It’s time to talk about the house of bile – and it’s not a new show on HBO

September 9 – The gall bladder is a little organ in the body that can cause a whole lot of trouble if symptoms are ignored.

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

The gall bladder is a sack in the digestive system and it is the house of bile. When you eat fried foods and fatty foods, the gall bladder releases bile into the stomach to help digest the food.

It releases it as needed.

Sommer said, “The gall bladder is on demand.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.7FM pointed out, “The human body is an unbelievable mechanism. The more I learn from you, the more I realize that all this stuff is going on. I had no idea.”

Sometimes the bile can come up the throat in the form of acid reflux. Indeed, if you have acid reflux that isn’t easily treated, the next option is to look at the gall bladder to see if it’s functioning properly.

After eating, the gall bladder is empty and it will fill back up again.

Sommer explained, “One of the biggest tests to see if you have gall stones is usually an ultrasound and you can’t eat I think it’s like at least four hours before because if you eat and you have an ultrasound, you won’t be able to see the gall bladder. It’s contracted so it’s hard to find.”

Sometimes the gall bladder can be inflamed or gall stones can be created.  

Sommer said, “Meaning for whatever reason, your gall bladder fills up with these stones and when the gall bladder contracts after you eat, you usually will have pain. That’s why they’ll say like you have that type of pain that comes with after eating it’s because the gall bladder is trying to push the bile out, however there’s things obstructing it from completely doing its job and it rubs against the walls of the gall bladder, causing you pain.”

Those gall stones can get stuck in the bile duct. It’s not terribly common, but it can happen.

Sommer said, “If it gets stuck, that creates pain all on its own. It could cause some people look jaundiced, which is really scary because your skin could be yellow, the whites of your eyes could be yellow and then everybody thinks, oh my goodness, there’s something wrong with my liver because it’s all connected. If you’re known to have gall bladder disease, it could be that you have a little stone stuck in your duct.”

Surgery would then be required to remove the stone.

Symptoms of gall bladder disease includes a gnawing pain in the upper right side after eating.

Sommer said, “It can radiate to your back. Sometimes people say they have pain behind the breast bone, which makes them think, oh my goodness, I’m having a heart attack. You can also have some nausea and vomiting. It’s scary. It’s a scary feeling after talking to patients that have come in when I worked at the urgent care, they say they’re having chest pain. They don’t even realize it’s their gall bladder because it’s a frightening pain.”

If you have a family history of gall bladder disease, keep an eye out, and if you eat a diet that is high in fat and cholesterol, watch out for your gall bladder.

If you have the symptoms, get attention right away.

Chronic gall bladder disease can result in the gall bladder being scarred, stiff and even have tissue growth within it.

Sommer said, “Sometimes people do know they have gall bladder disease and the pain comes and goes and life gets in the way and they don’t have surgery right away. So then it becomes a chronic problem and then it ends up pushing it to more of an emergency situation because then the gall bladder’s really not working at all. So the pain just gets worse and worse every time you have what’s called a gall bladder attack.”

The issue really won’t just go away on its own. The gall bladder will need to be removed.

Sommer explained, “When you have gall bladder disease and you decide to have it removed, you would have what’s called a cholecystectomy. It can be done laparoscopically, which is a minimally invasive procedure. Same day procedure. You go in in the morning for your procedure and you’re usually home by that afternoon.”

It could take five to seven days to recover.

Once the gall bladder is removed, it’s important to slowly introduce high fat foods, especially fried foods. It can sometimes cause gastrointestinal upset.

Sommer said, “It kind of comes on all of the sudden, so I always recommend introduce those high fatty foods slowly back into your diet after you have a gall bladder removed. A lot of times people just need to really kind of cut that out of their diet because you really can’t replace the function of the gall bladder.”

It’s possible to have gall stones and not really be aware of it.

In fact, when Sommer was in school for ultrasound, she needed a test patient and asked her mom to help her. When her mom was scanned, Sommer discovered three rather sizable gall stones in her mom’s gall bladder.

Sommer said, “She was in shock when I told her and I was, too, because up until that point, she never really complained of any pain. She did what I don’t advise anybody to do. That was back in 1998, 1999. In 2004, we all decided to leave New York and move to Florida and in the middle of her packing the house and closing, what do you think happened? It was almost six years, seven years. So she had a gall bladder attack. So I always try and tell people if you know you have a gall bladder issue, the sooner you take care of it, the better it is.”

For more information on the gall bladder, click here: