The Functional Medicine Approach To Gallbladder Disease

The gallbladder is an organ we don’t often pay much attention to, but if you or a loved one has had gallstones, you know they can be very painful. About 6-9% of adults experience gallstones and their associated symptoms which can include nausea and vomiting. The gallbladder plays a vital role in our digestive process by storing bile which helps us break down fats. If your bile is imbalanced, gallstones may form. The conventional approach to relieving gallbladder pain and discomfort is through the use of medication or surgery to remove the gallbladder, whereas the Functional Medicine approach seeks to uncover the root cause of the problem and approaches treatment from that place.

In this episode, Dr. Hyman discusses gallbladder disease with Dr. George Papanicolaou. They talk about how they work with patients to determine what is causing the disease, and how an imbalance in the composition of bile can also result in gut problems like dysbiosis and SIBO. They also provide tips on supporting your body to optimize digesting fats if you’ve had your gallbladder removed. George Papanicolaou is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is Board Certified in Family Medicine from Abington Memorial Hospital. He is also an Institute for Functional Medicine Practitioner. Upon graduation from his residency he joined the Indian Health Service. He worked on the Navajo reservation for 4 years at the Chinle Comprehensive Medical Facility where he served as the Outpatient Department Coordinator.

In 2000, he founded Cornerstone Family Practice in Rowley, MA. He practiced with a philosophy centered on personal relationships and treating the whole person, not just not the disease. He called that philosophy “Whole Life Wellness”. Over time as the healthcare system made it harder for patients to receive this kind of personal care Dr. Papanicolaou decided a change was needed. He began training in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. In 2015, he established Cornerstone Personal Health—a practice dedicated entirely to Functional Medicine. Dr. Papanicolaou joined The UltraWellness Center in 2017.

In this conversation, Dr. Hyman and Dr. Papanicolaou discuss:

  • The root cause of gallbladder disease, including gallstones
  • What healthy bile is and why it’s so important in the role of digesting fats
  • The difference between the conventional medicine and Functional Medicine approach to treating gallbladder disease
  • How bile imbalances can lead to gut imbalances such as dysbiosis and SIBO
  • The tie between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and gallbladder disease and the role of gluten
  • Consequences of surgery to remove the gallbladder
  • Supporting the body if you don’t have a gallbladder
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