Digestion

The Gallbladder Flush

Removing gallstones and clearing the biliary tract of biliary sludge
BY Ashley Turner TIMEFebruary 25, 2022 PRINT

When it comes to gallbladder health, many people are looking for a specific strategy to remove gallstones and clear the biliary tract. Clearing biliary sludge and gallstones is foundational for optimal health.

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones are crystallized deposits of cholesterol and other bile constituents that are formed in the bile ducts and the gallbladder.

When the gallbladder and bile ducts are congested with gallstones and biliary sludge, appropriate bile flow is hindered. Bile is an important part of physiology because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Proper bile function protects gut integrity, promotes effective detoxification, and ensures the digestion and assimilation of fat and fat-soluble vitamins. Ensuring proper biliary function is a vital piece of optimal health.

Women are far more likely to suffer problems with gallstones and biliary issues. Other factors that contribute to gallstone formation and biliary problems include obesity; pregnancy; standard American diet (SAD) high in refined sugars, carbohydrates, oils, and low fiber; gluten consumption; insufficient methylation; hormone replacement therapy (HRT); oral contraceptives; underlying liver disease; rapid weight loss; diabetes or metabolic syndrome; family history of gallstones; inflammatory bowel syndrome; being 60 years old or older; mold and biotoxin illness; leaky gut; and environmental toxins.

Identifying Gallstones

While there are many symptoms that arise because of gallstone formation, identifying them requires imaging through ultrasound or CT scans. While we usually recommend specific herbs and nutrients to shrink larger gallstones before a flush, imaging can be helpful in understanding gallstone status and monitoring progress in their removal.

There are various markers on blood work that can indicate poor gallbladder function, liver impairment, and risk factors for gallstones. Some of these include high ALT, AST, bilirubin, LDH, GGT, ALP, and 5ʹ-nucleotidase. Good doctors check many of these, especially if biliary issues are suspected. Our clinic includes them in routine functional and integrative lab testing.

If you’re experiencing gallbladder symptoms or have known gallstones, it’s important to facilitate the proper gallbladder function. Compounds including beetroot, taurine, phosphatidylcholine, lemon, peppermint, and vitamin C have all been shown to reduce the repercussions of gallstones and help shrink and dissolve them. Sometimes, individuals feel better by flushing gallstones from the gallbladder. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a gallstone-laden gallbladder doesn’t need to be removed in order to resolve symptoms. The human body wasn’t designed with spare parts and the gallbladder plays an important role in our optimal physiology.

To flush out the gallbladder, you’ll need to gather a few ingredients.

Healing Ingredients

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is high in malic acid. Malic acid is a helpful compound for softening and breaking down gallstones.

Magnesium Sulfate Capsules

Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) draws water into the intestines and has laxative effects. Additionally, it helps to dilate bile ducks for safe and effective gallstone removal. Some people dilute Epsom salts into water to take it instead of using the capsules. It has a bitter, unpleasant taste, so most choose capsules.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Be sure to source pure extra-virgin olive oil; you will need 1/2 cup. When consumed, this will cause the gallbladder to speedily release bile.

Organic Grapefruit

Six ounces of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice combined with the extra-virgin olive oil helps to aid the flush. If your body has an aversion to grapefruit, you can use equal parts of freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice instead.

Preparing for the Flush

One week before the flush, take two tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate daily. The malic acid in tart cherry juice helps to soften gallstones. It’s delicious stirred into mineral water. Some people drink 32 ounces of organic apple juice in preparation because of its high malic acid content. While this is effective, it’s also excessively more food sugar than most people need. There are also malic acid supplements available if you choose to not take tart cherry concentrate. Magnesium malate is also helpful in softening gallstones.

The gallbladder flush is best done over a weekend or at a time when you’re able to rest and easily access the bathroom.

The Flush

Breakfast

On the day of the flush, eat a complex carbohydrate breakfast with no fat. Oatmeal with fruit is a good choice. It’s important to not eat fat, as that affects bile flow and could hinder the passing of gallstones. Also, fat consumption could lead to feeling ill throughout the night. Avoid protein food, nuts, avocado, butter, or oil on the day of the flush.

