallstone disease that Brenemen was missing in his 1968 study—gluten.

What does a healthy gallbladder do?

The gallbladder is a small four inch sac located just below the liver. It accumulates a liquid mixture known as bile that contains 97% water, 0.7% bile salts (cholesterol that interacts with hydroxylation/CYP450 enzymes and has either glycine or taurine attached to it), 0.51% fats (i.e. cholesterol, phospholipids), 0.2% bilirubin (derived from heme- the substance in red blood cells), and a trace amount of inorganic salts (i.e. potassium, sodium bicarbonate). As food travels out of the stomach and in to the small intestines (duodenum), cells that line the intestinal walls “sense” the fats and amino acids in the food and release a hormone called CCK (cholecystokinin/Chole= bile, Cysto= sac, Kinin= mover). This bile sac-moving hormone signals the gallbladder to squeeze forcing the bile into the upper intestines where it helps to digest fats found in foods. Simultaneously, CCK also signals digestive enzymes to be released from the pancreas. 

Lack of gallbladder stimulation as a factor in forming gallstones.  

Problems can arise when the gallbladder never receives the signal to squeeze. This leads to a condition known as stasis where bile sits in the gallbladder for long periods of time. If the gallbladder is filled with bile that is laden with high levels of cholesterol, and low levels of phospholipids and bile salts, it can form a supersaturated sludge. This stagnant sludge allows for the perfect environment for crystal-like structures to form that precipitate out of solution. These structures are known as gallstones and they can cause irritation in the gallbladder. If the stones are large enough, they may get lodged in the cystic duct or common bile duct. This leads to the symptoms of what is known as gallbladder attacks. 

Symptoms of gallbladder disease:

  • Upper right quadrant pain in abdomen (may radiate to right shoulder of mid-back)
  • Feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills/sweating
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)

Research indicates that both gluten and cow's milk proteins can cause damage in the intestinal tract that leads to gallbladder stasis. Both foods contain proteins that are capable of exciting immune cells in the intestinal tract that can interfere with CCK signaling by disrupting the intestinal lining. If the intestines are damaged, and CCK secretion is interrupted, the gallbladder never fully contracts to squeeze out all of the bile.

The difference between subjects with calm intestines and those who have damage from consuming gluten can be profound. In one study, subjects who had intestinal damage from gluten consumption (villous atrophy) took over 7 times longer to empty out their gallbladder than the normal subjects (154 minutes vs. 20 minutes). A gluten-free diet normalized the emptying time of the gallbladder.

Other studies have demonstrated that pancreatic enzymes are reduced when the upper intestinal tract is damaged by either gluten or cow's milk protein. When those foods are removed from the diet and the intestines heal, the pancreatic enzyme function returns to normal.

5 Things You Can Do Now To Heal Your Gallbladder:

1. Do an Elimination Diet.

This is by far the most effective therapy for gallbladder issues I have seen. Our book, The Elimination Diet, details how to follow one safely and effectively. If you are ready to begin the healing process right now, and need guidance in following an Elimination Diet, then register today for our online Elimination Diet Support Program

2. Consider a high quality digestive enzyme supplement.

If you have loose stools and more than four bowel movements a day, research indicates a pancreatic enzyme supplement may help. 

3. Eating more vegetables and fruits helps to prevent gallstones.

Shoot for 6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Our book, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, has hundreds of recipes for incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet in a delicious way! 

4. Start consuming broccoli sprouts.

Eating 1/4 cup per day can decrease bilirubin deposits in the gallbladder thus reducing the likelihood of gallstone formation. Watch my video and learn how to easily grow your own broccoli sprouts!

5. Consider a curcumin supplement.

Curcumin extracts from turmeric have been shown to stimulate bile formation and gallbladder emptying. Meriva, a supplement of complexed phophatidylcholine and curcumin, has helped many of my clients with gallbladder issues. 



