Why the Liver and Gallbladder Matter for Your Hormonal Health

Melissa Blake, ND, the Metagenics InstituteAuthor: Lily Mazzarella

Photo credit: Melissa Blake, ND, the Metagenics Institute

Feeling hormonally out of whack?  Your liver and gallbladder might be asking for help.
The liver, our largest internal organ, orchestrates a myriad of biochemical processes essential for life. One of its lesser-known but critically important roles is in the metabolism of hormones. The liver acts as a wise gatekeeper, regulating the levels of various hormones circulating in the bloodstream, including insulin, estrogen, thyroid, and stress hormones.

The Liver’s Role in Hormonal Processing

Hormonal detoxification in the liver involves two main phases. In Phase I, hormones (sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and stress hormones like cortisol) are modified through the processes of oxidation, reduction, or hydrolysis, making them ready for the next phase. Phase II, known as conjugation, further transforms these hormones into water-soluble forms that can be excreted through the bile or urine. What we eat matters tremendously for these processes, as all phases of detoxification are entirely nutrient dependent.  The liver also produces a hormone carrying protein called “SHBG”, or Sex-Hormone Binding Globulin, which influences the levels of active forms of hormones circulating in our blood streams.  

Emotional signs of a liver out-of-balance that we associate with hormones include anger, irritability, mood swings, depression, and a feeling of “stuckness.” 

How the Gallbladder Helps

The gallbladder, a small but incredibly tough little organ nestled beneath the liver, plays a crucial role in this process: the gallbladder’s handling of bile is essential for the excretion of the hormone metabolites processed by the liver. 

The GB stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver, releasing it into the small intestine when we eat (or take herbal bitters!) to aid in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. The bile, which is quite caustic, acts as an “internal laxative” and triggers bowel movements (it is also what lends a brown color to our bowel movements).  When the gallbladder is sluggish, not enough bile is ejected into the intestines, and we can end up constipated, nauseous  and with a sense of “fullness” in the upper right quadrant of our abdomens.  If we’re constipated for other reasons, we can actually reabsorb broken down hormone metabolites from the stool, leading to imbalance.  

Emotional signs of gallbladder imbalance include feelings of rage and indecision, a very uncomfortable combo.  

The Impact of Liver and Gallbladder Dysfunction on Hormonal Balance

When the liver or gallbladder is not functioning optimally, the delicate balance of hormones can be disrupted. A sluggish liver may struggle to effectively metabolize hormones, leading to an accumulation that can manifest in various health issues, such as PMS, mood swings, skin eruptions, low energy, sleep disturbance and perimenopausal chaos. Similarly, gallbladder issues can impede bile flow, hindering the excretion of hormone metabolites and contributing to similar imbalances.  Conversely, high hormone levels, as in pregnancy or estrogen dominant states, can lead to thickened bile and impaired gallbladder motility–which can lead to the formation of gallstones or “sludge.”

Nurturing Liver and Gallbladder Health for Hormonal Harmony

Supporting liver and gallbladder health is pivotal for maintaining hormonal balance. This can be achieved through a diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats and “liver herbs” such as burdock, dandelion (greens or root), artichokes, and turmeric, which all support liver function and bile production. Regular physical activity and avoiding excessive sugar, alcohol and exposure to toxins can also bolster liver health. For the gallbladder, incorporating foods that stimulate bile flow, such as lemon, beets, artichokes, and leafy greens, as well as digestive bitters can be beneficial. 

This is a great time of year to lighten your liver’s load with the Happy Liver Detox.  Download the guide for free here, or if you’re like me and love paper, you can get our cute little guide here.  

View the Happy Liver Detox collection here.

View the Liver Support collection here



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