Don’t take supplements the day of the flush, except for those indicated below. Consult with your doctor prior to the flush, especially if you’re on prescription medication. Stay hydrated by drinking clean, filtered water throughout the day.

It’s advised to take part in colon hydrotherapy or complete several water enemas to clear the colon the morning before the flush. While this isn’t always necessary, any affected stool could hinder the success of the flush, lead to pain during the flush, and/or contribute to toxin exposure from gallstones stuck in the intestines.

1:30 p.m.

At this point, stop eating and drinking anything other than water. A light lunch of steamed rice and vegetables with unrefined salt is acceptable.

6 p.m.

Take the first dose of 15 magnesium sulfate capsules with at least eight ounces of water. Alternatively, you can drink six ounces of the Epsom salt solution mentioned above.

8 p.m.

Take the second dose of 15 magnesium sulfate capsules or six ounces of the Epsom salt solution. It’s important to take it easy and rest throughout the evening. You may feel some movement in the gastrointestinal tract as water is drawn into the intestines because of the magnesium sulfate.

9:45 p.m.

Prepare the fat solution. Cut grapefruits in half and juice them. You’ll need four to six ounces. Alternatively, you can use four ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Combine the fruit juice and four ounces of extra-virgin olive oil in a pint jar with a tightly fitting lid. Shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds to emulsify the solution. Visit the bathroom one last time and clean up the kitchen.

You can prepare a castor oil pack to facilitate gallstone removal, if desired. This isn’t necessary, but some people say it helps. Simply apply a couple of tablespoons of castor oil to organic cotton flannel and place it over the liver and gallbladder area, under the ribcage on the right side of the body.

If you have trouble sleeping, you may take 2,000 milligrams (mg) to 4,000 mg of L-Ornithine with this solution. Sometimes people take anti-parasitic compounds, such as black walnut, to flush the liver and gallbladder.

10 p.m.

Drink the solution. Some people find it helpful to drink it through a straw. Lay down in bed immediately. The flush won’t work unless you lie down in bed on your back. You must stay completely still for a minimum of 30 minutes. Ideally, you’ll fall asleep for the night.

While you rest, gallstones will move through the dilated ducts and pass through the small and large intestine. If you feel the urge to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, that’s perfectly fine.

6 a.m.

Between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., or upon waking, take the third dose of magnesium sulfate capsules or the Epsom salt solution. Go to the bathroom throughout the morning as needed. Observe what you’re passing. Be sure to stay hydrated, drinking clean, filtered water throughout the morning. Plan to rest throughout the morning as the body is working hard to pass gallstones and detox.

8 a.m.

Take the fourth dose of magnesium sulfate capsules or the Epson salt solution. You’ll continue to need to use the bathroom and pass gallstones.

10 a.m.

Drink a small glass of tart cherry concentrate and mineral water, apple juice, or bone broth, if you’re feeling up to it.

12 p.m.

A light lunch can be eaten; fresh fruit is usually best tolerated at this point. If digestion still feels a little off, most people are back to eating normally by dinner. We recommend avoiding gluten and dairy for people with gallbladder concerns, but they should especially be avoided for the next several days. If you have known food sensitivities, please continue to avoid them.

Safety

Working with a practitioner to shrink and flush gallstones can be an important part of achieving overall health. Many people successfully flush gallstones with no problem when gallbladder flush instructions are followed precisely. Those with underlying medical conditions, young children, and pregnant and nursing mothers shouldn’t do a gallbladder flush.

It’s wise to work with a skilled clinician to assess underlying factors that could be contributing to gallstones and facilitating the body for proper removal.

Ashley Turner
Dr. Ashley Turner is a traditionally trained naturopath and board-certified doctor of holistic health for Restorative Wellness Center. As an expert in functional medicine, Dr. Ashley is the author of the gut-healing guide “Restorative Kitchen” and “Restorative Traditions,” a cookbook comprised of non-inflammatory holiday recipes.
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