The gall bladder is a very important part of our digestive system. As we all know, fat cannot be dissolved in water. Therefore, a special system has evolved in our bodies for its digestion and its absorption through the intestinal wall. An essential factor in this process is something called bile, which contains substances that allow fats to be emulsified. It also stimulates the secretion of an enzyme concerned with the breakdown of fats. Although the liver secretes bile, it is stored in the gallbladder until needed.
Whenever we consume fat, it stimulates the gallbladder to contract, and bile flows down into the intestine. The gallbladder also concentrates the bile within it by removing water through its wall. Thus, if the gallbladder is removed from the body, the bile can still flow into the intestine from the liver, but fat digestion may be less efficient because the bile is not concentrated.
The most common disorder of the gall bladder is gallstones. It is thought that an abnormality in the functioning of the gall bladder causes gallstones. Gallstones occur frequently in developed countries, and could be associated with eating a diet that is high in fat and refined carbohydrates and low in fiber. Gallstones can give rise to inflammation and infection of the gallbladder and infection of the bile ducts.
This is called cholecystitis. A gallstone becoming jammed in the junction of the gallbladder and duct or in the duct itself causes this infection. This bacterial infection is present in more than 50 percent or more of such cases. The pain is sudden, severe and persistent. The patient usually vomits and feels ill and feverish. If the common bile duct becomes swollen, slight jaundice may occur as bile from the liver is prevented from passing into the intestine and enters the bloodstream instead.
When such symptoms and infections occur, removal of the gallbladder is the best solution.