What is my gallbladder?

In summary, your gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located directly below and behind your liver. It is essentially a storage sack for the bile that is created by your liver. When you eat food, especially cholesterol and fat, your gallbladder contracts forcing bile into your small intestines. The bile helps break down, or emulsify, the fat in the food you consumed.

Where is my gallbladder?

Your gallbladder is tucked on the bottom of your liver on the right side of your rib cage. It is about 3 inches (8cm) long, 1.5 inches (4cm) in diameter when fully expanded, and has three parts: the fundus, body, and neck. Equating your gallbladder to a pear, the fundus is the “fat, bottom” part of the pear; the body is the thinner “middle” part of the pear; and neck is the “top and stem” that connects to the cystic duct. The cystic duct then flows into the common hepatic duct becoming the common bile duct.

How does my gallbladder work?

When you eat food and there are partially digested fats and proteins in your small intestine (duodenum), a hormone called cholecystokinin (or CCK, literally “to move the gallbladder”) is released. CCK causes the gallbladder to contract forcing bile into the duodenum to further digest, break up, and emulsify the food. CCK also encourages secretion of bile salts into the remainder of the biliary system.

What is bile?

Bile, or gall, is a fluid that is produced in your liver to help break down fats and lipids in your small intestine. It ranges between dark green and yellowish brown in color and is bitter.

Your liver can produce up to a liter of bile a day. Liver cells called hepatocytes produce bile which travels down several bile ducts inside your liver. Another type of cells in the liver, epithelial cells, insert bicarbonates into the bile making it more fluid and more alkaline. As bile is made it eventually flows into the gallbladder. While stored there, it can become five times more concentrated than in the liver due to absorption of water and electrolytes.


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