I’m not sure why, but the gallbladder vs heartburn conversation continues to surface so I thought it was time to record an entire podcast episode around it.

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Gallbladder vs Heartburn {Episode 52 with Erin Holt}

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Gallbladder vs Heartburn {Episode 52 with Erin Holt} agutsygirl.com #gallbladder #bile


  1. Gut Health Guide to Digestive Bitters
  2. 46 Carminatives for Digestive Health
  3. Erin’s website HERE
  4. The Funk’tional Nutrition Podcast
  5. Erin on Instagram HERE

Bile is an unsung hero.


Don’t Miss These Thoughts

  1. What is the gallbladder and the gallbladder function? Where is it located? And what’s its significant role in the body? Also, what does the gallbladder have to do with the overall digestive system?
  2. What are common gallbladder problems, and what does an actual gallbladder attack look like?
  3. How might one know the difference between a gallbladder issue and other health problems like heartburn, stomach ulcers, chronic acid reflux or just general stomach pain? What are the symptoms of each?
  4. What are the blood tests and other diagnostic tests for gallbladder issues?
  5. What are general dietary tips and/or dietary changes for those with inflammation of the gallbladder?
  6. Quick tip: take a digestive bitter at night before bed to help with a morning bowel movement.
  7. Are there typical lifestyle recommendations you have for gallbladder disease or general problems with the gallbladder?
  8. For severe cases of gallbladder disease that diet and lifestyle can’t fix, what is the solution?
  9. What is something Erin thinks people misunderstand about the gallbladder?
  10. The three things in Erin’s daily life she cannot live without.

“We can’t just rip out a whole organ without having downstream side effects.”


All About Bile

13 Things to Know About Bile gallbladder agutsygirl.com #gallbladder #bile

Erin shares a ton of wonderful information regarding bile. So I compiled a list of facts and information on bile.

13 things to know about bile

  1. Gallbladder stores bile.
  2. The liver secretes bile.
  3. It’s a greenish-yellow secretion.
  4. Contains mostly cholesterol.
  5. Removes toxins.
  6. Flow of bile is critical for stomach motility.
  7. In the digestive process, bile is critical for digestion of fats in the duodenum.
  8. We need bile for appropriate thyroid function.
  9. Helps to prevent leaky gut.
  10. Bile is a liquid. (“Bile consists of ~95% water in which are dissolved a number of endogenous solid constituents including bile salts, bilirubin phospholipid, cholesterol, amino acids, steroids, enzymes, porphyrins, vitamins, and heavy metals, as well as exogenous drugs, xenobiotics and environmental toxins.” SOURCE)
  11. The flow of bile is lowest during fasting, and a majority of that is diverted into the gallbladder for concentration.
  12. Bile contains bile acids, which are critical for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine.
  13. Bile has has the additional effect of increasing the number of fat-soluble vitamins the body can absorb.

Sources: HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Biliary Tract Risk Factors

Gallbladder stones are small deposits of fluid comprised of bile pigments, cholesterol, and calcium salts that range in size from a grain of sand to a large golf ball.

Common risk factors and possible causes for gallstones and a gallbladder attack include:

  • females – over the age of 40, and especially if you’ve had children
  • Mexican American, Native American, and Middle-Eastern descent
  • excess weight; and sedentary lifestyle
  • diabetes; metabolic syndrome + high insulin levels
  • taking estrogen (hormone replacement therapy, birth control)
  • rapid weight loss


13 Things to Know About Bile gallbladder agutsygirl.com #gallbladder #bile #gallstones

Symptoms of gallstones, biliary tract problems

  1. bile “sludge” seen via an ultrasound (gallstone)
  2. inability to digest fats, fatty foods, and greasy foods
  3. bloated, distended, burping
  4. fish oil then burping
  5. upper back pain (between the shoulder blades)
  6. dry, itchy skin (red palms)
  7. low Vitamin D and unable to increase it
  8. toilet signs:
    1. clay colored
    2. floating stools
    3. oil slick on top

Gallbladder and Heartburn

“It’s very hard to diagnose digestive issues based off symptoms alone.”


