Is There a Connection Between the Brain & Gallbladder?

Written By Nurse Mary  |  Health News, Media, Recent News 

Nagging Shoulder Pain, Unexplained Headaches – Could it be your Gallbladder? 

Certain headaches can point to certain areas of the body.

In Eastern medicine, the Gallbladder meridian runs along the side of the head.

It is believed if you can release the build-up of tension in the gallbladder meridian you can relieve the tension that is causing the headache.  This type of headache is often located in the center of your forehead above the eyes. Usually not a major headache but more of a nagging type of headache. Maybe described more as a head tension. 

The Gallbladder Connection…

It is kind of interesting how we came about researching this subject for you. I was at my chiropractor with pain by my right shoulder blade and sometimes a pinching sensation between the shoulder blades. My chiropractor said to me we have worked on this pain before and it seems to come back a day or 2 later. He said “I wonder if it could be your gallbladder?” This led me on a deep-diving journey towards several things I learned.

How Do I Know If My Gallbladder Is Out of Whack?

  • Sudden pain in the upper right or center of the abdomen
  • Sudden pain between your shoulder blades or in your right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes

Pain between the shoulder blades or in your right shoulder is the pain that got me to wondering if I had a “Sluggish Gallbladder”.

A Sluggish Gallbladder

A pain that can be massaged away only to return like a bad penny. It may not stop you from doing the things you need to do but it is just there – lurking – and nagging.

The other symptoms talked about with gallbladder issues seem like symptoms of a serious problem – like the yellowing of the skin and nausea with vomiting. Those didn’t describe what I was going through and maybe not what you have experienced but yet, there COULD still be a gallbladder problem going on.

That nagging shoulder pain may get you wondering as it did for me if there is something that I needed to do for my gallbladder. That led me to more questions:

  • What does the gallbladder do exactly?
  • Do we need our gallbladder?
  • What happens if the gallbladder is sluggish and just not working at an optimal level?
  • Could food intolerances be related to this?
  • Could digestive issues be related to a sluggish gallbladder?

What does the Gallbladder do?

The Gallbladder holds the concentrated bile needed for us to digest fats.

The gallbladder holds the digestive fluid “bile” that your body releases into the small intestine to assist with digestion of your foods. The gallbladder is pear-shaped and lies beneath the liver.

The Gallbladder receives and stores bile, produced by the liver in the “Common Hepatic Duct” and then releases bile through the “Common Bile Duct” into the duodenum (a part of your small intestines). The gallbladder helps with the digestion of fats.

Do we need a gallbladder?

The bile that is stored in the gallbladder is concentrated 3 to 10 fold.

It emulsifies fatty foods, allowing water and oil to mix.  Bile acids act as a detergent, helping to emulsify lipids (fats) in food.

Major problems with the gallbladder are things like gallstones etc… but what if you just have a slow or sluggish gallbladder?

Can you cleanse and renew the gallbladder and get things back to working as they should?

That was my question so here is what I found.

What is a Sluggish Gallbladder?

Sometimes, if the liver is not healthy, the bile produced may be overly thick.

If it can’t contract fully, old bile may remain in the gallbladder too long. Stagnant bile can lead to the formation of gallbladder sludge. Eventually, sludge can turn into gallstones.

What happens if you can’t produce enough bile?

Without enough bile you have reduced ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins – these are vitamin, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin D as well as essential fatty acids, and fat-soluble antioxidants, such as beta carotene. If you are lacking in these nutrients you can suffer from:

  • Dry and dehydrated skin
  • Poor elimination of toxins via the bile (these are eliminated in bowel actions)
  • Poor breakdown and excretion of fats. This means you’re more likely to develop high cholesterol

No wonder you will find yourself feeling uncomfortable after eating. You may also find you have problems controlling your weight even though you are not eating more than normal. You will also have a higher risk of developing a fatty liver.

To produce healthy bile you need healthy liver cells and healthy bile ducts. To get the extra spurt of bile you need during a meal you need a gallbladder that is functioning well.

What You Can Do for a Sluggish Gallbladder

Here are a few herbs and natural remedies to help the Gallbladder

  • Milk thistle
  • Dandelion
  • Artichoke (globe type)
  • Eat vegetables with fiber
  • Juice with ginger, carrot, mint, basil and orange work well
  • Apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water and sip it before a meal
  • Supplements with Ox bile in them.

The Connection Between Leaky Gut, Gluten Intolerance & Gallbladder problems

Do you have trouble digesting fatty foods? Back pain or nausea? These are more signs of a sluggish gallbladder.  

