This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Importance of the Gallbladder and Bile

I developed acute gallbladder disease when I was pregnant with Roo's older brother.  My gallbladder was removed in emergency surgery just 6 weeks after his birth.  Looking back, I probably had problems with my gallbladder going much farther back, at least into my teens.  I have always felt that this was probably a factor in the health issues of both children, and I have especially wondered if the fact that I had no gallbladder at all while pregnant with Roo is part of what happened to him. 

When I had my acute onset of ME/CFS about 2.5 years ago, which involved cardiac problems, my doctor mentioned that it seemed common that women who had had their gallbladders removed but who did not take bile salt supplements developed heart problems.  She didn't now why, but this sparked an interest in me to find out more.  I think that the simplest explanation is that the body absorbs Coenzyme Q10 based on how much bile it comes into contact with, and CoQ10 is essential for healthy heart function.  It is also central to healthy mitochondrial function so I have wondered if the fact that I did not have a gallbladder, and therefore had inadequate bile flow during my pregnancy with Roo, led to his mitochondrial dysfunction. 

Recently my attention has turned back to this question as I keep realizing that so many of my health issues come back to the liver, including detoxification, regulation of energy and weight, balancing hormones, hemoglobin synthesis (the process involved in Pyrroluria), and a process that leads to endogenous oxalate production.  Even my vision problems may tie back to liver health.  To read more about the function of the liver read this post.  When the gallbladder is not there to store bile, the bile produced by the liver backs up and can congest the liver, thus compromising its function.  Additionally, if the underlying problem that led to the formation of gallstones has not been corrected, stones can continue to form in the liver and cause further problems.  Several months ago I begrudgingly took a round of Azythromycin and suffered a severe adverse reaction to it that the package insert said was a sign that the drug had caused liver damage (more on this in a future post).  I began researching healing the liver again and came across this site that is very intriguing to me.  I have tried doing the apple juice cleanse to clear out stagnant bile, and although I did not follow the protocol as long as directed, I had an immediate benefit from doing it.  I plan to look into this program further.  It looks as if it may contain herbs that could help flush oxalate from the body as well.

I also have come across the following series of videos about the gallbladder, liver, and the functions of bile in the body.  Although these videos are an ad for a product they do seem to contain generally good info that I think is presented in a very accessible way.  These three videos are an excellent introduction to the significance of a healthy bile flow in the body and the many things that can go wrong when that flow is interrupted. 

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Basically, the video is saying that our bodies need the amino acids glycine and taurine, as well as phosphotidyl choline to keep the bile liquid.  If those are in short supply in the body the bile becomes thickened and can't be squeezed out into the intestines properly.  Taurine and glycine are used for detoxification, and when we are exposed to ongoing toxic exposure there is simply not enough left in the body to keep the bile healthy.  Chlorine requires these two amino acids to be detoxified and most of us in the developed world are exposed to it every day.  Phosphotidylcholine is used to process adrenaline and noradrenaline which are released when we are stressed.  If we experience chronic stress, we will become deficient in this and again not have enough to keep the bile flow healthy. When the bile becomes thick it can form into stones, causing further blockages of bile.

If the bile becomes thickened and cannot be released as needed, three sets of problems occur (according to the video); the first set of problems stem from not getting enough bile into the intestines, the second set of problems occur when toxins that would normally be excreted via the bile build up in the liver, and the third set of problems occurs when the backed up bile gets into the pancreas.  In the intestines, bile is needed to neutralize the acidity of food from the stomach (bile is highly alkaline).  Bile also kills parasites and yeast and keeps them from overgrowing.  If the acidic contents of the stomach are not neutralized properly, this acidic mixture can burn the insides of our intestines.  Bile is necessary for us to absorb fats, oils, and fat soluble vitamins properly.  Bile also stimulates peristalsis, which is the movement of the intestines that keeps the food moving as it is being digested, and it regulates the intestinal immune system. 

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This video gives more detailed information about the immune system in the gut.  Bile helps keep auto-immune disorders from developing by regulating the gut's immune system.  The video also goes on to discuss what happens when toxins back up into the liver.  The only way that cholesterol can leave the body is via the bile, so if the bile is backing up cholesterol can rise.  If bile backs up into the blood, it inhibits the actions of white blood cells immuno-suppressant effect.  If bile backs up into the pancreas and liver it can cause irritation and burns.  This irritation can cause diabetes and cancer. 

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Even after surgical removal of the gallbladder, stones can and do form from the bile in the liver and in the ducts.  This video makes the point that the gallbladder regulates the excretion of bile into the intestines the way a faucet regulates the flow of water out of pipes.  It is important that bile is held in the gallbladder when not needed and released in a large enough quantity when it is needed rather than dripping out of the liver the way water would drip from an open pipe.  I wonder if this dripping action causes caustic burns in the duodenum since bile is dripping in at times when the acidic contents of the stomach are not being released.  This segment of the video introduces the product that they are selling, which contains the herb Chanca Piedra in addition to taurine, glycine, and phosphotidylcholine.  I have already read about this herb's supposed ability to dissolve kidney stones and the video claims that scientific studies have shown  that it can both dissolve oxalate stones and keep oxalate crystals from forming in the first place.  You can bet I'm very curious about this- I will try to look up this research.