Gallbladder Function

Gallbladder Function

There are five major gallbladder functions:

  1. Storage
  2. Absorption/Concentration
  3. Secretion
  4. Regulation
  5. Protection/Detoxification

 
On this page, we'll discuss each one in detail.

Storage/Absorption/Concentration

One of the functions of the gallbladder is to store the bile and to remove or absorb water from it, concentrating it as much as 10 times. This makes the gallbladder bile available in larger, more potent quantities that are readily available when a meal is eaten. Bile is an emulsifier of fats. Due to its concentration, gallbladder bile is better at breaking down the fats and the fat-soluble vitamins than bile straight from the liver, or liver bile. This results in both better digestion and an increase in absorption of nutrients.
 

Secretion

The gallbladder ejects bile when prompted. This happens through a sequence of events which, put in simple terms, includes the ingestion of foods and release of the hormone CCK. This signal to the gallbladder, generally causes a contraction that pushes out approximately 1/3 of its volume. This is considered normal. 33-42% give or take, is a normal ejection fraction as determined by a HIDA scan. Anything less than that is considered abnormal. And anything over 75% is considered abnormal on the other end of the scale. The first results in a deficiency of bile to do the job and sometimes pain and gallbladder colic, and the second results in an excess of bile, and sometimes gallbladder pain and gallbladder colic.
 

Regulation

The amount of bile that moves into and out of the gallbladder regulates the amount of bile that is secreted from the liver. This regulatory process is lost following gallbladder removal and for some people contributes to the dumping of bile following a meal.
 

Protection/Detoxification

Bile gathers all the toxins that the liver filters and transports them out through the bowel. A toxin is considered anything that is harmful to the body and includes such things as, pesticides, herbicides, gas fumes, some chemicals in cleaning products, contaminated water, etc. The bile also removes bilirubin which is a product of the breakdown of red blood cells. While this is a natural process, if a blockage in this pathway happens, it can become toxic to the body.

Bile acids that are circulated through a healthy gallbladder tend towards a balance. There are water-soluble and fat-soluble (more toxic) bile acids and both are necessary. In the case of a diseased gallbladder and no gallbladder at all, there ends up being a preponderance of fat-soluble (more toxic) bile over water-soluble bile. This imbalance in the bile is more caustic and can cause inflammation in the bile ducts, the sphincters and the intestines.

The incidence of colon cancer is higher in people who have had their gallbladders removed. Perhaps this ensuing inflammation is one explanation for that. Regardless, it would make sense that those with gallbladder disease or missing gallbladders should take measures to the best of their abilities, to reduce inflammation through lifestyle changes.