The Most Dangerous Foods You’ve Been Giving Your Gallbladder and How to Save It

A sick gallbladder causes inflammation, nausea, vomiting, and even gallstones. It’s a painful disease that causes long-term digestive problems because of its role in the digestive… Samantha Davis - October 14, 2022

A sick gallbladder causes inflammation, nausea, vomiting, and even gallstones. It’s a painful disease that causes long-term digestive problems because of its role in the digestive process. Your gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver. Then, your body later uses this bile to break down fatty foods and aid in the digestive process. When bile is too thick or has too much cholesterol, painful gallstones can form.

One of the best ways to avoid complications like these, whether you have a sick gallbladder or are suffering from gallbladder disease, is to improve your diet. Diet plays a critical role in things like healthy digestion and your overall health and well-being. Next, we’ll take a look at some foods you should eat for gallbladder health, as well as some foods that are actually dangerous for your gallbladder (including some you wouldn’t expect).

Too many simple sugars put you at risk for gallbladder disease. Shutterstock.

Don’t Eat High-Sugar or Simple Carbohydrate Foods

The carbohydrates you eat make a big difference in how your body processes them for energy. When you consume sugary drinks like soda, candies or sweets, or even simple carbohydrates like white bread, your body digests them quickly. This results in a raise in blood sugar that spikes and then quickly comes back down, leaving you with lower energy levels.

Display of whole grains and whole grain products
Swap out simple carbohydrates for whole-grain bread and pasta. Shutterstock.

Eating too much sugar and simple carbohydrates is also damaging to the digestive tract. Since these foods don’t provide enough protein, the liver has to work harder to produce enough acids to digest them. Furthermore, research carried out in India found that the high-sugar diet of the West puts people at a significantly increased risk of gallstones. It also increases the risk of developing diabetes, which is also connected to an increased risk of gallstones.

Eating enough tomatoes could stop gallstones from forming. Shutterstock.

Eat Tomatoes

Tomatoes are considered a superfood for a reason- they offer a host of benefits and are packed full of nutrients. In addition to Vitamins A, C, K, and potassium, tomatoes also contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene that fights free radicals to reduce your risk of certain diseases and cancer. According to research from Michigan State University, tomatoes are also a fruit that could improve the health of your gallbladder.

Turn tomatoes into a yummy sauce over whole grain noodles or zucchini pasta. Freepik.

Adding more tomatoes to your diet reduces the risk of gallstones and kidney stones forming. They also help regulate blood sugar, boost metabolism, and so much more. You can get the most benefit from tomatoes by eating them as a sauce or paste. Unlike most vegetables, cooking tomatoes actually makes it easier for your body to digest the beneficial lycopene inside. Of course, raw tomatoes still offer plenty of benefits, too!

Some people have minor allergies to oranges and other irritants that cause inflammation. Shutterstock

Don’t Eat Oranges or Other Irritants

This might be surprising to some people, especially since increasing your Vitamin C intake is one way to improve symptoms of gallstones and a sick gallbladder. According to Dr. Ronald Hoffman, however, oranges are one of the more common foods that cause a gallbladder attack. This is because it’s a common irritant that causes inflammation in the digestive tract of some people.

As long as coffee and oranges don’t cause pain, it’s okay to keep drinking them. Kate’s Kitchen.

This is a problem because inflammation makes it more likely that the pebble-like bits that pass through your gallbladder get stuck in the ducts and cluster together, becoming a gallstone. Oranges aren’t the only food good for your gallbladder that causes symptoms in people. Also on the list are coffee, milk, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, pork, corn, and onions. If it causes pain, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

The curcumin in turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Shutterstock.

Eat Turmeric

Turmeric is one of those spices with a deep history in Ayurvedic and Ancient Chinese Medicine because of its incredible anti-inflammatory benefits. When it comes to the gallbladder, however, turmeric helps stimulate bile production so your body doesn’t have to work as hard. This happens because of its high concentration of curcumin, which is the compound responsible for giving turmeric its yellow color.

Turmeric adds a mild peppery flavor and a pop of color to rice. Little Sunny Kitchen.

Curcumin also improves liver enzymes, making it easier for your body to produce bile to break up gallstones if you already have them. Additionally, turmeric is known for its ability to aid in healthy digestion and is full of antioxidants that fight inflammation and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are caused by things like toxins in your environment and they can cause chronic symptoms like pain and inflammation, as well as various cancers.