Problems with the gallbladder and heartburn can co-exist, and they oftentimes do. With both, you’re likely to experience upper abdominal pain.

But the two conditions are different.

Acid reflux is a common condition in which acidic gastric fluid flows backward into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn (i.e. acid flowing backwards instead of forwards as it should).

Heartburn brings pain to the upper abdomen (can be so severe that the chest pain is mistaken for a heart attack).

And remember, while reflux is a stomach acid issue, it’s not always because there is too much stomach acid.

You can learn all about Acid Reflux HERE.

When it comes to the gallbladder vs heartburn, here are the main differences:

  1. Location
  2. The condition itself
  3. Timing of pain
  4. Foods that trigger pain

Sources: HERE, and HERE

Regardless, both conditions can result in everything from a general upset stomach to severe abdominal pain.

Risk Factors, Gallbladder Removal

In order to find pain relief for serious problems concerning the gallbladder, your healthcare provider may recommend a gall bladder removal surgery.

If there is an inflamed gallbladder and it’s removed, the problem will sometimes completely alleviate and abdominal discomfort can minimize.

However, when the gallbladder is removed, the biliary tract is essentially re-routed to common bile ducts. And therefore, as Erin states:

“Taking out the gallbladder doesn’t automatically fix the problems.”

Diet + Lifestyle Recommendations

During the show, these are some of the diet and lifestyle recommendations Erin discusses:

  1. Digestive enzymes with fatty meals (lipase – helps break down fat)
  2. Ox Bile (replaces bile for you)
  3. Bitter foods – help tone the lower esophageal sphincter
  4. Digestive Bitters
    1. endive
    2. radicchio
    3. fruit rind (the white part)
    4. dandelion root tea
    5. turmeric
    6. cacao
    7. curcumin
    8. watercress
    9. dandelion greens
    10. coffee (as long as you taste the bitter notes vs. a coffee filled with sugar)
    11. ginger
    12. beet greens
    13. sunflower lecithin
    14. green tea
    15. milk thistle
    16. beets
    17. phosphatidylcholine
  5. Be sure to control insulin

More from A Gutsy Girl

Want to learn even more about the gut and ways to heal it?

Learn all the secrets via my signature book, A Gutsy Girl’s Bible: a 21-day approach to healing the gut. Grab your copy on Amazon HERE.

  1. Welcome to A Gutsy Girl Podcast
  2. Hang out on Instagram
  3. BFF’s on YouTube
  4. Free resource: The Master Gutsy Spreadsheet
  5. Rated-G Email Club

Wrap Up

Time to wrap this up. As always, a huge goal for this show is to connect with even more people. Feel free to send an email to our team at podcast@agutsygirl.com. We want to hear questions, comments, show ideas, etc.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

Bio: Erin Holt

Erin Holt is a board-certified integrative and functional nutritionist with a feisty attitude and over a decade of clinical experience.

She blends evidence-based practices, functional lab testing, energy medicine, boundary setting & humor for a unique and customized approach to women’s health.

She dives deep with women to get to the root cause of their health issues and finally get answers to their mystery symptoms.

In addition to running multiple online nutrition & functional medicine programs, Erin is the founder of the Funk’tional Nutrition Academy, a 14 month practitioner training and mentorship helping nutrition pros level up with functional medicine methodologies.

You can find Erin rabble-rousing on her weekly show, The Funk’tional Nutrition Podcast.

If you liked this episode, you might also enjoy:

  1. Acid Reflux vs Gastritis {Episode 42 with Jade Etter}
  2. Can Acid Reflux Cause Sinus Problems {+ 4 more gut-sinus connections}
  3. Food Sensitivities {Episode 38 with Erin Holt}


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