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The Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Gallbladder Health

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Are you struggling with gallbladder issues such as gallstones or inflammation? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may offer a natural and effective way to improve your gallbladder health. TCM is a holistic approach to healthcare that addresses the root cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms. In this article, we will explore the benefits of TCM for gallbladder health and various techniques used in TCM to improve gallbladder function.


gallbladder
Gallbladder


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic medical system that originated in ancient China. It encompasses a range of practices, including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, dietary therapy, and exercise. TCM views the body as a complex system of interconnected parts that must be in balance in order to maintain good health. When this system is imbalanced or disrupted, illness or disease can result.

TCM aims to restore balance and harmony to the body by treating the root cause of the illness rather than just the symptoms. TCM practitioners consider a patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being when making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan.

The Importance of gallbladder health


gallbladder
gallbladder anatomy

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver that plays an important role in digestion. Its main function is to store bile produced by the liver, a substance that helps break down fats in the small intestine.

Maintaining good gallbladder health is important for overall digestive health. A healthy gallbladder helps secretes bile in a timely manner to aid in the digestion of fats. When the gallbladder is not functioning properly, it can lead to a variety of digestive issues, including bloating, gas, severe abdominal pain, gallstone formation, and diarrhea.

One common issue that can affect the gallbladder is gallstone formation, which are solid deposits that form in the gallbladder. Gallstones can block the flow of bile, leading to inflammation and pain. In severe cases, gallstones may require gallbladder surgery.


Understanding the Gallbladder in Traditional Chinese Medicine


gallbladder channel
gallbladder channel

Bile, which has a yellow-green hue and a bitter taste, is an essential liquid produced by the liver and secreted into the gallbladder for storage. This fluid is vital for digestion, hence its nickname, "the essential juice."

The liver regulates the production and bile excretion, which is essential for proper digestion. If the liver is functioning normally, the bile is produced and released into the intestinal tract, where it helps the spleen and stomach to carry out normal digestion. However, liver diseases can impair bile production and excretion, leading to digestive problems.

When bile overflows, it can result in symptoms such as epigastric distention and pain, anorexia, aversion to grassy foods, abdominal distention, and mucoid diarrhea. This overflow can also bring about a bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, and vomiting, as well as jaundice, yellowing of the sclera, and dark yellow urine. When Dampness and Heat accrue in the Liver and Gallbladder and obstruct the flow, the liver is unable to conduct and facilitate, and the gallbladder is unable to excrete bile. This could lead to the formation of gallbladder stones.


Gallbladder Functions in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Stores and excretes bile

The gall bladder receives bile from the liver, stores it, and excretes it through the bile duct to the intestine when needed during digestion. This is the same as in Western medicine.

In normal conditions, smooth bile secretion helps the digestive process of the stomach and spleen. But when the liver qi stagnation happens, the bile doesn't flow freely, and the stomach's ability to descend qi diminishes and appears nausea, belching, and other digestive diseases.


Controls Decisiveness:


doubt
doubt

The gallbladder is in charge of the decision-making. Courage is also strongly linked to the gallbladder. If Gallbladder Qi is deficient, it could manifest as fearfulness, difficulty sleeping, and disturbing dreams. In this regard, the gallbladder and the liver are closely intertwined. Together, these two organs collaborate to control emotions. For all mental activities, such as careful thinking, judgment, determination, and decision-making, to work properly, the liver and the gall bladder must work together. Therefore, in clinical practice, treating the liver and the gall bladder is often the best course of action for disorders involving emotions.

Controls the sinews

This function is the same as the liver. The liver nourishes the sinews with blood and the gall bladder with qi to promote free movement and agility.



The main reason for Gall Bladder disease in TCM

  • Diet: excess consumption of fatty foods produces a Damp that inhibits the proper bile flow.

  • Emotional stress: anger and frustration produce liver qi stagnation; with time, this transforms into heat, giving symptoms like headaches, bitter taste, irritability, etc.

  • External pathogenic factors: living in a damp environment can affect the gallbladder; if the weather is warm, it can produce damp heat patterns.



Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for Gallbladder Health

In Chinese medicine, we don't treat disease; we treat the patient; we look for patterns of disharmony, treat them, and then the symptoms disappear.