  1. Is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in adult coeliac disease a cause of persisting symptoms?
  2. Persistent decreased plasma cholecystokinin levels in celiac patients under gluten-free diet: respective roles of ...
  3. Allergy elimination diet as the most effective gallbladder diet.
  4. Subclinical exocrine pancreatic dysfunction resulting from decreased cholecystokinin secretion in the presence of intestinal ...
  5. Epidemiology of gallbladder disease: cholelithiasis and cancer.
  6. Nutritional approaches to prevention and treatment of gallstones.
  7. Digestive and nutritional considerations in celiac disease: could supplementation help?

Stay up to date with the current science and recipes that can help make your family healthy.


Thank you so much Nadine. Your story is one many people need to hear. I am grateful you shared it with us all. As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I see cases like this often. It brings so much hope every time I see another person take charge of their health.

Nadine,I was wondering exactly how you got rid of your gallstones.did you go vegan,do a gallbladder flush,or simply stop eating dairy and gluten.the deets of you diet would be much appreciated.

Thanks for asking. When I was first diagnosed with bilary colic, I had a severe blockage of the common bile duct. I went to a naturopath after doing a homeopathic flush (lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil). The flush cleared the blockage (not that I would recommend this method as it is risky, but I was desperate). As for the change in diet, this was largely on the advice of my naturopath. We did an elimination diet in which I removed dairy, gluten, sugar, fatty foods, and processed foods. When I started adding these foods back into my diet, I discovered the negative effects of gluten on my body and dairy to a smaller degree. I went completely gluten free (I still eat some dairy and I eliminated fatty foods such as fast food). I'm also taking two supplements, although now I've reduced the dosage. Both help with digestion and liver support; Ichol and Phos Choline. After four years, I don't have any stones and I don't require surgery for gallbladder removal. I firmly believe that these changes helped with my situation. Let me know if you would like any other information.

Thank you for posting you success story. I just had an attack from stones and want to try and remove them naturally, through diet, ACV. bile salts, lemon and fiber to start. Everyone is talking surgery and I'd rather not.

I was wondering if you could give me the dosage of the Ichol & Phos Choline. I am having a lot of success with a mostly vegan diet / completely cut out dairy and have maybe a little very lean chicken breast and/or fish. There is nothin g wrong with my gallbladder, just the stones. No inflammation, no liquid filled area. All ducts are clear. In the past 5 months I have had 5 gallbladder attacks. I do well if I follow a plant based diet, but am wondering if any supplements will help so I do not have to get my gallbladder removed. ANY help is appreciated.

Hi Nadine, How are you doing now? I have gallbladder polyps and dearly wish to get rid of them, last night had another gallbladder attack, some say go low fat vegan then others say no you need to eat fat in order to move bile, its confusing, the supplements you talked about have choline, methionine, and ox bile, I was confused about ox bile, many say its good for gallbladder issues and yet others say bile acids increase cancer risk the studies suggesting this probably focused on bile acids themselves from high fat diets or obesity, I read another study that said that higher total cholesterol was linked to less gallbladder cancer and so am confused

Hi Nadine I read your comment and I was recently diagnosed with gallstones in February after some severe right abdominal pain. I was told in the ER that I should have surgery to remove my gallbladder because I had gallstones; mind you they never told me what size they were and all they said was that it wasn’t an emergency and I could schedule an outpatient surgery since their schedule was booked that week. So I decided to get the heck out of there, I had not been given any details and they just wanted to automatically remove it. So I went to see my PCP who informed me that I had two stones in my gallbladder and that I could live with them as long as I wasn’t getting any pain every week and as long as my gallbladder was still functioning. I don’t want to have surgery and want to keep my gallbladder. I didn’t have any pain for a month since I was diagnosed up until last week when I started eating brand cereal and wheat bread so I decided to eliminate those products from my diet all together and I’ve been fine. I really want to try a natural approach to get rid of these two gallstones and avoid surgery. I wanted to know who your naturopath was. I really need all the help I can get.

I’m so grateful for your encouraging post! I’m a year in with cleaning up my diet, attending to healthy fat sources, grain free and dairy free eating and feel the best I have in years. I’ve learned what triggers my gallbladder attacks and what foods I need to avoid as well as what I need to eat. Finding what foods heal your gut from within are truly the cornerstones of health. You inspire me to keep going and go get another ultrasound!