Cucumbers support the gallbladder and provide soothing relief during an attack. Shutterstock.

Eat Cucumber

When you’re already having an attack, cucumber can take the edge off your symptoms and help relieve hunger. Plus, it’s mainly water and fiber, making it super easy for your body to digest. People who have gallbladder flare-ups also say that keeping the cucumber in the fridge and eating it cold has a cooling effect, which can provide at least a little pain relief and help soothe inflammation from a gallbladder attack.

Add dressing and spices to make a yummy cucumber salad. Gimme Some Oven.

According to Men’s Health, cucumbers are also a source of senolytics. Senolytics are a group of compounds that fight against inflammation in the body. They also work to replace old, worn-out cells that accumulate in our body as a natural part of the aging process. By renewing these cells, particularly those that have been damaged by free radicals, senolytics have a rejuvenating effect on the whole body and help reduce the risk of disease.

Carrot juice has powerful benefits for the gallbladder. Shutterstock.

Eat Carrots

While carrots do have benefits for the body and your overall health, it is carrot juice that stimulates bile production. Researchers noted this when they were studying the effects of carrot juice on metabolism and hormone production in the thyroid. With more bile, your gut doesn’t work as hard to digest food. Having enough bile also breaks down gallstones in people who struggle with them.

Try roasting carrots so your body digests the beta carotene more easily. Cooking Classy.

When eating raw carrots, there are also many benefits. The raw fiber is great for the digestive tract and carrots are a nutrient-dense food. They contain nutrients like vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and folic acid. Carrots are also full of antioxidants that fight free radicals and reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Cooking carrots makes them easier to digest, especially since the beneficial beta carotene isn’t destroyed by a little heat.

Radish stimulates the production of bile acids to digest food. Shutterstock.

Eat Radish

Radish has been around for centuries as a treatment for gallbladder conditions. Historically, black radish juice was used in Mexican culture to treat gallstones. While this is tried and tested, researchers have also taken a closer look at the effectiveness of black radish juice and found it most successful in breaking up cholesterol gallstones, which are caused by cholesterol in bile sticking together with other components and forming stones.

Roasting radishes brings out a rich, earthy flavor. Clean Food Crush.

Not only does radish break up gallstones, but it also benefits liver enzymes and helps stimulate the production of bile that breaks up gallstones. Adding radish to your diet also has many other benefits, including better digestive and cardiovascular health. Radishes also have a low glycemic index to help regulate blood sugar and are hydrating, which helps with bile production, because 100 grams of radish contains about 95 grams of water.

Juice from endive breaks up gallstones. Shutterstock.

Eat Endive

Endive is another vegetable that’s really great for stimulating bile production and breaking up gallstones. It’s a leafy vegetable with a tart but buttery flavor that tastes great in salads or on a sandwich. In people who have gallstones, drinking two glasses of endive juice (around 50mL) each day relieves symptoms and helps break up stones. Additionally, endive balances cholesterol which is important for preventing the formation of gallstones.

Try braising or roasting endive to bring out a sweeter flavor. America’s Test Kitchen.

Endive also helps with bile production because it’s a powerful detoxifier, particularly for the liver. It pulls toxins out of the liver and helps pass them through the body as waste, particularly because of their high fiber content. While endive is high in fiber and nutrients, they are also low in carbohydrates and calories. It can help with balancing blood sugar levels, weight loss, and even your psychological health.

Celery opens your bile duct and makes it easier to pass gallstones. Shutterstock.

Eat Celery

Celery makes a great snack for people trying to lose weight because it’s really low in calories but full of water and fiber that helps you feel full. It’s also a great choice for people with gallbladder problems because of the nutrients in this low-calorie snack. Naturally-occurring sodium works as a vasodilator that expands the vessels, as well as the bile duct. This lets bile flow more freely from the duct and also makes it easier for gallstones to pass if you have one.

Try braising celery to add flavor and break down tough fibers. Fuss Free Flavours.

Additionally, you can take more advantage of celery by drinking celery juice, which promotes bile production that can help break up gallstones. The properties of celery help it detoxify the body and it is high in Vitamins A and C. This helps it boost immunity and fight against free radicals in the body. Celery also is high in fiber that keeps your digestive tract healthy and is full of other beneficial plant compounds as well.

