Normal Gallbladder function is essential for digestion. This small, pear-shaped organ stores and increases the concentration of bile needed to digest fats. The body cannot utilize fat-soluble vitamins and other essential fatty acids without the aid of bile. Anything that disrupts the normal functioning of the Gallbladder causes bile production to suffer, thereby affecting normal digestive processes. This would likewise lead to Gallbladder disease.
Getting the Gallbladder function back to normal is possible through different treatment methods. The method employed highly depends on the root cause and severity of the Gallbladder problem. Oral medications can help treat infections and dissolve stones in the Gallbladder. In some cases, surgical removal of the Gallbladder might work best for severe Gallbladder diseases. One can avoid the sad effects of a malfunctioning Gallbladder by eating a healthy and balanced diet.
Structure of the Gallbladder
An important aspect in understanding Gallbladder function is its structure. The Gallbladder is one of the organs in the abdominal cavity, sitting below the liver. It is medically referred to as cholecyst and has three parts, namely the body, neck and fundus. The Gallbladder is connected to the common bile duct or biliary tract through its neck or cystic duct. The biliary track is the network of tube-like passageway for bile branching from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas to the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. This pear-shaped pouch has a green hue and capable of holding up to 50ml of bile before meals. However, it deflates and becomes empty after meals.
Function of the Gallbladder
Gallbladder function mainly involves one particular digestive juice, the bile. Bile is produced by the liver and works in digesting fats from the food ingested. Without it, the fats or lipids from food would remain undigested all the way to the rectum. The body would then be deprived of the essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins needed for optimum health. Calcium absorption is affected as well due to scarcity of bile.
The function of the Gallbladder can be summarized into two:
- Bile storage
The primary role of the Gallbladder is for bile storage. After being produced in the liver, bile is stored in the Gallbladder before meals. The Gallbladder then releases it to the first part of small intestine (duodenum) after eating. Once the muscular valve at the end of the biliary tract closes, bile is stored back into the Gallbladder.
- Increasing bile concentration
The Gallbladder makes bile more concentrated than it was when it was produced in the liver. This is because the Gallbladder absorbs the water, electrolytes and inorganic salts in the bile, making it thicker and more concentrated.
The bile plays a vital role not just in fat digestion but in the secretion of bilirubin in the liver, in killing microbes found in food and in the neutralization of excess acid in the stomach.
Factors that could affect normal Gallbladder function
A number of factors could severely affect Gallbladder function, such as:
- Obstruction in the bile duct
- Bile flow becoming sluggish
- Presence of toxic bile
- Infection in the Gallbladder
A malfunctioning Gallbladder causes Gallbladder diseases resulting in a variety of discomforting, and sometimes, excruciating symptoms like bloating after a heavy meal, nausea, vomiting, fever, upper right abdominal pain and frequent defecation. A visit to the doctor can confirm the existence of a Gallbladder problem through various diagnostic tests, such as:
- Abdominal ultrasound or X-ray
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)
- MRCP (Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography)
Medical conditions resulting from disrupted Gallbladder function
The following are some of the common disorders related to a problematic Gallbladder:
Gallstones develop when there is an imbalance of chemicals in the Gallbladder causing crystals or stones to form. These stones are primarily made up of cholesterol and causes mild to no symptoms at all.
Cholecystitis refers to the condition in which the Gallbladder has become inflamed either as a result of gallstone or infection. An inflamed Gallbladder causes chills, fever and severe pain. Life-threatening conditions will occur if an inflamed Gallbladder is ignored.
- Biliary Pancreatitis
This condition occurs when stones from the Gallbladder travel through the duct of the pancreas and irritate it. Biliary pancreatitis causes the pancreas to become inflamed resulting in nausea, vomiting and mid-abdominal pain.
- Gallbladder cancer
A dysfunctional Gallbladder could possibly result in cancer. Unfortunately, Gallbladder cancer is usually detected during its advanced stages and most of its early symptoms are similar to gallstones.
Gallbladder problems can be easily detected if the affected individual knows when Gallbladder function becomes abnormal. Moreover, the odds of having Gallbladder problem can be greatly reduced if one eats a healthy and balanced diet.