I had a severe gallbladder attack six months ago and an ultrasound showed I had numerous large stones. Since then I've had two less severe attacks and quite a bit of general discomfort. I've recently eliminated sugar, gluten and processed foods. I'm trying to eat more veggies and only healthy fats. After reading your article, I'll add broccoli sprouts and curcumin. I don't have a problem with diarrhea so am wondering if I need the digestive enzymes. My second question is, can I reverse the stones when I have quite a few of them. I'm 59 and had no gallbladder problem till the first sudden attack a few months ago. Last, if a person is fortunate enough to rid themselves of stones, are they passed or do they dissolve? Thank you so much. I'm SO wanting to avoid surgery!!!

Hello Susan, I hope you get an answer to this...I only have one large gallstone but lately it really has been bothering me. Had two very bad attacks...but after the last one it seems ok, maybe it just broke up and dissolved. Been taking a Turmeric mix with a cup of water and that may have helped. Look up the info on this and ALWAYS make sure that you check about any cross interferences with other things that you are taking, ie meds etc.

since Cow's milk can be harmful to the gallbladder... is cottage cheese harmful to the gallbladder as well?

4 weeks ago I had my first attack and I went on all liquids. Half and half doesn't bother me but mild does. I'm wondering why? I added beets and loads of vegetables drinks to diet and have kept it at bay. My ultrasounds showed 3 huge 3.5 gallstones and inflammation. They want to remove it. I don't want to unless I have to. Please help

Hey there, I just had a HIDA scan completed with results of 6% ejection factor (<35% is abnormal). Surgeon has recommended removal but I'd like to consider a more natural solution if possible. For an underactive gallbladder, you are saying diet changes can be corrective? I am looking for some guidance / guidelines / help with exactly what I'd need to do and also with what to expect. Thanks, Amy

Amy, did you end up having surgery?

Amy, I just had a HIDA scan and mine is 5% and the dr. of course said get it out. But I am wondering what you did and how you are doing. I've had pain every day for months and tried to heal this poor gallbladder with enzymes, amino acids, and other supplements. I am going to try this elimination diet now and see if that works. I did do a 3.5 day fast where I only drank water and felt fine. If only I didn't need to eat. . . Hope you get this message. Thank you for all the material in this post.

Hi Amy. Wondering what happened as I’m in the same situation. Did you have surgery?

Hi my gallbladder is only functioning at 18% and I would really like to avoid surgery and heal my gallbladder. I am currently doing a shake based (raw greens alternated with brown rice) detox but am nervous that it won't work. I am taking probiotics and a multi-vitamin, what else should I do to help detox my body, liver, gallbladder?

I have thought that you aren't supposed to take Tumeric if you are prone to Gall Stones. Yet you are saying it helps and I read another article say that it helps lower the inflammation. Do you have anything to add?

Hi, I recently started having acid reflux like symptoms after eating rich food. It generally started after 3/4 hrs after consumption of the meal. I would have severe pain in the upper abdominal region, bloating and burping. No warm lemon water would help it subside. The onset has been sudden in February and according to my observations occurs only after I eat a heavy meal. Along with this I have observed unformed bowel movement and despite eating fibre have a burning sensation while passing stools which lasts for sometime. Also the stools are greasy. Please can you help me?

I successfully removed many gallstones this past year using the gallstone flush from Andreas Moritz. Now I had 2 attacks this past week and an ultrasound detected a large polyp and no more gallstones (because I flushed them all out). They of course want to remove my gallbladder and I really don't want to. Whats good to shrink or remove the polyp without surgery?

I have had 3 or 4 bad attacks , at first I did not know what was going on. Upon going to the ER.. I told them I thought it might be my gallbladder.. and to my surprise I have a stone.. went to the surgeon he did not recommend removal at this time.. ok.. I am also a diabetic, blood sugars are not controlled well. I take my insulin and do not eat any sweets.. etc.. but being insulin resistant.. its tough..I am rather lean gal.. 60 yrs old.. 5'7 .. I also suffer from severe Fibromyalgia.. after an attack I am like a sick little gal.. since I have vomiting , and terrible as that is.. simply vial... I do not know what to do at this point as I am limited with the diabetes and know this . I do not know what to eat anymore.. ty for reading this. :)

I have a 1.7cm gallbladder polyp. Doctor recommended to remove the gallbladder because it might be cancerous. Should I get it done?

