Your gallbladder helps you digest and absorb fats. But if it becomes inflamed or clogged with gallstones, which happens to one in five women after age 40, symptoms like indigestion, bloating, and even back pain can flare up. Happily, experts say these easy (and fun!) steps can keep this hard-working organ healthy and sidestep trouble before it ever starts.
Sip a mimosa.
Pure fruit juice brims with vitamin C, a nutrient that tamps down painful gallbladder inflammation. Add a splash of alcohol (try a yummy mimosa or glass of sangria), and you’ll cut your risk of gallbladder troubles by 44 percent, suggests research in the journal Gut and Liver. Explains study co-author Sam Lee, M.D., alcohol helps your gallbladder contract and empty before small crystals can grow into painful stones.
Slather on the butter.
Savor a second helping of buttery corn on the cob. UCLA scientists say eating two cups of veggies daily (topped with a tablespoon of butter) cuts gallstone risk by 25 percent. The powerful duo helps the gallbladder flush out tiny crystals before they cause trouble.
Cool off in a pool.
Getting 30 minutes of exercise daily, like bobbing around in the pool, lessens gallstone risk by 30 percent. And if you’ve already had one, it can make any future stones 60 percent smaller and easier to pass, say University of Illinois scientists. Daily motion prompts your liver to release bile acids that keep cholesterol liquefied, so it can’t form crystals.
Order this kind of pizza.
Asking for extra onions and garlic on your pizza can shrink small stones in your gallbladder. University of Connecticut scientists say that’s because sulfur compounds activate fat-dissolving enzymes that diminish gallstones by up to 53 percent. The study-proven dose: one clove of garlic and a half cup of onions daily.
Kick back and relax.
Just 30 minutes of R&R each day curbs the risk of gallbladder trouble by up to 33 percent, a study in Frontiers in Psychiatry found. Study co-author Greg Hasler, M.D., says your gallbladder is controlled by your parasympathetic nervous system, a branch of nerves that works best when you’re relaxed.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.