Sweet potatoes get their color from beta carotene like carrots. Shutterstock.

Eat Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamins B3, B5, and B6, Vitamin C, copper, manganese, and magnesium. They are also a rich source of fiber and get their orange color from beta carotene, the same antioxidant that gives carrots their orange color. The high fiber content makes sweet potatoes great for digestive tract health. They also contain resistant starch, which is known for nourishing the good bacteria in your digestive tract.

Saute sweet potatoes with other veggies to make tasty hash. Shutterstock.

Since sweet potatoes help lower bad cholesterol, it bring balance to cholesterol levels and reduces the amount stored in bile in the body. This makes it less likely that you’ll develop gallstones. Furthermore, the high levels of antioxidants from the beta carotene in sweet potatoes fight free radicals. Sweet potatoes also contain sporamin, a unique protein that fights against cancers including those of the gallbladder, colon, and tongue.

Some vegetables contain oxalates that make gallstones more likely. The Simple Veganista.

Don’t Eat Too Many Collard Greens

Low-calorie, nutrient-dense collard greens are considered a superfood for many reasons. They also do offer some benefits for the gallbladder. For example, they contain a high level of glucosinolates that have powerful detoxification powers. Collard greens are also known for their ability to detoxify fat from the body, including the liver. By improving the health of the liver, it’s less likely that you’ll develop gallstones.

Collard geens are also a powerful detoxifier. Shutterstock.

Unfortunately, collard greens also have a high level of oxalates. Oxalates bind to calcium so your body doesn’t absorb it as well and they also bind bits of matter together in your digestive tract, making it more likely that gallstones will form. Some other foods with high levels of oxalates include potatoes, beets, green beans, Swiss chard, okra, spinach, and leeks. You should always eat these in moderation and avoid them if you’re already having an attack.

Pectin in okra helps detoxify the liver for better gallbladder function. Taste of Home.

Eat Okra (in Moderation)

The major benefit of okra for the gallbladder comes from its high levels of pectin and the support it provides for the digestive process. Pectin also helps regulate good and bad cholesterol levels, making it less likely that gallstones or kidney stones will form. Okra is also full of fiber that helps with digestive tract health and various other nutrients including Vitamin C and folate.

Change the texture of okra by adding it to soup like this beef stew. Healthy Recipes Blog.

The high antioxidant level of okra also fights free radicals to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Something to note is that people who take drugs like Metformin to regulate blood sugar should be cautious about eating too much okra since it can negate the effects of their medication. Additionally, okra should be consumed in moderation because of the high levels of oxalates that can bind gallstones and actually make them worse.

Eat Beets (in Moderation)

While we’ve already talked about plenty of foods that benefit the gallbladder, a lot of them don’t compare to the benefits that you get from beets. However, you will want to be cautious about consuming too many beets because of their oxalate content. Oxalate binds bile salt and can cause problems in people who have gallstones. That being said, beets change how your body uses cholesterol and result in it absorbing less fat after you eat.

Cook beets in the air fryer for an easy, yummy snack or side. Kitchn.

In one study that looked closer at these effects, it was also found that eating beets increases your gallbladder’s capacity for holding bile acids. It reduces gallbladder wall thickness by 12% and increases the gallbladder’s holding capacity by as much as 32%. Additionally, beet leaf is associated with better blood circulation that could benefit the gallbladder and liver. All these things make it less likely you’ll experience a sick gallbladder in the future.

Butter is one of the worst foods for your gallbladder. Diet’s Meal Plan.

Don’t Eat Butter

There has been a lot of debate over the years about whether butter, margarine, or olive oil was better for your health. Even though some people say butter is better, it actually contains saturated fat that raises cholesterol and clogs arteries. By contrast, margarine contains saturated fat and trans fat, which is even worse. The best choice for cooking is oils with omega fatty acids like olive oil, avocado oil, or safflower oil.

Swapping out butter for olive oil helps balance cholesterol levels. North American Olive Oil Association.

Butter is a full-fat dairy product and has an 80% fat content, so it’s really high in calories without nutritional value. You’ll also find that a lot of prepared items like baked goods and cakes also contain butter, so it might be best to make them at home if you want a healthier alternative. Canola oil has a mild flavor that works well for baking, while olive oil is great for pan-searing meat or veggies.

