Several organs in our body work together in the process of digestion, as it is a complex process. Have you ever imagined the consequences of improper functioning of your organs that helps in digestion? What if the fat from the food consumed is not digested and you experience bloating and flatulence? In order to enter the bloodstream, everything in the food consumed has to be broken down into small units. The fat containing foods must be broken into fatty acids, proteins must be broken into amino acids and carbohydrate must be broken into glucose. Fat is among the six important and essential nutrients that we require for proper functioning of our body. If the fat from the food is not broken into fatty acids, one can experience bloating or even diarrhea because of the undigested food present in the stools. The Gallbladder is the important organ that mainly aids in fat digestion.

What is a Gallbladder and what is its function?

Gallbladder is basically a small pear-shaped organ that mainly helps in fat digestion and it concentrates the bile that is produced by the liver. In a human body, the Gallbladder measures around 8 cms in length and 4 cms in diameter when it is fully distended. It is basically divided into three sections: body, fundus and the neck. It is connected to the liver through the hepatic duct. The Gallbladder stores the bile that flows from the liver. The hepatic duct (tube) works mainly as a transporter of the bile from the liver to the Gallbladder. When a food containing fats is consumed the Gallbladder contracts to release the bile through the intestine. When a meal is consumed, the Gallbladder stores the bile in large quantities for secretion. The hormone is released due to the ingestion of food, especially fats. They release the hormone known as the cholecystokinin, which basically signals the relaxation of the valve at the end of the common bile duct, which further lets the bile enter the small intestine. It also indicates the contraction of the Gallbladder, which releases the concentrated liquid bile into the small intestine, where it helps the fats in the meal to breakdown.

Where is the Gallbladder situated?

The Gallbladder is situated behind the liver towards the right side of the rib cage. It hits up against the under-surface of the liver.

What is bile and what is its function?

Bile is a bitter, yellow fluid that consists of calcium, bile salts, acids, lecithin and waste materials. Bile is produced by the liver that aids in digestion of lips in the small intestine. Bile is basically made up of 85 percent water, 10 percent bile salts, 3 percent mucus and pigments, 1 percent fats and 0.7 percent inorganic salts. The bile has two important functions: breaking down the fats and removing toxins.

  • The bile breaks down the fats from the food that we eat so that our body can utilise them. With inadequate bile we can’t metabolise our fats, which would result in a deficiency of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin a, d, e and k. We may also experience problems in digesting the essential fatty acids that are required for brain development, brain function, hormones, our eyes and cholesterol.

  • Bile is also important and a powerful antioxidant that helps to remove the toxins from the liver. The liver works as a filter in removing toxins like bacteria, viruses, drugs or any other foreign substances that the body doesn’t want and sends it out through the bile, which is made in the liver. The toxins are departed from the liver through the bile ducts into the Gallbladder or directly into the small intestine where it further joins the waste matter and leaves through the colon along with the faeces.

What if the Gallbladder does not function?

Gallbladder dysfunction usually prevents our body from breaking down and using the fats from the food that is consumed. The other nutrients from the food are broken down and absorbed normally, but some of the fat remains undigested. We may experience bloating and flatulence after consuming fat-containing meals. There are some noticeable stool changes too, like diarrhea because of the undigested fat present in the stools. One may also experience, foul smelling tools or the colour of the stool may appear pale because of the bile salts that are basically responsible for the brown colour of normal stools.

What are Gallstones?

Cholelithiasis is the medical term form gallstones. Chole is a Greek word that means ‘bile’, Lithos is ‘stone’ and iasis is ‘condition of’. So basically gallstones or cholelithiasis is the condition of having bile stones. Gallstones are basically formed in the Gallbladder and they are made from the bile and it consists of mainly cholesterol and bilirubin. In differing amounts, the centre of gallstones is a mixture of calcium, cholesterol and bilirubin. The stones prevailing can be red, black, white, green or tan coloured. The pea-green coloured is the most common found during a flush, and it contains highest concentration of cholesterol. The more the stones grow, they become more numerous and they clog the tubing, creating a backward pressure on the liver, causing it to produce less bile. Jaundice is caused due to back up of bile.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

The symptoms of Gallbladder attacks are often caused due to the Gallbladder stones. The stones block the neck of the Gallbladder or may get stuck in a bile duct prohibiting the flow of bile or possibly even cause the backing up of bile. Before the actual attack, the stones may possibly be present for years and never cause any symptoms at all. Pain may usually occur in about a third of the gallstone patients. The symptoms usually look and feel the same in a patient with or without the stones.

What are the symptoms of a Gallbladder attack?

The Gallbladder attacks are both very painful and frightening. The typical symptoms of the Gallbladder attacks are – vomiting, severe pain under the right side of the rib cage, the pain may also radiate through the back or the right shoulder, nausea, gas, burping, severe upper abdominal pain, etc. Gallbladder attacks also often occur due to overeating, there can be increased pain due to deep inhalation, these attacks may often occur at night and may last from 15 minutes to 15 hours.

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