What is a gallbladder cleanse? Is it an effective way to flush out gallstones?
Answer From Brent A. Bauer, 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's 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 might see what looks like gallstones in their stool the next day. But they're really seeing 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. The ingredients used in a gallbladder cleanse can 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.
March 05, 2022
- Rakel D, ed. Cholelithiasis. In: Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.
- "Detoxes" and "cleanses": What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-cleanses. Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.
- Treatment of gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones/treatment. Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.