The battle for my gallbladder started in 1999. I was living in Seattle and receiving regular monthly acupuncture treatments from a local practitioner, Yehosha. In my mind that was how I was staying healthy. I noticed sensitivity on what turned out to be the gallbladder meridian. Yehosha told me that it was the “decision maker” and asked if I was having a hard time making up my mind about something. I replied with a little surprise that I was: I had recently fallen in love with the Southwest and was trying to decide if I should move to Arizona.
When I started having a lot of bloating, gas, and burping, sometimes for an hour at a time, I assumed it was just stomach upset. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it until one day it turned into strong, sharp pains across the front of my stomach and across my back. Even taking deep breaths hurt.
I went to the emergency room. When the attendant asked me if I was in pain and I replied that it was worse than childbirth — and I’ve given birth to five children — I was hooked up to an IV and given pain meds and a sonogram. The results revealed a large gallstone and an inflamed, enlarged gallbladder. I was admitted to the hospital for five days of IV feeding and lots of discomfort despite the medication. The doctors didn’t want to operate to remove the gallbladder until the stone passed and the gallbladder had time to heal, so when I was released I was told to return in one month for surgery.
I thought about what Yehosha had said about decision making, about being afraid of the unknown and of leaving the security of what I had here for another part of the country. I decided I was going to rest, investigate other treatment options, and move in one month. I WAS NOT going to have the surgery.
I compiled a list of foods that irritate the liver and gallbladder, which are responsible for bile production and processing, and a list of foods that cleanse them. No red meat, high fat foods, fried foods, nuts, or coffee (waaaaaaaaaa!). Lots of filtered water, salmon and other fish, and broccoli. An apple a day (they help break up stones), radishes, beets, and lemons. Chamomile tea for calming. Small, frequent meals rather than large. Digestive enzymes with every meal. Everything organic.
I focused less on restricting bad foods and more on emphasizing foods that help break up stones, and — the key for me — on keeping my body alkaline rather than acidic. Most modern-day foods and drinks are acidic. (Editor’s note: Trying to find reliable info on the acidity of different foods is frustrating, as sources frequently contradict each other. Sandy Simmons has compiled a list of alkaline/acid foods on her Connective Tissue Disorder Site, based on her own research and experience.)
I started feeling much better. The only complication was that I was losing weight. The gallbladder has to process that fat, so I kept an eye on not losing too much too fast.
Soon after, a spa in Sedona called me for an interview (I’m a massage therapist). That was my “go” sign: I put everything in storage and hit the road. The first night I remember a terrific amount of fear, but once I got to the first overnight stay and awoke the next morning I felt a little braver.
That was 13 years ago. Since then I’ve had two gallstone episodes, both in the last year. I managed to help the stones pass on their own, with some discomfort, with a liquid diet of miso, lemon water, and lots of juiced apples.
I believe that our body is our telegraph office rather than our enemy. It wants us to know when something is not in balance, whether it is emotional, spiritual, or mental. (The author Louise Hay is an excellent resource to explore the power we have to heal ourselves.) Our bodies are quite magical and intelligent. We are the pilots and navigators of our own little universe. As long as we pay attention and make the corrections that we can, it will cease its warnings. Obviously I believe in alternative and natural methods of medicine before allopathic, but we all have to walk our own path. I honor the body/mind/spirit connection.
Because I didn’t have health insurance, that five-day stay in the hospital cost me close to $7,000, which I also did not have. Two years later I had to file for bankruptcy. But I made it to the Southwest and didn’t regret any of my decisions.