In large companies, there’s always an employee whose exact purpose seems a mystery. Sure, they’re pleasant and show up for work every day, but no one is quite sure what they do. But since the employee isn’t causing any problems, things go along as they do.
Until one day, you come to work and the employee is gone, and no one quite misses them, because they never had any real use for them anyway.
That pretty much describes your relationship with your gall bladder. It’s a part of the body that no one knows much about, and it can be removed without any apparent ill effects. It’s there, and while some claim it may emit hormones that we’re not really aware of, it apparently just sits as a kind of train platform for gastric juices on their way to somewhere important.
For you technical people, the gall bladder is a small, pear-shaped, hollow organ located just below the liver. In adults, the gallbladder measures approximately 3.1 inches in length and 1.6 inches in diameter when fully distended. The gallbladder has a capacity of about 100mL.
The main purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile, just like your Aunt Gladys at the family reunion. Unlike Aunt Gladys, the released bile goes into the small intestine, where it serves a useful purpose.
When bile is released into the small intestine, it breaks down large fat molecules (and I know what you’re thinking — but you wouldn’t want to down a glass of bile to cut down on the belly fat. Trust me on that).
When the fat in the small intestine is absorbed, the bile is also absorbed and rerouted back to the liver. All well and good — but just like Aunt Gladys, when years of bad diet come into play, the gall bladder can bark back. And then there are consequences to pay, pardner.
Gall Stones Are a Pain
Bob, an entertainment professional in California, suffered a gall bladder attack earlier this year.
“It’s like giving birth,” he said of the pain. “The last time I stayed in bed three days until I saw a doctor.” The doctor recommended removal of the gall bladder. Bob still hasn’t done it, hoping that rest, a better diet, and some holistic medicines can navigate him away from the knife and potentially shrink his gall stones. He’s betting that he’s one of the people for whom the attack is a random event. But in the majority of cases, the first attack is a precursor to more.
Bob is at least in good company. Among the celebrities who have gall bladder issues are Pink, Jack Black, and DJ Avicii.
Gall stones, like the ones Bob experienced, are the most common problem for the gallbladder. They occur when the bile hardens because of a systems failure, resulting in the formation of a hard object that resembles a stone. When the object gets big enough, the bile ducts get blocked, fluid accumulates, and it distends the ducts and gall bladder. Bottom line: you wind up in constant pain, the duration lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to four to five hours. The pain locus is most common in the right upper abdomen just below the ribs, and has the added bonus of creating bouts of nausea.
Fortunately, you can take action. A cholecystectomy is a procedure where the gall bladder is removed. The good news is there’s little impact on the digestion system. With no gall bladder, bile will just continuously drip from the liver during digestion for the breakdown of fats. You may be asked to watch your cholesterol and cut back on fats a tad, but generally, things go along as they did.
Sort of like that imaginary employee.