Gallbladder Patterns in Chinese Medicine:


Damp in GB:

This can be due to excessive dampness in the environment or due to excessive fatty foods consumption

Symptoms:
  • Dull Headache

  • sticky taste in the mouth

  • turbid urine

  • a general feeling of heaviness in the body

  • difficulty in digesting fatty foods

  • dull yellow eyes

  • nausea and vomiting

This pattern usually can produce a thick sticky white tongue coating, either bilateral at the sides or unilateral.


Acupuncture Treatment:

acupuncture
acupuncture

The best acupuncture points to treat this pattern are:

GB 24: Front Mu of Gallbladder resolves dampness and harmonizes GB and middle jiao.

Liv 14: Front Mu of the Liver promotes a smooth flow of Liver qi and harmonizes Liv and GB

Ren 12: Front Mu of Stomach, harmonizes Stomach, tonify Spleen, and transforms dampness.

GB 34: He-Sea point for GB, an important point in the gallbladder meridian, benefits the liver and gallbladder, stimulates bile flow, resolves dampness, and relaxes and strengthens sinews and bones.

Du 9: Transforms dampness in the Liver and Gallbladder.

Bl 19: Back Shu of Gallbladder resolves dampness in GB, calms Stomach, and expands the diaphragm.

Bl 20: Back Shu point of Spleen, tonifies Spleen and resolves dampness.

TB 6: Promotes smooth flow of liver qi.

St 19: Regulates the center, harmonizes the stomach, and helps eliminate dampness.

We can use Moxa if the patient has cold signs.


Herbal therapy

San Ren Tang

These formulas need to be adjusted to the patients treated with different Chinese herbs depending on the presentation:

For excess dampness, we can add Bai Zhu or Shi Chang Pu; for stifling sensation in the chest, we can add Huo Xiang; for severe dark urine, we can add Yin Chen or Zhi Zi, etc.


Damp heat in GB

Dampness and Heat invade the body and create Damp Heat in a hot and humid environment. Also, excessive greasy or fatty foods and dairy products. Feelings of anger over a long period of time transform qi stagnation into Heat. Easy to see this pattern in chronic inflammation.

Symptoms:
  • Dizziness, irritability

  • Nausea, vomiting.

  • A feeling of heaviness.

  • Digestive diseases, loose stools, or constipation.

  • Tinnitus, yellow complexion, bitter taste.

  • Scanty-dark urine.

  • Swelling of feet.

Usually, we can see a thick yellow coat on the right side of the tongue

This pattern requires clearing damp heat points, herbs, and a proper diet.


Chinese Acupuncture:

GB 24; Front Mu of GB transforms damp heat and harmonizes the middle jiao.

Liver 14; Front Mu of the Liver promotes the smooth flow of Liver qi and benefits the stomach.

Ren 12; Front Mu of Stomach, strengthens the middle jiao and transforms phlegm.

GB 34; Stimulates the bile flow and resolves damp heat.

LI 11; He-Sea, Earth point of Large intestine, resolves damp heat.

SJ 6; Jing-River Fire removes obstruction in the 3 jiaos, promotes the smooth flow of LIver blood and qi, and clears heat in the gallbladder channel.


Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbs
Chinese herbs

Yin Chen Hao Tang is a classic herbal therapy formula for damp heat in the Shao Yang organs, very effective for the treatment of jaundice when the root cause is Damp heat. It is very effective in the treatment of cirrhosis, viral hepatitis, skin disease like eczema or psoriasis with pruritus, and some gynecological disorders like pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginitis, or dysmenorrhea.

The key point to choosing this formula is that the Gallbladder must have damp heat.


Gallbladder stones:

gallbladder stones
gallbladder stones

From a Western medical point of view, this pattern of damp heat easily produces stones. In Chinese medicine, the stones result from condensation for a long period of time of dampness and phlegm, in combination with heat. Cholecystitis, inflammation of the gallbladder wall, is often present with gallstones and will exacerbate the condition.

In Chinese herbal therapy, we have many remedies for stones, like Ji Nei Jin or Jin Qian Cao; this combination strongly dissolves stones from the bile ducts.






