I really hate it when I find out that something I was taught, something I believed to be true, and something that I have passed on to others turns out to be wrong. It's not fun to be wrong. So, I want to pass on my new discovery to you so we can dispel this myth and hopefully move on. Are you ready?
The liver/gallbladder flush does NOT get rid of gallstones.
Bummer right? I know. So all those times that I forced myself to gag down those 9 ounces of salad dressing were for nothing. I'm a little depressed right now.
If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about the Liver/Gallbladder flush is a recipe designed to flush the liver and gallbladder to remove stones and cleanse the liver. There are many different versions but the one I'm most familiar with includes 3 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3 ounces of extra virgin olive oil, and 3 ounces of grapefruit or pineapple juice blended together. You are supposed to drink this concoction every morning for five days in a row. Then you wait a month and do five more days, wait another month and five more days often trying to coincide the flush with the waning moon cycle for "added effectiveness".
Now to be fair grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and olive oil can all be excellent for your liver, digestion and general health when consumed on a regular basis. But there really is no need to force down 9 ounces of it all at once. Those who have tried it report seeing something like this in their stool:
Wow those little round green pebbles must be gallstones right? Success!
But no. This is olive oil soap.
"Analysis of one group of passed “gallstones” revealed they consisted of 75-percent fatty acids and contained no cholesterol, bilirubin, or calcium. Further experimentation suggested the spheroids were “soap stones,” created by the interaction of digestive enzymes with certain components of olive oil and lemon juice."
So yeah, those little stones are created by the interaction between the olive oil, lemon juice and your own enzymes. Not from your gallbladder releasing gallstones.
These are gallstones:
And it turns out its not quite that easy to get rid of them. If your feeling a little chagrined right now don't feel too bad. This recipe has been around a long time and many herbalists and natural health advocates have been using it for decades. Some people have even reported benefits from using this therapy such as a reduction in pain and indigestion so apparently they are either just deluding themselves or it does still work, just not in the way we thought it did.
There are a couple of natural ways to get rid of gallstones and cleanse the liver that might be a little easier to swallow (pun intended). It may be a little less impressive than those bright green pebbles but as long as you are okay with that you might want to give one of these a try instead:
Choleretics and Cholagogues - These are herbs that increase the production and flow of bile such as barberry (Berberis vulgaris), burdock (Arctium lappa), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), goldenseal (Hydrastic canadensis), milk thistle (Silybum marianum), and oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium). Taking one of these herbs as a supplement for 30-60 days may improve liver function and reduce stones.
Terpenes - Terpenes are organic compounds found in the essential oils of most plants. Terpenes have been shown to keep crystals from forming in the gallbladder and may even dissolve existing stones. Menthol is a terpene from peppermint (Mentha x piperita) that has been studied for its effects on gallstones. Enteric coated peppermint oil may be a useful application for this though caution should be used.
Sorry to burst anyone's bubble but natural health practitioners come under enough criticism as it is. We don't need to keep perpetuating ideas when they have been proven to be false. So I won't be recommending this anymore and I hope the word gets out there before anyone else has their appetite for homemade salad dressing ruined.
Ugh, just smelling it makes me shudder.
To Your Health,
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.