There is recent evidence that suggests that inflammation in the gut may also be closely related to gallbladder function.

You may even find it interesting to learn gallbladder issues may be connected to problems with gluten

The Function or Should We Say Disfunction of BILE

Try placing a single drop of oil in the center of a glass of water. The oil remains in one spot and doesn’t reach the edge of the glass, right? Add some dish soap, however, and the detergent encapsulates the oil, forming an emulsion and making the oil drop soluble in water. This is exactly how bile works in the small intestine. Bile is made up of 97 percent water, with the remaining 3 percent consisting of a mixture of bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, inorganic salts, and trace minerals

How a Leaky Gut Affects the Gallbladder

When there is a compromised intestinal barrier function (“leaky gut”), gut bacteria that are normally confined to the small intestine walls can cross the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream. The immune system sees these microbes and their microbial products as foreign invaders and quickly launches an immune response.

This “invasion” can affect the liver/gallbladder system, as the resulting inflammatory signaling from such a microbial invasion has been shown to alter the function of transport systems involved in bile uptake and secretion in the liver.

The pattern can look like this:

Healthy gut > microbes remain in the colon > proper gallbladder function.


Leaky gut > microbes leak into the blood > gallbladder dysfunction and disease.

The gut–liver/gallbladder connection is a two-way street.

The lack of bile entering the intestine can itself cause a leaky gut and an alteration in gut bacteria.

The Pattern Can Also Look Like This:

Healthy gallbladder > bile acids reduce inflammation > proper gut barrier function maintained.


Gallbladder disease > less bile entering the small intestine > leaky gut and dysbiosis.

The Gluten Connection: Leaky Gut, Leaky Bile Duct

Gluten causes gaps between intestinal epithelial cells and allows microbes and dietary proteins from the gut lumen to “leak” into the bloodstream

Research has linked gluten intolerance and celiac disease to the increased prevalence of gallstones and biliary cirrhosis. There is also a high prevalence of celiac disease in patients with autoimmune hepatitis. One study found that 42 % of adults with celiac disease had abnormal levels of liver enzymes. Adherence to a gluten-free diet for one to 10 years normalized liver enzyme levels in 95 % of these patients.

Intestinal villi, the fingerlike projections on epithelial cells responsible for nutrient absorption in the small intestine, are typically shortened and damaged in celiac disease. This may impair the sensing of incoming dietary fatty acids resulting in reduced release of cholecystokinin and cause insufficient contraction of the gallbladder. Studies have shown that this too can be reversed with a gluten-free diet.

How to Get Things Flowing Again

There is little to no conventional treatment for gallbladder disorders.

One thing which is recommended is to eat a low-fat diet. While that may help in the short term it may actually lead to an even more sluggish gallbladder and increased risk of gallstones.

In contrast, a high healthy-fat diet may protect against gallstone formation, especially during weight loss.

Diet: Removing inflammatory foods like gluten, processed foods, and sugar can substantially improve gallbladder health.

Work on healing your gut: while it is hard to figure out which came 1st, the leaky gut or gallbladder problems, it is certain they go hand in hand. That being said, it is important to break the cycle of gut inflammation.

The Pattern Can Look Like This:

Gut Inflammation > Thick Sluggish Bile > lack of bile secrtion > more gut inflammation.

Want to Get Your Gallbladder Working Better and Increase Bile Flow?

Bitter Herbs like:

Bitter herbs like Dandelion root help the gallbladder

These are well known for their ability to stimulate bile flow and can be taken as supplements, included in meals, or as tea.

Herbs and Supplements Best Known to Dissolve Gallstones:

These have all been shown to reduce the impact of or even dissolve gallstones.

Consider taking a supplement that contains bile, from a bovine or ox source, if you are having trouble with fat digestion until your bile flow is restored.

Colorful fruits and veggies packed in vitamin C. Studies show that people who get more vitamin C are less likely to get gallbladder disease.

Using Olive Oil in food prep is healthy. Other healthy fat picks include fatty fish like salmon, nuts, and avocados.

Get Moving

Physical activity burns calories, boosts your mood, and protects your gallbladder.

We have sprinkled a few supplements and essential oil suggestions throughout the article. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

I hope you found this info helpful. I found it important to share. I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time – Be Well !!

Supplements from Powerline Health that may be helpful:

The Gallbladder and brain connection

As you can see there is so much you can do for your liver & gallbladder and your mind and body will thank you for it.


Vegetables and Fruit

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