What Is A Gallbladder Cleanse?

Your gallbladder is a small organ nestled in front of your liver. It releases bile, which breaks down fats during digestion. 

When cholesterol, calcium, and bile pigment harden in the gallbladder, gallstones are formed. These chunky particles collect and may potentially block bile ducts, causing a gallbladder attack. This internal inflammation can cause debilitating pain. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the attacks usually last several hours.

A slow ache in the upper abdomen, between the shoulder blades, or under the right shoulder after eating are symptoms of gallbladder issues. If you notice jaundice (unusually yellow eyes and skin) or excessive vomiting, consult a medical professional right away.

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that up to 15% of people in the United States develop gallstones. The most severe cases require cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

However, some natural medicine practitioners say a gallbladder cleanse may do the trick without medication or surgery (per Cabot Health).

Can a gallbladder cleanse help gallstones?

Gallbladder cleanse recipes vary, but they usually consist of a citrus juice and oil combination. A sample recipe provided by Alternative Medicine Review requires a 12-hour fast until 7 p.m. Afterward, they say you should mix 4 tablespoons of olive oil with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and drink it. This step should be repeated every 15 minutes for a total of eight times. Some people may also use enemas of soap suds or warm water, according to Healthline, to stimulate bowel movements. Some sources, like Green Willow Homestead, also recommend using Epsom salts.

Proponents of the gallbladder cleanse like Green Willow Homestead claim the olive oil acts like a "fat bomb," triggering the gallbladder to expel its contents, including any unwanted gallstones. Once out of the gallbladder, they say, the stones will move into your digestive tract and out of your body in your stool.

However, mainstream medicine says there is no evidence that gallbladder cleanses actually work. According to the Mayo Clinic, what people think are gallstones in their stool are actually "globs of oil, juice, and other materials." Additionally, they say the cleanses may be risky, causing people to have nausea, diarrhea, and pain. They add that prescription medications to dissolve gallstones may be an option for people who don't want surgery. They also note that having your gallbladder removed is usually the best treatment option.