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Nutritional Science Series 2: Radical Metabolism

If you’ve ever experienced difficulty in sustaining your energy levels or losing excess weight, this could be due to a compromised metabolism. Today, our bodies have a hard time digesting fat and this can cause digestive symptoms, a sluggish metabolism and an impact on our hormone levels– all of which detract from optimal performance and improved health.


Banting, keto, primal and low carb, high fat (LCHF) eating regimes are so popular and can be very effective, yet little focus is afforded to sharing the importance of priming one’s gall bladder and liver for these eating programmes. A radical metabolism is a metabolism that is flexible – so when you need to digest fat on a specific programme you can, or when you need to digest carbohydrates, you can. An optimal and flexible metabolism can keep you energised, lean and healthy. Ann Louise Gittelman, a Columbia University Graduate, internationally recognised nutritionist and award winning New York Times best-selling author of over 30 books, has recently published a new book entitled Radical Metabolism in which she explores the ‘forgotten’ role of the gallbladder and the impact of the physiological function of this organ on our metabolism.

But what is the gallbladder and what is its role? Health Line notes that “Your gallbladder is a four-inch, pear-shaped organ. It’s positioned under your liver in the upper-right section of your abdomen and is the storage centre for bile, a combination of fluids, fat, and cholesterol.”  Essentially bile is made in the liver for the purposes of breaking down the fats you eat and escorting toxins out of your body.

A large number of people may live with bile and gallbladder issues and be completely unaware. Or, some people may not even have a gallbladder following Laparoscopic Cholectystectomy surgery- one of the most common abdominal surgeries in North America.

Before embarking on any eating programme, it is important to understand the role of bile– a liquid that we often only meet (and curse!) when we are plagued with spells of repeated vomiting owing to the delights of a gastric bug! But bile is a friend to the system and without it, we cannot digest or absorb fat soluble nutrients, vitamins, A, D, E and K nor can we digest the important fat-burning essential fatty acids of Omega 6s and Omega 3s. These nutrients and fatty acids are essential when it comes to maintaining healthy cell membranes, brain health, hormone production, immune responses, energy levels, and cardiovascular health.

Gittelman notes that if our bodies can’t properly break down fats, they will be absorbed into the blood stream in an unusable form, thus leading our bodies to store excess weight. So, diligent adherence to a keto, paleo or banting-type diet may not yield the results you are striving for- which can be very disheartening.

But how do we test for gallbladder function or how would you know if your gallbladder is sluggish? Liver tests will indicate high enzyme accounts but everyday symptoms could include persistently light coloured stools, dizziness and even hearing problems.

There are however very easy and accessible ‘treatments’ to nourish one’s gallbladder. The inclusion of bitter herbs and foods back into one’s diet is something that has been slowly degraded over the years in favour of sweetened and other flavoured foods. Merely adding foods such as watercress, arugula, kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, grapefruit, ginger, dark chocolate can activate bile in the gall bladder and help to cleanse it of ‘sludge’ build up. Supplements like Bitter Melon and Chinese Medicines like Bupleurum Root, also known as Chai Hu (Hare’s Ear Root), are also excellent supplements and are available from your Chinese Medicine Doctor.

Bile is also crucial for the conversion of certain thyroid hormones and plays an important role in thyroid function. As many of us know, the thyroid is a critical organ for metabolic functioning, weight management and general performance.

Fresh Watercress on white table background

I have also taken to enjoying an aperitif drink of Angostura or Schweden Bitters with a slice of lemon and some soda water. Its tasty and refreshing and the benefits of consuming bitters extend beyond just detoxification for the gallbladder.

Why not try making your own Digestive Bitters at home with this recipe.

Gittelman further notes that the rise of gallbladder and bile issues in women specifically, can be attributed to a lack of choline. Choline is a lipotropic nutrient- an important compound that catalyses the breakdown of fat during metabolism in the body. Natural sources of Choline are found in eggs (if you’re not allergic) or in walnuts. Studies have shown that just 500mg of choline 3 x per day for 6 weeks can be associated with a decongested fatty liver- this is very important if we are to prepare our bodies for a banting-type nutrition programme. Choline is available for purchase at functional medicine doctors, pharmacies or local online stores.

For further information or to embark on a journey to activate your metabolic flexibility, book a consultation here.

Foods Rich in Choline 1324

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