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Gallbladder: The “Curious” And Unsung Organ For Decision Making

What does the gallbladder do in TCM?

When’s the last time you thought about your gallbladder? Unless you have gallstones or you’ve had your gallbladder removed, which 700,000 Americans every year can relate to, you probably don’t pay any attention to it.

It’s fitting that the gallbladder lies directly beneath the liver. Like a giant redwood tree depriving smaller trees of sunshine, the liver denies the gallbladder the spotlight it deserves when it comes to detoxification. 

Sure, the liver is crucial, performing over 500 functions. But the Gallbladder, the paired organ of Liver in TCM, is just as important if you want to have good energy, manage weight and have strong digestion and daily, healthy bowel movements. 

Beyond the physical benefits, Gallbladder in TCM theory profoundly affects your decision-making process. More on this in a little bit. 

But first, let’s get to know more about this curious organ…

Gallbladder: The Curious TCM Organ That’s Both Yin and Yang

Technically, Gallbladder is a Yang organ. Yang organs mainly digest food and send nutrients down the line to the next Yang organ. Like its role in western physiology, in TCM, Gallbladder secretes bile, the green/yellow fluid that breaks down dietary fats. 

The liver actually produces bile and the gallbladder stores it. This storage action makes Gallbladder a curious organ. That’s in part because by storing a pure, vital bodily fluid, Gallbladder acts like a Yin organ. (Yin organs produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances such as qi, blood, and fluids.)

There’s something else that makes Gallbladder a curious organ in TCM theory. Again, Gallbladder is theoretically a Yang organ, paired with Liver, which is a Yin organ. But unlike other Yang organs that come in contact with food or waste (Yang organs: Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Urinary Bladder), Gallbladder transports no impurities, only pure bile. 

GallBladder: The Decision-Making Colonel 

In TCM, the Liver is regarded as “the general,” responsible for the overall strategy and thought-processes of the body. But like in any powerful army, a brilliant general’s ideas are worthless on the battlefield if there’s not a strong colonel to execute the plan. In TCM, the Gallbladder is the colonel, or more accurately, “the general’s advisor”. 

In TCM, the Gallbladder is the colonel, or more accurately, “the general’s advisor”.

Unfortunately, many people eat unhealthy food and have too much stress. This places a burden on the Liver and Gallbladder, as well as other organs that are responsible for digestion, including the Spleen. 

From a TCM perspective, a poorly-functioning or deficient Gallbladder can manifest as  indecisiveness. And the worse the dysfunction/disharmony of the Gallbladder is, the more likely one is to feel very stressed out about having to make an executive decision. Or if you’re easily spooked or startled, that’s also a sign of gallbladder imbalance. 

Physical Manifestations of Poor Gallbladder Function

Having digestive problems and not being able to lose weight—despite getting sufficient exercise—aren’t the only physical manifestations of poor Gallbladder function. 

In TCM, the organ system is associated with muscle and connective tissue health. The Gallbladder meridian runs to the top of the shoulder. It’s no coincidence that some people with shoulder pain have poorly-functioning Gallbladders. The meridian also runs up the leg; if you have unexplained knee pain, it could be because of your Gallbladder.

Skin problems can also manifest if the Liver/Gallbladder paired meridians have Qi blockages. That’s because a sluggish Liver won’t be able to produce as much bile, and trapped toxins won’t be able to be processed through the intestines; they will seek exit from the body through the skin. 

How To Support Your Gallbladder

In TCM theory, the Liver acts like a dredge, scooping out contaminants so that Qi and bile can flow unimpeded. Thus, to support your Gallbladder, you also need to support your Liver. 

Our formula GallbladClear dredges the Liver and clears excess heat, which may help the Liver release the proper amount of bile you need to break down fats and support digestion and overall health. 

It’s also best to avoid eating too much citrus and spicy foods. If you have had your GallBladder removed, taking supplemental enzymes that help break down fat may also help. 

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