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Gallbladder Function

Dr. Sumaiya Khan
The gallbladder is a small sac like organ located near the liver. It plays a very important role in the digestive system, and helps the body to absorb nutrients efficiently from food. Read on to know all about the gallbladder functions.
The gallbladder, which is also known as the cholecyst, is a small, hollow organ that is present in the abdominal cavity. It sits in a concave cavity just outside the liver, which is known as the gallbladder fossa. The organ is divided into three parts - the fundus, the body, and the neck.
The neck is the portion which tapers to the biliary tree via the cystic duct, which then eventually joins the common hepatic duct, merging to become the common bile duct. When full, the gallbladder can hold up to 50 ml of bile at a time.
It is a non-vital organ, which aids in digestion, and a person can manage to live without it, although the quality of life may get affected.

Functions of the Gallbladder

The main purpose of the gallbladder is to store and concentrate bile. Bile is a digestive liquid that is secreted in the liver. This is an essential digestive fluid, as it is contains anions of the bile acids. Bile helps because it acts as a surfactant, thus, aiding in emulsifying fats in the food that is ingested.
The bile salt anions have a hydrophilic and a hydrophobic side, and hence, tend to aggregate around droplets of triglycerides and phospholipids to form micelles. The dispersion of fats into micelles provides a largely increased surface area for action of enzyme pancreatic lipase, which is enzyme that is actually responsible for digesting the triglycerides.
Without these bile salts, the lipids in our ingested food would be passed into the feces undigested. This bile is stored in between meals in the gallbladder and then is released into the duodenum after eating, once the food reaches the intestine and the digestion process begins there.

Abnormal Functioning of Gallbladder

There are cases where this organ might function abnormally. This can occur when there are certain diseases that can severely affect the organ and lead to low improper functioning. The common causes are production of toxic bile by the liver, sluggish flow of bile, bile duct obstruction, infection of the lining of the gallbladder, etc.
These symptoms include unusual feeling of fullness during or after every meal, pain in the right abdominal region, fever, chills, nausea, excessive passage of stools, etc. The pain felt may be quite severe, especially if it is a case of gallstones. One can be sure of the diagnosis with the help of some gallbladder function tests.

Treatment Options

To restore normalcy in the functioning of this organ, there are quite a few options. Although sometimes, antibiotics can help in treating an infection, if there are gallstones, then doctors say that it is preferable to remove the gallbladder. In fact, most surgeons will advise removal as this is not a vital organ.
However, one needs to understand how untrue this is. Although a person can survive without a gallbladder, one cannot underestimate the function that it performs. We need to realize that the production of bile takes up a lot of time and energy, as it is a complicated biochemical process.
This organ stores bile that is recovered from the bowel to be recycled, taking off a huge chunk of workload and pressure off the liver. Thus, if the gallbladder is removed, it would mean that the liver will have to secrete fresh bile every time food is ingested.
This will put extra pressure on the liver, which will lead to a dysfunctional and overworked liver producing toxic and unhealthy bile. Furthermore, let's not forget about the possible gallbladder surgery complications.
This was all about the gallbladder function, diseases, and treatment options. Although, it is a non-vital organ, it is best to try to prevent the occurrence of infections and gallstones, so that it never comes to a point where this organ needs to be removed.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.