Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Rachel from Charlotte, NC. Rachel Wonders, “What is a gallbladder?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Rachel!
Have you ever had a stomachache? Most everyone has. Many things can cause an upset stomach—bad food, a virus, or even just hunger. However, pain in the abdomen isn’t always from the stomach. Today’s Wonder of the Day is about another organ that can make you feel under the weather: the gallbladder.
What is the gallbladder? It’s a small organ located just under the liver. When looking at a model of the digestive system, the gallbladder is pretty easy to spot. Just search for the organ that’s shaped like a pear.
You probably already know that your body’s digestive system breaks down food. Maybe you also know that stomach acid helps it do so. However, foods containing a lot of fat are often hard to digest, even for stomach acid. That’s why your body also creates bile.
The liver creates bile to aid digestion. Sometimes, the liver makes more bile than your body needs. That’s where the gallbladder comes in! It stores excess bile until it’s needed. When you eat food that contains fat, your gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine. Then, that bile breaks the fats down into fatty acids.
However, sometimes a gallbladder stores more than just bile. They can also contain gallstones. As their name suggests, these are hard, pebble-like objects. They form from cholesterol or bilirubin.
What do gallstones look like? They can be very small. A gallbladder can contain hundreds of them. However, gallstones can also reach the size of a golf ball. They may be yellow-green or dark in color.
Why do gallstones form? Experts are unsure of the exact cause. Still, there are several risk factors associated with gallstones. They’re more likely to form in people with unhealthy cholesterol levels or low fiber. Gallstones are also more common in women than in men. Another risk factor is having diabetes or liver disease.
How can you tell if you have gallstones? Often, you can’t. A lot of the time, they don’t cause any problems, so people don’t notice them. However, gallstones can sometimes obstruct the ducts that carry bile between organs. This can cause pain, fever, and nausea. It can also cause the gallbladder to become inflamed.
Can you live without a gallbladder? Yes! If gallstones are causing constant problems, a doctor may recommend solving the issue by removing the gallbladder altogether. When this happens, bile flows directly from the liver to the small intestine. The body will need some time to get used to this change, but it usually doesn’t cause lasting problems.
How can you keep your gallbladder healthy? What you choose to eat has a big impact on this organ. Be sure to get enough fiber and include healthy fats in your diet. It also helps to limit sweets and junk food. These tips can help keep the rest of your body feeling well, too!
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2,