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Understanding Gallbladder Cleansing : Benefits, Risks, and Prevention

What is Gallbladder Cleansing?

A gallbladder cleansing refers to a special diet, which is designed to prevent someone from getting gallstones or for treatment of any gallstones that are present. Gallbladder cleanse is also known by the name “liver flush”.(1)

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are deposits which get hard over the time and develop in the gallbladder producing symptoms, such as nausea, pain and vomiting, if there is any blockage in the ducts of the gallbladder.(2, 3)

What is the Function and Importance of Gallbladder?

The function of gallbladder is storage of the bile that is produced by the liver.(7) Bile helps in effective digestion of fat.(8) Even though the function of gallbladder is important, it is not essential for living.

Surgery is recommended if gallstones cause symptoms upon which the gallbladder is removed. However, there are some patients who want to try a gallbladder cleanse in the hopes of avoiding surgery.

There is no specific gallbladder cleanse followed by all. Also, there is little evidence, which supports that gallbladder cleansing can be used as an alternative to medical treatments.

What are The Benefits of Gallbladder Cleansing?

Gallbladder cleansing is recommended to clear gallstones by a few natural and alternative medicine advocates. It is thought that doing a gallbladder cleansing helps in releasing the gallstones by the gallbladder. The gallstones ideally should pass through the stool; and when this happens then the patient will have lesser or zero gallstones present and thus can avoid surgery in this way.

There are different types of gallbladder cleansing along with various “recipes” and folk remedies available on internet given by alternative practitioners of medicine.(1) Some of gallbladder cleansing methods described in the journal of Alternative Medicine Review are :(4, 5)

Olive Oil and Lemon Juice: This method of gallbladder cleansing consists of not eating for 12 hours in the day time, and when it is 7:00 p.m. in the evening, drink one tablespoon of lemon juice and four tablespoons of olive oil, eight times every 15 minutes.
Gallbladder Cleansing with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

Vegetable Juice and Apple Juice: In this method of gallbladder cleansing, patient should only drink vegetable juice and apple juice until 5 p.m., after which one should drink about 9 ml of lemon juice and 18 ml of olive oil every 15 minutes until about eight ounces of olive oil has been consumed.

There are some individuals who also use enemas along with drinking lemon juice and olive oil to promote bowel movements. Enemas can have warm water or soap suds and this extra water helps in stimulating the bowels movements.
Gallbladder Cleansing with Vegetable Juice and Apple Juice

These are some of the methods of gallbladder cleansing which involves stimulating the passage of stool and can also lead to diarrhea.(1) Many of these gallbladder cleansing methods do not consist of making changes to the diet for more than a night or two.

Are There Any Studies Supporting Gallbladder Cleansing?

There is little research which supports the claims of gallbladder cleansing. Mayo Clinic says the patient may see lumps in their stool which look like gallstones; however, they are actually lumps of the juice and oil which is used in the cleanse method.

The Alternative Medicine Review says people who have done a gallbladder cleanse then had follow-up imaging scans to find out if they have fewer gallstones in reality or not.(4) It was found that the lumps resembling the gallstones did not consist of the usual common components of gallstones, such as bilirubin or cholesterol.

There was a study; however, done in the early 1990s which showed on the ultrasound scan that there were some patients who had lesser gallstones after doing a gallbladder cleanse. However, there are no important medical studies, which support gallbladder cleanse since then.

What are the Risks and Side Effects of Gallbladder Cleansing?

The side effects of gallbladder cleansing depend on the ingredients used for the cleanse.(6) Olive oil when used in gallbladder cleansing can have a laxative effect when taken in huge quantities.(6) Other side-effects which were reported after doing a gallbladder cleanse are: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Additional side effects depend on the herbs and other ingredients used in cleanse.

If the gallbladder cleanse is not successful in eliminating the gallstones, then surgery needs to be done to prevent infection of gallbladder and worsening of symptoms. At that time, they likely need to seek surgical treatment to keep their symptoms from worsening or their gallbladder from getting infected.

What is the Future for Gallbladder Cleansing?

Gallbladder cleansing still needs lot of research and studies for supporting its effectiveness. These type of cleanses are mostly folk remedies, which are thought to work in removing or reducing the number of gallstones.

Is there any way to Prevent Gallstones?

There are certain steps which can be taken to prevent gallstones and this consists of:

  • Eating healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  • Eating high-fiber foods.
  • Always eating a balanced and healthy diet helps. Consuming a very low-calorie diet increases the risk of gallstones.
  • Always avoid consuming high-fat foods, such as cakes, sweet and fried food items.


Doing a gallbladder cleanse can cause unpleasant side effects and symptoms, so it is advisable to always consult your doctor before starting it. Your doctor can recommend other types of medical treatment also. Taking the medication ursodeoxycholic acid, helps in disintegrating the gallstones. This medication needs to be taken for six months to 12 months for the gallstones to be completely dissolved.

If there are large gallstones present or gallstones, which are not made of cholesterol, then this medication most likely will not work. In such a case, then surgery will be recommended by your doctor, more so if the gallstones are causing symptoms.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 22, 2023

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