How to Digest Fat without a Gallbladder
Our first question comes from Christina who asks, “I want to incorporate more fats like you recommend, but I don’t have a gallbladder. Do you have any special instructions for someone who doesn’t have a gallbladder?”
Christina is not alone. This is a question that I’ve been getting quite a bit since the release of my book Eat Fat, Get Thin. Interestingly enough, the reason that most people have their gallbladder removed in the first place is because they have insulin resistance from a diet high in sugars and processed carbohydrates. Once your gallbladder has been removed, you might have trouble digesting fats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat a healthy diet. Some people do well with less fats and some do better with more fats. You must find what works best for your body.
For Christina, I would recommend continuing to focus on healthy proteins and plants foods. To help digest fats, there are a few things you can do – including:
- Check with your physician before you start to include more fats – every body is different and it is a good idea to make sure that you are cleared by your personal physician before starting any new diet – including the Eat Fat, Get Thin Program
- Ease your way into fat intake – start slowly. If you start Day 1 with 10 servings of fat, you will feel sick. So, in the absence of a gallbladder, the trick is slow and steady.
- To support overall digestive health, supplement with an enzyme that includes a combination of Ox Bile, Amylase, Protease and Lipase for healthy gallbladder function, and optimal fat and lipid utilization,. The supplements that I recommend can be found here. I suggest you take it before every meal.
Start with these tips and monitor your body; it’ll tell you what it likes and doesn’t like. And remember, not everyone needs to focus on a high-fat diet. You can eat moderate amounts of fat along with healthy proteins and plant foods and still achieve your optimal health.
Getting Started on Your Health Journey
Our next question comes from Angela who asks, “I’m ready to make a change, but how do I even get started? It seems overwhelming.”
It can be daunting to make big changes in your lifestyle. Sometimes it’s easier to take smaller steps. You have to decide what works for you. Personally, I recommend doing a lifestyle overhaul like the 10-Day Detox, which incorporates nutritional and lifestyle changes in one program. However, I totally understand that doing a full program might not be the best step for everyone.
If you want to make three changes today that can yield big results, you can start with something I like to call “the swap.” Here’s how it works:
- Swap out your normal breakfast for a smoothie. Smoothies are a way to pack a lot of nutrition into one quick and easy meal. If you’re wanting to add more greens into your diet or more superfoods or more healthy fats or protein, a smoothie or a shake is a simple, hassle free way to do that. Here’s one of my favorite recipes.
- Swap your bad fats for good fats. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils, such as corn and soy; fried foods that you may have stored in your freezer; and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared unsafe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Instead, stock up on good fats like avocados, extra virgin, unrefined coconut and olive oils, olives, and nuts and seeds. I also recommend swapping out conventional meat for organic and grass-fed meat, when possible.
- Swap sugars and processed carbs for plants. You probably know the obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks and even “healthy” foods like cereals and wheat products like pasta and bread. Instead of reaching for carbs or sugary foods, fill your plates with delicious plant foods like green-leafy veggies, broccoli, peppers, bok choy, cauliflower, etc.
This simple swap technique can transform your health, but sometimes it can feel pretty isolating to take on these changes alone. That is why I also recommend finding a buddy to make these changes with you. Friend power is so much more powerful than willpower.
My Recommended Daily Supplements
Our final question comes from Chad who asks, “What vitamins or supplements, if any, should men 40 and older take to reduce cancer risk and optimize health?”
Even with a perfect diet, the combination of many things – including our depleted soils, the storage and transportation of our food, genetic alterations of traditional heirloom species, and the increased stress and nutritional demands resulting from a toxic environment – make it impossible for us to get the vitamins and minerals we need solely from the foods we eat.
Doctors used to think we got all our vitamins and minerals from food. Any extra nutrients were excreted, or worse, became toxic. But the tide is shifting. Doctors now prescribe over one billion dollars in fish oil supplements. Most cardiologists recommend folate, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10. Gastroenterologists recommend probiotics. Obstetricians have always recommended prenatal vitamins.
Emerging scientific evidence shows the importance of nutrients as essential helpers in our biochemistry and metabolism. They are the oil that greases the wheels of our metabolism. And large-scale deficiencies of nutrients in our population – including omega-3 fats, vitamin D, folate, zinc, magnesium, and iron – have been well documented in extensive government-sponsored research.
Everyone reading this blog should begin a basic supplement plan and stay on that plan for life. Here are my basic recommendations:
- High-Quality, High-Potency, Complete Multivitamin: The right multivitamin will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that getting the optimal doses usually requires 2 to 6 capsules or tablets a day. Some people may have unique requirements for much higher doses that need to be prescribed by a trained nutritional or Functional Medicine physician.
- Vitamin D3: The vitamin D deficiency is epidemic, with up to 80 percent of modern day humans being deficient or suboptimal in their intake. Depending on what is in your multivitamin, I recommend taking additional vitamin D. Vitamin D3 improves metabolism by influencing more than 200 different genes that can prevent and treat diabetes and metabolic syndrome. For serious deficiencies, you may need more vitamin D, as much as 5,000 to 10,000 IU a day for 3 months or more. Do this with your doctor’s supervision, if needed.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA): These important fats improve insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol by lowering triglycerides and raising HDL, reduce inflammation, prevent blood clots and lower the risk of heart attacks. Fish oil also improves nerve function and may help prevent the nerve damage common in diabetes.
This is what I recommend for your foundation. As you get older, I recommend adding supplements that support your mitochondria such as the following:
- CoQ10 – CoQ10 has potent antioxidant properties to help support cell function, healthy blood pressure, energy production and overall cardiovascular health.
- NAC (N-acetyl Cysteine)- Fights free-radicals and is a key component of a healthy antioxidant-rich immune system, helps to chelate heavy metals and remove them from the body, and especially supportive of lung tissue.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – Alpha Lipoic Acid is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals, supports liver function, boosts metabolism, enhances absorption of certain vitamins, and helps turn calories into energy in the muscles.
Think of supplements as part of your diet. You want the best-quality food and the best-quality supplements you can buy. I use supplements in my practice as a cornerstone of healing and repair, so I have investigated supplement makers, toured factories and continue to study independent analyses of their finished products. I have learned there are a few companies I can rely on, many of which you can find in my online store. Guidance from a trained dietitian, nutritionist or nutritionally oriented physician or health care practitioner can be helpful in selecting the products that are right for you.
Now I want to hear from you. Do you have tips for digesting fat? How about tips for getting started with a healthy lifestyle? Also, what supplements do you take daily? Comment on my Facebook page. If you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, and tweet me your questions @MarkHymanMD, and maybe next week I’ll make a house call to you.
Wishing you health & happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD