Bruce Blaus

Gallbladder surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries today. Did you know simply going gluten-free may lower the risk of needing gallbladder surgery? This may be especially true if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Gluten sensitivity is linked with Hashimoto’s, and Hashimoto’s alone raises your risk of gallbladder surgery. 

At Carolinas Thyroid Institute, Hashimoto’s patients receive helpful information about the benefits of avoiding gluten entirely, as well as tips for avoiding other sources of inflammation.  For a free, 15-minute consultation with me, Dr. Steven Roach, see our Contact Us page for scheduling or call (704) 853-8000.

For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers a wide range of adverse reactions, from joint pain to poor brain function. In the last several years, research has also linked gluten with gallbladder disease in gluten-sensitive individuals.

Gluten sensitivity largely undiagnosed

An astonishing number of people are gluten intolerant but do not know it. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity can cause leaky gut, chronic pain, inflammation, neurological damage, and autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue). Gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect between 20 and 40 percent of the general population, and is less frequently identified than celiac disease, though this is changing.

Rates of gluten sensitivity are especially high among those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Several studies and countless patient anecdotes show a link between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

How gluten can raise the risk of needing gallbladder surgery

So how can gluten raise the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery?  The process begins with damage to the small intestine. This damage inhibits its ability to properly secrete a hormone called cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is the hormone that signals the gallbladder when it’s time to release bile, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. As a result, bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation and raising the risk of gallbladder disease and subsequent gallbladder surgery.

Approximately 60 percent of people with celiac disease — an autoimmune reaction to gluten — also have gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic conditions, and this is apparently one reason why.

People with unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also typically suffer from digestive issues such as leaky gut. Low thyroid hormone compromises digestive function. 

Why you need a gallbladder if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Although you can live without your gallbladder, it is essential to overall health. The bile stored and secreted by the gallbladder enables you to digest fats. Without a gallbladder, your liver still produces bile, but the bile just “leaks” continually into the small intestine. This means there are no adequate reserves of bile to break down fats when needed.

These fats then become rancid and inflame the digestive tract while fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids are not properly absorbed. Ultimately, this compromises the function of your entire digestive tract. In fact, studies have linked gallbladder removal with an elevated risk of colon cancer.

Also, if the gallbladder is not removed but isn’t doing its job well, this can be detrimental to liver function.

If you are working to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you must ensure all aspects of your digestive system, including the gallbladder, are functioning as well as possible. The gut is the seat of the immune system and influences autoimmunity.

Caring for your gallbladder beyond gluten-free

It is worth caring for your gallbladder to preserve the health of your digestive system, and hence your immune system. If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s important to go gluten-free to maintain gallbladder health and lower your risk of needing gallbladder surgery. It’s also important for your thyroid to go gluten free if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Additionally, your gallbladder appreciates a diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and free of processed oils and hydrogenated fats. And in general, it is safest to keep starchy carbs (cake, potatoes, white flour, refined sugar, etc.) to a minimum.

Various botanicals and nutrients can support liver and gallbladder health. They include milk thistle seed extract, dandelion root, ginger root, and phosphatidyl choline.

If you have already had your gallbladder removed, don’t despair. Taking ox bile with your meals can help you emulsify and absorb your fats, which are vital for many aspects of health including brain function. For more information about gallbladder health and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, please contact my office.