What is a gallbladder cleanse? Is it an effective way to flush out gallstones?

Answers from Michael F. Picco, M.D.

A gallbladder cleanse — also called a gallbladder flush or a liver flush — is an alternative remedy for ridding the body of gallstones. However, there is no reliable evidence that a gallbladder cleanse is useful in preventing or treating gallstones or any other disease.

In most cases, a gallbladder cleanse involves eating or drinking a combination of olive oil, herbs and some type of fruit juice over several hours. Proponents claim that gallbladder cleansing helps break up gallstones and stimulates the gallbladder to release them in stool. Although olive oil can act as a laxative, there's no evidence that it's an effective treatment for gallstones. Also, people who try gallbladder cleansing may see what looks like gallstones in their stool the next day. But what they are really seeing is globs of oil, juice and other materials.

Gallbladder cleansing is not without risk. Some people have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain during the flushing or cleansing period. Individual components of the herbal mixtures used in a gallbladder cleanse may present their own health hazards.

Gallstones that cause no symptoms typically require no treatment. If you have gallstones that require treatment, discuss proven treatment options with your doctor, such as surgical removal, bile salt tablets or sound wave therapy.

Apr. 12, 2012 See more Expert Answers