But … Will She Get Better Without Surgery?

“She needs to have it removed.”

“But she’s not dehydrated. She doesn’t have any tenderness or Murphy’s sign. She doesn’t have an acute abdomen …”

In fact, A.D. didn’t have any of the emergency symptoms they taught us in medical school.

“She must have colicystitis. She should have her gallbladder taken out.”

“Well, what’s the likelihood that if she doesn’t have it removed, that her gallbladder will recover?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

At first I thought he was joking. I suppressed my chuckling when I saw he wasn’t kidding. “You’re a GI specialist …”

“You don’t understand… I wouldn’t know if she’d recover because I’ve never seen anybody with these symptoms who I’ve sent to have their gallbladder removed who hasn’t had the surgery.”


This was the third GI doctor we’d been to, and the only thing any of them recommended was surgery. “How can you recommend surgery without considering the question of whether or not it’s going to get better without surgery?”

“She has zero ejection fraction in her gallbladder. Normal is 35%. If someone has 34% I send them for surgery. If you don’t want to do that … well, good luck.”

No effort to save A.D.’s gallbladder. No care, no discussion, no attempt to find the cause of the problem.

I would have to do the research myself.

After a few days of some pretty intense reading, I discovered a little-known study.

A doctor put 69 people who were having gallbladder attacks on an elimination diet to determine their food allergies.

Here’s the most embarrassing part to us doctors: Six of them had already had their gallbladders removed and were still having the exact same symptoms!

All 69 people – 100% of them – were totally symptom-free after they stopped eating foods they were allergic to.1

And all 69 had their symptoms come back when they started eating those foods again.

It made sense. When you have food allergies, you body treats those foods like a toxin. The lining of your gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed in much the same way your sinuses become inflamed when you have respiratory allergies.

That inflammation causes the gallbladder’s ejection fraction to go down – in other words, it doesn’t empty out very well. It can look like you have colicystitis or gallbladder disease.

After I read the study, I had her blood drawn at my clinic to see if she had any food allergies. We found that she had a high percentage of a two different kinds of white blood cells – granulocytes and eosinophils.

That’s exactly what you would have with an allergic reaction. So we did tests for a lot of food allergies, and A.D.’s allergic to Pork.

So I asked her if she had eaten any pork lately … Here’s what she said:

“Oh wow, I ate the most ham I’ve ever eaten in my life! I bought this big leg of ham, and made a stew from it and it was so delicious. I cut up the skin with all the fat still on it and put that in there because that’s the part I like the most.

“My friends loved it! So I threw a party the next night and made the same thing for them. I ate another huge helping …”

The doctors didn’t know that because they never bothered to ask her about her diet. Every GI specialist recommended gallbladder surgery without a word about what she might have eaten.

My clinical nurse M.T. drew A.D.’s blood, and when I told her what we were looking for M.T. said, “The same thing happened to me.”

“I was pregnant and had the same symptoms. I had this craving for tuna salad and it had to have a lot of mayonnaise in it. I’d sit there and eat the stuff by the spoonful. After doing that for like two weeks I started to get pain. I went to my doctor.

“He sent me to a GI specialist, and he said ‘remove your gallbladder.’

“My doctor didn’t want to do it during the pregnancy and wanted to put it off. The GI doctor said, ‘no problem. It’s not urgent. She has no emergent signs, but obviously she’s going to need her gallbladder taken out. So just have it taken out after her pregnancy.’

“But when my craving went away and I stopped eating the mayonnaise, my symptoms went away. Never had them since.”

Her gallbladder would be gone right now. And she’d be on medication the rest of her life. Without asking her anything about what she might have eaten. And there was zero effort or consideration by the doctors about whether or not – or how – someone can get better without surgery. It doesn’t even come up in their minds.

And this is happening everywhere.

How could you care about your patient, and not ever in your professional career consider the question of whether this patient would get better without surgery before you refer them to surgery?