There’s anecdotal evidence that a bladder cleanse removes gallstones. Holar.

Drink Lemon Juice and Olive Oil for a Cleanse

According to a study from 2009, a gallbladder flush done with lemon water doesn’t have any scientific evidence that supports it. However, that same study notes that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports it make work. Using lemon water for a gallbladder flush is very safe, so there’s no reason not to try it. For people with small gallstones, it can even be used to remove them from the body.

Apple juice softens gallstones so they pass easier. Shutterstock.

The gallbladder cleanse takes six days. For the first five days, you’ll need to drink 1 quart of apple juice per day. You’ll eat your normal diet during this time. On the sixth day, finish eating by 6 p.m. and drink 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in a glass of water. Do this a second time at 8 p.m. At 10 p.m., drink 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. People who have success with this usually pass their gallstones the following morning.

Apples and apple juice have benefits for the gallbladder and digestive tract. Mashed.

Eat Apples and Drink Apple Juice

The reason that apple juice is recommended for the gallbladder cleanse is that apples contain limonoid. Lemoniod softens gallstones, which makes them less painful and easier to pass. Additionally, apples reduce bad cholesterol levels by making lipids liquid and easier for the body to pass. Reducing bad cholesterol is one way that you can reduce the likelihood of developing gallstones.

Try apples baked with a little cinnamon to satisfy your sweet tooth. Healthy Recipes Blog.

Apples also have the major benefit of being full of fiber which is good for the digestive tract. Pectin in apples also keeps things moving. By aiding in digestion, apples make it so your gallbladder doesn’t work as hard. Additionally, their high levels of antioxidants fight against brain disease, certain neurological conditions, chronic disease, and cancer. Antioxidants also have benefits for the immune system.

Avocado is full of healthy fats that balance cholesterol. Shutterstock.

Eat Avocado

It’s not true that all fats are bad for your gallbladder. Avocado is full of healthy fats that can actually lower levels of bad cholesterol. It also raises good cholesterol for better all-around levels that support heart health and reduce the risk of gallstones. Additionally, avocado reduces the risk of gallstones because of its high level of potassium. Potassium plays a critical role in maintaining proper balances of electrolytes that control hydration.

Avocado salad tastes great on a taco or as a standalone side. EPARKER FREIEBACH.

Being dehydrated significantly increases your risk of gallstones because bile acids are thicker when you are dehydrated. Additionally, the average avocado contains about 9.2 grams of fiber. This makes them great for digestion, which supports organs like your gallbladder, liver, and digestive tract. They also help suppress appetite, making them a great addition to your diet if you are trying to lose weight.

Stuffed, baked artichokes are a yummy side for holidays or family dinner. Well Seasoned Studio.

Eat Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes

Artichokes belong to a group of herbs and vegetables called digestive bitters, which are known for their wide range of benefits for the digestive tract. With the gut playing such a big role in our physical and mental health, it’s important to nourish it with the right foods. Jerusalem and Globe artichokes contain inulin and silymarin, two strong liver protectants that help detoxify the liver and can even reverse liver damage.

Jerusalem artichokes fight inflammation from high-fructose diets. Shutterstock

Being a digestive bitter, artichokes like these also increase bile flow and keep things moving along the digestive tract. Additionally, the inulin found in Jerusalem artichokes helps control inflammation caused by proteins created from a high-sugar diet that’s common in the Western part of the world. This is important because inflammation causes the liver not to work as efficiently as it should.

Opt for low-fat dairy products for a healthier gallbladder. Shutterstock

Don’t Eat Full-Fat Dairy Products or Fatty Meats

Like with processed foods, eating full-fat dairy products raises cholesterol levels and puts you at greater risk of developing gallstones. However, dairy is also a great source of nutrients like calcium, iron, and protein. Instead of staying away altogether, swap out your favorite full-fat dairy products for their low-fat alternatives or consider dairy-free alternatives like almond milk.

Salmon is a healthier alternative to fatty red meats. Shutterstock.