Help!! Hey there, I just had a HIDA scan completed with results of 18% ejection factor Surgeon has recommended removal but I'd like to consider a more natural solution if possible. For an underactive gallbladder, you are saying diet changes can be corrective? I am looking for some guidance / guidelines / help with exactly what I'd need to do and also with what to expect. Dave

Hey there, I just had a HIDA scan completed with results of 18% ejection.Surgeon has recommended removal but I'd like to consider a more natural solution if possible. For an underactive gallbladder, you are saying diet changes can be corrective? I am looking for some guidance / guidelines / help with exactly what I'd need to do and also with what to expect. Thanks

Please help I'm scheduled for gallbladder surgery on the 24th would love to avoid it. Been having some bad attacks. Seems like all I can eat know is fruit. If you been having severe attacks can you still save your gallbladder. Should I get another scan to see what going on?

Hello, I just had a HIDA scan and discovered I have a 4% ejection factor. I would love to avoid surgery if possible, but I haven’t heard of any cases where a low functioning gallbladder has been reversed through natural means. Anyone?

hello. what exactly do you recommend for dissolving and flushing out the stones? my mom just found out she has a 11mm stone, and 3mm thickness of the gallbladder wall. she of corse was told she needed her gallbladder removed, but is willing to make a drastic diet change, and herb/supplement protocol to avoid surgery. thanks so much!

I had gallbladder stones and it was removed when I was 11. I have had digestive issues since then. What can I do to help with this or will I always have issue due to bile?

Hello I Just stumbled upon this article and ive had 7 attacks back to back monthly since November. Mind you i started having attacks back in 2010. I also just recently had a HIDA scan done and my gallbladder is functioning at 19% ejection rate. Ive scheduled my surgery for august 6 but i also wanted to not do surgery but Im afraid that if i do a flush or sumthin else it will be detrimental!!!! Ive been on lifestyle change since November and i have yet to figure out what my triggers are. Is it possible yo reverse the functionality of the gallbladder. If so what do I need to so. Ive done everything. Now im like eff it. Just cut it out. Thanks


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Elimination Diet Articles from Whole Life Nutrition

The Elimination Diet Book is Here!

As a functional medicine nutritionist, I’ve watched thousands of people have their symptoms melt away on The Elimination problems, mood issues, gut disorders, headaches, chronic pain, and more. By simply (and deliciously) modifying their diets, people just like you are reversing their conditions and eliminating their most troublesome symptoms. In fact, many people continue to improve so much that they no longer need their medications! Read more about The Elimination Diet Book is Here!

7 Steps to Heal your Migraines

Through my clinical practice, I have found that eliminating trigger foods is the fastest route to healing. While working on my recent book, The Elimination Diet, I examined research explaining how food sensitivity and intolerance reactions can increase stress, alter hormones, and drastically effect the production of energy in each and every cell—the other three primary triggers for migraines! Read more about 7 Steps to Heal your Migraines

Elimination Diet Resources

Here you will find the essential documents we mention in our book, Please download them, print, use a 3-hole puncher, and add them all to a special binder. For the Journal, we recommend printing off about 60 pages of the third page in the document in order to have a full journal to write in. Add this to your binder or use a separate binder just for your Elimination Diet Journal. Read more about Elimination Diet Resources

Why 95% of People Fail on Gluten-Free Diets

After seeing thousands of people in clinical practice, I would estimate that 95% of those who try to go on a gluten-free diet fail. For many of them, it’s not their fault. They follow all the guidelines of eating gluten-free foods like rice, oats, lentils, millet, and sorghum. They find amazing gluten-free cookie recipes with arrowroot and tapioca starch. All the while, they are ingesting tiny amounts of gluten containing grains. How does this happen? It’s called cross-contamination and it is far more common than you would imagine.  Read more about Why 95% of People Fail on Gluten-Free Diets