TCM and Western Medicine: Integrative Approaches to Gallbladder Health


How TCM Can Complement Modern Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be used to complement modern medicine in the treatment of gallbladder conditions. TCM practitioners use a variety of methods to treat gallbladder issues, including acupuncture, herbal remedies, and dietary therapy. Acupuncture can reduce inflammation and pain, while herbal remedies can help reduce symptoms and improve overall health. Dietary therapy can help to improve digestion and reduce symptoms of gallbladder issues. Additionally, TCM can be used to help strengthen the body’s overall function and health by providing a holistic approach to healing. By combining modern medicine and TCM, patients can experience improved health, reduced symptoms, and improved quality of life.


TCM for Post-Surgical Recovery


surgery
surgery

Cholecystectomy is the most common gastrointestinal operation performed in the United States, around 700,000 every year.

Studies have indicated that acupuncture and similar treatments can be effective in addressing postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS), which is a condition characterized by the continued experience of biliary colic or right upper quadrant abdominal pain along with various gastrointestinal issues following surgery.

This systematic review and metanalysis proves these results: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7414376/


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1- What are the common symptoms of gallbladder disorders?

Common symptoms of gallbladder disorders include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, belching, indigestion, and pain in the right shoulder or back. Other symptoms include yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice), clay-colored stool, dark urine, and fever.


2-How does TCM diagnose gallbladder disorders?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis of gallbladder disorders typically involves taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. In addition, the practitioner may look at the tongue and take the pulse to determine the organ system in which the disorder is occurring. Other diagnostic techniques used in TCM include palpation of the abdomen, analysis of the color and shape of the stools, and laboratory tests such as blood tests and imaging studies. A TCM practitioner may also ask the patient about their emotional state, lifestyle, and dietary habits. This information is all used to diagnose the disorder and formulate a treatment plan.


3- Is acupuncture safe for gallbladder health?

Yes, acupuncture is considered safe for gallbladder health. Acupuncture can be used to reduce inflammation in the gallbladder and improve digestion. Additionally, acupuncture can help reduce symptoms of gallbladder disease, such as nausea and pain. However, discussing any treatments with a healthcare provider before beginning them is important.


4- How long does it take to see results with TCM treatments?


It depends on the person and their condition. Generally, a person may need between 4 and 10 treatments before they start to see results.


5- Can Traditional Chinese Medicine be effective in treating gallstones?


Yes, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it's an effective treatment to expel stones. TCM typically employs a combination of herbs, acupuncture, and other treatments, such as moxibustion, to reduce the size of the gallstones and improve the digestive system. This type of treatment is typically used to reduce the symptoms of gallstones, such as pain and inflammation, and to reduce the risk of complications. In addition, studies suggest that TCM may be effective in preventing gallstones from forming.


6- What can I do to prevent gallbladder disorders?

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of gallbladder problems.

  • Avoid crash diets: Rapid weight loss can lead to gallstones.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can lower your risk of gallbladder problems.

  • Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing gallstones.

  • Avoid certain medications: Certain medications, such as birth control pills and steroids, can increase your risk of gallstones.

7- Can Traditional Chinese Medicine help prevent gallbladder surgery?

Yes, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may help prevent gallbladder removal. TCM therapies, such as acupuncture and herbal remedies, have been shown to help reduce gallbladder inflammation and expel stones. Additionally, TCM can be used to help reduce the symptoms associated with gallbladder disease, such as abdominal pain and bloating. However, TCM should be used in conjunction with Western medicine treatments and should not be used as a substitute for surgery if it is deemed necessary.



Conclusion

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers various techniques to improve gallbladder health, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and lifestyle modifications. These techniques can help alleviate symptoms, improve the function of the gallbladder, and prevent future issues. TCM can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment for better results. However, you should consult a qualified TCM practitioner before trying any TCM technique.

The Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Gallbladder Health are numerous and can provide relief for those struggling with gallbladder issues. By focusing on a holistic approach to the body's energy flow and addressing the root cause of the problem, TCM can help improve gallbladder function and reduce symptoms. With the use of techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and lifestyle modifications, TCM can offer a safe and effective alternative to conventional treatment.

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