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How the gallbladder works

This organ helps with digestion, but it isn't essential.

A pouch the size and shape of a pear, the gallbladder is located on your right side, just under the liver.

The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, which is produced by the liver, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. When you eat, the gallbladder contracts, releasing bile. The bile helps break down food, especially fat. The bile is absorbed through the intestines, taken back through the liver and deposited in the gallbladder until it is needed again.

The gallbladder also condenses bile by absorbing water. As it's condensed, the bile changes from a thin liquid to a yellow, mucus-like material with a high concentration of bile salts.

These bile salts play an important role in digesting fat, coating it so that it can enter the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.

Not essential

Though the gallbladder is important, it's not essential for life. If you have to have your gallbladder removed because of an infection or other complication, you can still function just fine without it.

Reviewed 7/22/2021

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