If you’re going to refer them to surgery because of some algorithm – we did our job, we did the test, we did the ultrasound, it produced this result, that means they go to surgery – do you really care about the people who are coming in for help?

You cannot care and think that way.

They don’t have any faith in nature or your body. They learn to do a differential diagnosis, and what you do about it always has to end in a drug therapy or an operation. Anything else is not worthy of consideration. To talk about what caused the problem is not part of the algorithm.

I think you have to say that these doctors are doing their job, but they don’t think their job is really to empathize and take that suffering on themselves. Like when a friend comes to you for advice and you feel obligated.

They’re not feeling that. It’s so disconnected and removed from the patient. They just do this pattern of diagnosis that they learned in a class.

So think about what that means when a doctor says that he wouldn’t know. When I think about all the people he sent to surgery, to me, it seemed like he really didn’t care about the outcome of his patients.

Because if a doctor sends you to surgery, aren’t you going to make the assumption that he’s pretty certain you won’t get better without the surgery? Otherwise, most people would think he wouldn’t be recommending the operation in the first place.

But what most people don’t know is that your gallbladder is not some useless organ. It helps you absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.

And your stomach is a living system. You could almost think of your gut as a second brain. It’s an integral part of your immune system and your body’s intelligence. Most doctors completely ignore this.

But I tend to trust nature, and your body’s ability to heal itself, until I’m proven wrong.

So if you’ve eaten and you have:

  • a metallic taste, itching or swelling in your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • nausea, vomiting, cramps diarrhea, or abdominal pain
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

You may be having an allergic reaction. These kinds of reactions can be very serious, and you should go to your doctor or the hospital if you’re in pain. But mention to the medical professional what you may have eaten.

In the gallbladder study, the foods that caused the most allergic reactions were:

Pct. of people with allergy
92.8 %
63.8 %
52.2 %
34.8 %
24.6 %
21.7 %
18.8 %

Corn, beans, nuts, apples, tomatoes, peas, cabbage, spices, peanuts, fish, and rye also caused gallbladder attacks.

If you think you may have a food allergy, stop eating each of these foods one at a time and see if the reaction disappears. If you’re still not sure, add each food back in to what you eat to see if the allergic reaction develops again.

To help protect your stomach and gallbladder, and keep your immune system and digestive system in top shape, I recommend these three things every day:

1. A Little Relaxation – Magnesium can stimulate gallbladder contraction and relaxes the muscles. One study looked at 42,075 men and followed them for 13 years. It found that those who took in the most magnesium (454 mg a day) were 28 percent less likely to develop gallbladder problems compared to men with the lowest intake (262 mg).2

In most cases, an effective dose is 400-500 mg daily. If you have kidney problems or high-degree heart block, don’t take any magnesium supplements until you talk to your doctor.

2. Calm Your Insides – Ginger keeps your digestion moving along smoothly. When researchers tested it with a group of healthy volunteers, their stomach contractions increased… and food moved through more quickly.3

You can take dried ginger powder, but you’d need about 6,000 milligrams a day. An easier way to take ginger is a liquid extract. A half teaspoon a day should do the trick.

3. Fuel Your Flora – Glutamine is an amino acid that your immune and digestive systems rely heavily on. But did you know that the friendly little defenders in your gut called “microflora” can use it for fuel? Your microflora help protect your intestines from bad stuff that might be in your food. What’s more, they help turn glutamine into glutathione, one of your body’s most powerful antioxidants.4 Take 1 gram (1,000 mg) of L-glutamine three times a day.


1 Breneman JC. "Allergy elimination diet as the most effective gallbladder diet." Ann Allergy. 1968 Feb;26(2):83-7.
2 Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, et al. “Long-Term Effect of Magnesium Consumption on the Risk of Symptomatic Gallstone Disease Among Men.” Am J Gastro. February 2008;103(2): 375-382.
3 Wu KL, et al. “Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans.” Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40.
4 Bergen W. and Wu G. "Intestinal Nitrogen Recycling and Utilization in Health and Disease." J. Nutr. May 2009 vol. 139 no. 5 821-825