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Gallbladder Location and Function


The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped muscular sack that acts as a storage tank for bile. The bile is made in the liver by liver cells and is sent through tiny ducts or canals to the duodenum (small intestine) and to the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores the bile to have it available in larger quantities for secretion when a meal is eaten. The ingestion of food and especially fats cause the release of a hormone, cholecystokinin, (CCK) which in turn signals the relaxation of the valve at the end of the common bile duct (the sphincter of Oddi) which lets the bile enter the small intestine. It also signals the contraction of the gallbladder which squirts the concentrated liquid bile into the small intestine where it helps with the emulsification or breakdown of fats in the meal.


Many people do not know where the gallbladder is located until it screams at them. Then they never forget. The gallbladder is located behind the liver on the right side of the rib cage. It hits up against the under-surface of the liver. Pain in this region is common with gallbladder problems.



When we ask about gallbladder function we are really asking about biliary function, or the purpose of bile. It is the bile that performs the tasks we need done; the gallbladder concentrates and regulates the flow of bile. Whether we have an intact gallbladder or have had it removed, we still have the same need of bile. Whatever use you have for diet and supplements that help your gallbladder, you really need for your biliary system. The bile needs to be kept moving before and after gallbladder removal.


1. breaking down fats
2. removing toxins

The bile has two major functions in the body. Firstly, it breaks down the fats that you eat so that your body can utilize them. Without adequate bile you do not metabolize your fats well which can result in a deficiency of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). You may also have problems digesting the essential fatty acids which are needed for brain development, brain function, eyes, hormones, cholesterol and more. Amongst other symptoms you could have trouble utilizing calcium, have dry skin, peeling on the soles of your feet, etc. One way you can tell you have trouble digesting fats is if you have excessive burping that starts shortly after eating a fatty meal. You might feel nauseous or experience gas and bloating. Often the bile is thick and you can thin it out with The Beet Recipe which you can find on the Gallbladder Diet page, or with a whole food beet product found in the 30 DAY GALLBLADDER SOLUTION on this site.

Secondly, bile is a very powerful antioxidant which helps to remove toxins from the liver. The liver filters toxins (bacteria, viruses, drugs or other foreign substances the body doesn't want) and sends them out via the bile, which is made in the liver. The pathway of departure is from the liver through the bile ducts and into the gallbladder or directly into the small intestine where it joins waste matter and leaves through the colon with the feces. If you have gallbladder problems, you would do well to cleanse your liver and bowel also. Many people with sluggish gallbladders have a tendency towards constipation as bile helps to move the bowel, even though this is not technically listed as a function of bile.


Although the location of the gallbladder can be pinpointed to a spot in the upper abdomen, it is only one aspect of the bile system or the biliary tree that begins in the liver with bile production. Bile is made in liver cells or hepatocytes all throughout the liver. It is collected by bile canaliculi which are very tiny canals or ducts in the liver which branch out into larger ducts and then dump into the common bile duct. This is how it gets termed biliary tree, from the similarity to the branching of a tree.


There is a bile duct from the liver to the small intestine which is joined by a duct from the gallbladder and from the pancreas. This main duct is called the common bile duct. It is common to the liver, gallbladder and farther down line, to the pancreas as well. When someone refers to "the" bile duct, they are usually referring to the common bile duct. It's function is to allow for the transportation of bile and digestive enzymes. The size of the common bile duct when measured via ultrasound is determined to be approximately up to 6mm.


The bile duct from the gallbladder sac itself allows the flow of bile to and from the gallbladder. Bile moves in both directions into and out of the gallbladder through this cystic duct. This latter duct joins with a duct from the pancreas on its way to the small intestine carrying pancreatic enzymes also used for digestion.


A healthy liver produces about a quart to a quart and a half of bile daily. Bile is a bitter, yellow fluid. It can consist of cholesterol, lecithin, calcium, bile salts, acids and waste materials among other things. When the bile salts and cholesterol get out of balance with each other (to state it simply) gallstones can form.


The terms bile salts and bile acid are often used interchangeably for the word bile. Technically, bile salts and bile acid are components of the bile and are the active parts of the bile substance.


So what is the relationship of the gallbladder and bile? The gallbladder is the receptacle for bile; bile is the substance that performs the functions the body needs. However, the gallbladder also contributes important functions in maintaining proper bile flow and in making the bile more efficient.

To understand gallbladder pathology or what goes wrong with your gallbladder click on
Gallbladder Disease>