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What is the Role of the Gallbladder

Gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver and releases it in appropriate quantities when a meal is eaten. Read on to know the role of the gallbladder in digestion...
Leena Palande
Although gallbladder is a tiny pear-shaped sac that lies beneath the liver, it plays an important role in digestion. It stores about 50 ml of bile, the digestive juice produced by the liver. The hepatic duct connects the gallbladder to the liver.
Formation of gallstones or gallbladder attack can lead to excruciating pain. Knowing the function of gallbladder is necessary to understand the seriousness of the diseases of gallbladder.

Functions of Gallbladder

Liver, situated under the right rib cage, produces the digestive juice bile. Gallbladder not only stores the bile but also makes it concentrated by absorbing inorganic salts, small electrolytes and water from it. Organic molecules are retained in the bile. Between meals, bile in the gallbladder becomes about five times thicker than its original form.
So there is a difference in the concentration of bile in the liver and bile in the gallbladder. Bile is known as gall. It is a dark green to yellowish brown alkaline juice that promotes digestion of lipids in the small intestine. Bile is passed over to the duodenum, first part of the small intestine through cystic duct, common bile duct and pancreatic duct.
When the muscular valve 'sphincter of Oddi' is closed, bile is not poured into the duodenum and it is sent back to the gallbladder for storage. In the small intestine, fats are emulsified with the help of bile. Bile helps neutralize acids in the chyme. It helps develop an optimum pH that enhances the function of the digestive enzymes.
Because of the presence of bile only, our body can utilize fat from the food. In the absence of bile, fat metabolism is not possible and body would not be able to digest fats or essential fatty acids which play an important role in the overall health of an individual. This can lead to scarcity of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
You won't be able to utilize calcium if bile is inadequate. You would suffer from dry skin, peeling on the soles of your feet, etc. if sufficient bile is not released by the gallbladder.
Shortly after having snacks or meals containing fat, you could start burping excessively or you might feel nauseous or suffer from gas, bloating and abdominal pain; if gallbladder does not work properly.
Thus the role of the gallbladder is like a reservoir. As it stores excess bile, the pressure in the bile ducts is relieved. What is the use of fats from the ingested food if they are not broken down by the bile from the gallbladder? They would be excreted through feces, if bile is not available.
Bile promotes excretion of bilirubin, a byproduct in process of recycling of the red blood cells which takes place in the liver. The alkaline bile plays an important role in the neutralization of the excess stomach acid before it moves into the ileum, end part of the small intestine. Bile salts help kill many of the microbes that are present in the food.

Conditions and Diseases of Gallbladder

Crystallization of the components of the bile results in the formation of stones known as gallstones. Usually, people over 40 suffer from gallstones. Gallstones are more common in women and the obese. Inflammation of the gallbladder due to presence of stones result in indigestion and/or abdominal pain, especially after a fatty meal.
A stone can get stuck in the bile duct and can lead to severe pain. Gallstones of small size and number are often thrown out of the body naturally. If the stones are causing serious blockage, then surgical removal of the gallbladder is recommended. Sluggish gallbladder, gallbladder cancer are some other conditions where you need prompt and proper treatment.
A healthy and balanced diet helps maintain gallbladder function. Wrong diet can result in dysfunction of the gallbladder. Hope this write-up has successfully conveyed the message that bad eating habits can destroy your health seriously.