The Functional Medicine Approach To Gallbladder Disease

Episode 72 31m


The gallbladder is an organ we don’t often pay much attention to, but if you or a loved one has had gallstones, you know they can be very painful. About 6-9% of adults experience gallstones and their associated symptoms which can include nausea and vomiting. The gallbladder plays a vital role in our digestive process by storing bile which helps us break down fats. If your bile is imbalanced, gallstones may form. The conventional approach to relieving gallbladder pain and discomfort is through the use of medication or surgery to remove the gallbladder, whereas the Functional Medicine approach seeks to uncover the root cause of the problem and approaches treatment from that place.

In this episode, Dr. Hyman discusses gallbladder disease with Dr. George Papanicolaou. They talk about how they work with patients to determine what is causing the disease, and how an imbalance in the composition of bile can also result in gut problems like dysbiosis and SIBO. They also provide tips on supporting your body to optimize digesting fats if you’ve had your gallbladder removed. George Papanicolaou is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is Board Certified in Family Medicine from Abington Memorial Hospital. He is also an Institute for Functional Medicine Practitioner. Upon graduation from his residency he joined the Indian Health Service. He worked on the Navajo reservation for 4 years at the Chinle Comprehensive Medical Facility where he served as the Outpatient Department Coordinator.

In 2000, he founded Cornerstone Family Practice in Rowley, MA. He practiced with a philosophy centered on personal relationships and treating the whole person, not just not the disease. He called that philosophy “Whole Life Wellness”. Over time as the healthcare system made it harder for patients to receive this kind of personal care Dr. Papanicolaou decided a change was needed. He began training in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. In 2015, he established Cornerstone Personal Health—a practice dedicated entirely to Functional Medicine. Dr. Papanicolaou joined The UltraWellness Center in 2017.

In this conversation, Dr. Hyman and Dr. Papanicolaou discuss:

  • The root cause of gallbladder disease, including gallstones
  • What healthy bile is and why it’s so important in the role of digesting fats
  • The difference between the conventional medicine and Functional Medicine approach to treating gallbladder disease
  • How bile imbalances can lead to gut imbalances such as dysbiosis and SIBO
  • The tie between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and gallbladder disease and the role of gluten
  • Consequences of surgery to remove the gallbladder
  • Supporting the body if you don’t have a gallbladder


This episode is brought to you by Essentia, and Paleovalley. The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast works with a select group of sponsors to allow for ongoing production and allow it to be zero-cost to anyone who wishes to listen to and watch the podcast.

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Automatically generated. Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: Everybody says a lot of people know, "Oh, yeah, it's my gallbladder. I'm going to have to get it taken out." Your thought is the only cure for the gallbladder is to take it out. There's no thought to their lifestyle, their nutrition, and the impact that bile is having on the gut microbiome, which might be causing some other symptoms in their GI tract. Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome back to The Doctor's Farmacy, and that's Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. If you have ever suffered from gallstones or gallbladder disease, this is going to be a great conversation for you because it's going to help you figure out why you got them and how to get rid of them and how..

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Ep. 72 - The Functional Medicine Approach To Gallbladder Disease