If you’ve encountered the terms ‘oxidative stress’ and ‘free radicals’ before, you know that they are often associated with stress, fatigue, premature aging, and degenerative diseases. But did you know that oxidative stress and free radicals may cause gallstone formation and contribute to the development of other gallbladder diseases?
Free Radicals: The Good and the Bad
Radicals, often called free radicals, are consequences of normal chemical processes in the body like metabolism and cellular respiration. Depending on how much is present in our bodies, they can either be harmful or beneficial. There are many kinds of radicals, but the most common byproducts are called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
As an ally, free radicals help immune cells engulf pathogens by destroying their membranes. They can also work as signaling molecules to injury sites, accelerating tissue repair. ROS are also necessary for other bodily processes. The dilation of blood vessels, chemical messaging in the brain, and the regulation of cell growth and death are some processes that require ROS.
On the other hand, the overabundance and the reactivity of free radicals can also pose a threat to macromolecules. Examples are our DNA, RNA, proteins, and fatty acids. At high concentrations, they generate oxidative stress.
Oxidative Stress and Free Radical Damage
Oxidative stress is the imbalance between the number of free radicals and the detoxifying capabilities of the body.
Under normal and ideal conditions, our bodies produce the best antioxidants. Our natural glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase are enough to neutralize free radicals. However, there are external factors that can increase free radicals significantly, depleting our antioxidant storage. Examples are:
- Environmental chemicals
- UV rays
- Heavy metals
- Viruses such as Epstein-Barr Virus
- Other illnesses
- Poor lifestyle
- Poor diet choices
Oxidative stress is a risk factor for cancer development, hardening of arteries, arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, emphysema, and cataracts, among others.
How Free Radicals May Cause Gallstones
The imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals causes an influx of waste (aka lipid peroxidation products) from the liver to the bile. The dynamics initiate further free radical reactions in the bile ducts and the gallbladder.
Oxidative stress in the gallbladder prompts inflammation and induces cholesterol crystal formation within the supersaturated bile. The changes in bile composition can start the process of cholesterol gallstone formation. Studies show that higher levels of oxidative stress markers have been found locally in the gallbladder mucosa of gallbladder-diseased patients as compared to healthy individuals. Gallstone patients also have significantly reduced levels of glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (our body’s natural antioxidant enzymes).
Aside from cholesterol stones, free radicals may also react with the bilirubin content and calcium ions in the bile. This process modifies bile thickness or viscosity and may prompt the formation of bilirubin stones. All these changes support the idea that free radicals may cause gallstones.
Other gallbladder-related diseases associated with oxidative stress are hepatitis, cholecystitis, peptic ulcer, and gastric cancer.
You Need the Best Antioxidants
As we grow older, our body’s ability to produce natural antioxidants diminishes. If we don’t help our body and restore the balance between free radicals and antioxidants, we will slowly suffer from all the effects of oxidative stress. This is why it is crucial to have other sources of antioxidants like the foods we eat and the supplements we take. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference. Wild blueberries (dried or frozen when fresh isn’t available) are very high in antioxidants. Make a commitment to double your fruit and vegetable intake on a daily basis.
As for supplements, the following nutrients have been found to help scavenge free radicals in the body and reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress. You can take any of them separately, or you can get them all at once in the supplement Gallbladder Formula Elite.
- Bile salts
- Goldthread (Coptidis rhizome)
- Ginger root
Antioxidants in Gallbladder Formula Elite
In our previous post, we have discussed the benefits of bile salts at length. One of the best antioxidant properties of bile salts is its ability to trigger the release of glutathione. It also plays a crucial role in the breakdown and assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, making antioxidants like vitamins A, D, E, and K bioavailable.
Artichoke contains the highest level of antioxidants among all vegetables. It contains silymarin, a very strong liver protectant, and cynarin, a bitter extract with antiradical and antioxidant properties. Silymarin can scavenge free radicals and maintain balance in cells by activating a range of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. Together with cynarin found in artichoke, silymarin also helps support a healthy inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation contributes to more free radicals.
Beets are one of my favorite vegetables and are known to be a superfood. (Read in detail about the numerous benefits of beets here.) They are packed with betalain, glycine, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium, manganese, ascorbic acid, and B vitamins – all known natural antioxidants. As part of its detoxifying ability, beets also help in purifying the blood and the liver, enabling the body to function more optimally. Therefore, beets also keep the bile flowing smoothly.
Goldthread (Coptidis rhizome)
Goldthread contains berberine, known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Studies show that berberine in goldthread inhibits oxidative stress and inflammation in a variety of tissues including liver, adipose or fat tissue, kidney, and pancreas.
More than 50 types of antioxidants can be isolated from the rhizomes of ginger. Among those, the most potent bioactive molecules of ginger, gingerols and shogaol, have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This amino acid supports detoxification and immunity, among others. Because of its antioxidant properties, taurine has been shown to benefit those with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, neurologic diseases, and cognitive problems. Taurine is also beneficial for those with gallbladder issues as it helps lower blood cholesterol and manages weight. In addition, the body uses taurine to convert bile acids to the more water-soluble bile salts.
Betaine enhances antioxidant defenses and helps form a protective membrane around cells to serve as a defense against oxidative stress. As a compound involved in liver function and metabolism, it also helps stimulate digestion and support weight management.
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