What Does the Gallbladder Do?
The gallbladder, shown in red, lies beneath the liver within the torso.
CREDIT: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Dreamstime
The gallbladder is a muscular organ the size of a dill pickle that helps the small intestine digest food. It's located in the middle of your torso on the right side – picture a pouch shaped like a pear hanging out just beneath your liver.
The gallbladder aids digestion by managing the release of bile, which is a bitter, yellowish-green liquid that breaks up the fat in food. The gallbladder stores bile and concentrates it by removing excess water and salts.
Bile is produced in the liver. The liver distributes some bile down the common bile duct directly to the duodenum, which is the upper portion of the small intestine, and the rest to the gallbladder via small vessels.
When a meal rich in fats enters the small intestine, the fats trigger the release of a hormone. This hormone relaxes the valve separating the common bile duct from the small intestine. It also tells the gallbladder to contract, forcing stored bile down a small duct into the larger common bile duct, and past the valve into the small intestine.
Ever wonder how the gallbladder got its name? People in medieval Europe thought health was dependent on four vital fluids — blood , black bile (from the spleen), yellow bile (from the gallbladder) and phlegm. They believed having too much or too little of these fluids affected mood and health, according to the British Columbia Medical Association. An excess of yellow bile supposedly produced aggression, which is associated with the word "gall" in English. Thus, the source of a hot temper is the "gall" bladder.
The gall bladder can be the source of ailments — what gall! Some suffer from gallstones, or inflammation of the gallbladder.
Gallstones are masses as hard as jawbreakers that form like pearls in an oyster. A bit of bile salt and cholesterol begins to grow in layers. The final product may be pea-sized or as large as a golf ball.
Women experience gallstones more often than men, though only 20 percent of the population has them, according to the BCMA. Of those people, only a quarter even know they have them, because of ensuing pain.
Gallstones can become stuck in the duct leaving the organ. Extreme pain results , sometimes described as more intense than childbirth. Even gallstones that don't enter the duct can block it, causing inflammation of the gallbladder called cholecystitis.
Luckily for patients who need to have their gallbladder removed, newer laparoscopic techniques are safer and less invasive than former surgical procedures. And the gallbladder, like the appendix, is one of the few organs a person can successfully do without.What's the Difference Between 'Good' and 'Bad' Cholesterol?
- What's the Difference Between 'Good' and 'Bad' Cholesterol?
- What Does the Prostate Gland Do?
- Why Do Women Have Breasts?
Got a question? Email it to Life's Little Mysteries and we'll try to answer it. Due to the volume of questions, we unfortunately can’t reply individually, but we will publish answers to the most intriguing questions, so check back soon.
Life's Little Mysteries: Gift Edition Hardcover Book
Uncover the truth behind more than 100 mysteries that surround us every day with our new hardcover book! Perfect for gifts and classrooms, and suitable for all ages. Some of the included mysteries are:
- Why Do Cats Land on Their Feet?
- How Long Does it Take to Make Petrified Wood?
- What Everyday Things Around Us Are Radioactive?
Find out all of this and much, much more in our NEW hardcover book.
It makes a great gift idea for all ages. more info>>