If you’re considering the fat in foods that you eat, you should also avoid fatty meats like pork or beef. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives like chicken or turkey to help manage cholesterol levels that cause problems with the gallbladder. That being said, not all fatty meats are bad. If you are going to eat fatty meat, opt for seafood like low-fat shrimp or salmon that has high levels of healthy fats that can actually reduce cholesterol.

The caffeine in coffee reduces your chance of gallstones. Shutterstock.

Drink Coffee

Gallstones affect around 10-15% of the United States population. Surprisingly, something as simple as reaching for a morning cup of coffee can help reduce your chance of developing them. According to researchers, the benefit of coffee when it comes to gallstones is likely the caffeine. They are not sure how caffeine helps, but a study that tested various coffee beverages found that only caffeinated coffee reduced the risk of gallstones.

Coffee is also full of antioxidants and aids in digestion. CNN.

Additionally, the same study found that people who consumed more caffeine during the day had a lower risk of gallstones. Coffee also contains beneficial microflora, which are bacteria that improve gut health. The high levels of fiber nourish these bacteria and also aid in healthy digestion. Furthermore, coffee can help your body digest foods by stimulating your body’s production of stomach acids and bile.

Dandelion has been used in medicine for centuries. Shutterstock.

Eat Dandelion

Dandelion is one of those plants that has a deep history rooted in ancient medicine. It has been used by the Native Americans, as well as in Europe and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dandelion is a digestive bitter, which helps stimulate bile flow and encourage digestion. It also benefits the liver and gallbladder by detoxifying them. As a diuretic, it also helps move these toxins into the stomach and then through the body as waste.

Add dandelion greens to your salad or steep them to make tea. Gardening Know How.

Research on animals also shows that dandelions help balance cholesterol levels. Having good cholesterol is incredibly beneficial to the gallbladder and helps prevent the formation of gallstones. While you could pick Dandelions from your front yard, it’s important to wash them thoroughly before eating them. You should also avoid eating any dandelions that have been chemically sprayed with pesticides or other toxic treatments.

Pomegranate juice breaks up cholesterol and gallstones. Shutterstock.

Eat Pomegranate

Pomegranate is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets in the modern world. The juice of pomegranate seeds is full of potent antioxidants that fight inflammation and free radicals throughout the body. Pomegranates have higher levels of antioxidants than superfoods green tea and red wine. Research shows that it has a number of effects on the body, including reducing cholesterol and breaking up gallstones.

Pomegranate makes a great addition to a grilled chicken salad. Taste.

Pomegranate juice has acids in it that travel through your digestive tract and breaks up things like cholesterol, kidney stones, and gallstones. It also has been linked to lower blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as reduced inflammation throughout the body. Furthermore, pomegranates reduce oxidative stress that is responsible for advanced signs of aging, degenerative conditions of the brain, heart disease, and cancer.

Pears are full of pectin that softens gallstones. Blue Apron Blog.

Eat Pears

Pears have a high level of pectin that soften gallstones so they are easier to pass. Some people also find that eating pears relieve their pain when they are having an attack. They are also full of several types of antioxidants that fight inflammation and free radicals. This is important because an inflamed digestive tract means inflamed bile ducts where it’s easier for gallstones to form.

Baked pears are a sweet, healthy dessert. Running on Real Food.

Pears also have a lot of nutrients including 12% of your daily recommended Vitamin C intake and 18% of your DRV for copper. Copper is an important mineral that helps with red blood cell production and keeps your organs like your gallbladder working as they should. Additionally, it has healthy carbohydrates in its natural state and is a hydrating fruit that can provide your body with energy.

Fried and processed foods are hard for the body to digest. Pxhere.

Don’t Eat Fried or Processed Foods

Sometimes, eating processed foods seems like an easy shortcut after a long day. However, fast food, fried food, and processed food are high in ingredients that raise blood sugar levels, affect your hydration, and increase levels of bad cholesterol. Furthermore, most processed and prepared foods contain high levels of sodium that can cause swelling and damage heart health.

Unhealthy foods like these increase the risk of gallstones. Health Digest.

For people who already have gallbladder problems, avoiding processed foods is one of the best ways to avoid flare-ups. Most of the gallstones found in Americans come from eating a high-cholesterol diet. Since cholesterol is controllable by diet, one of the best lines of defense is avoiding unhealthy fats like trans fat found in common foods like fries, cakes, donuts, cookies, and crackers.