What is gallbladder or liver cleanse (flush)?
Gallbladder flush recipes usually recommend fasting through the day, drinking a solution of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) followed by olive oil mixed with a lemon juice in the evening, lying down and then going to the toilet when having an urge for a bowel movement . This is supposed to result in the passage of the stones in the stool.
Does the flush work?
Some people who have tried gallbladder flush say they have found green, brown or yellow lumps resembling gallstones in the stool . Researchers have found that such lumps are made of fat and other components of the flush mixture and not of cholesterol, calcium or other typical components of gallstones . Also, after gallbladder flush, the lumps in stool are soft and float on the toilet water, while true gallstones are hard and sink in water .
How is the flush suppose to work?
Epsom salt, which is a laxative, is intended to clean the bowel before the passage of “stones” to better see them in the toilet.
It is known that oil, which is fat, stimulates gallbladder contraction , but there is NO EVIDENCE that it stimulates the passage of gallstones from the gallbladder.
A lemon or grapefruit juice, apple cider vinegar or other sour juice is intended to partially dissolve the gallstones before their passage, but there is NO EVIDENCE about such effect.
Some recipes recommend consuming several apples or glasses of apple juice per day for several days before gallbladder flush. A common explanation is that pectin (a type of fiber) from apples softens gallstones, but pectin from the intestine does not likely reach the gallbladder at all .
There is also NO EVIDENCE about the effectiveness of dandelion root , milk thistle , Oregon grape root , peppermint , turmeric (curcumin)  or other herbs in the stimulation of passing gallstones naturally.
Does gallbladder flush help to lose weight?
There is NO EVIDENCE about the gallbladder flush as a healthy method of weight loss. Repeated fasting and diarrhea due to a laxative effect of the flush could eventually result in weight loss, but this sounds more like an eating disorder rather than a reasonable approach.
Are there any other benefits of gallbladder flush?
There is NO EVIDENCE about the effectiveness of gallbladder flush in the prevention or treatment of any health condition.
Is the flush dangerous?
Gallbladder flush can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea, but there seem to be no reports of more serious side effects or complications [1,3]. Eventual herbs included in the flush may have side effects, too.
In Summary: Gallbladder Flush is a Hoax
The following speaks of gallbladder or liver flush being a hoax :
- The lumps passed after gallbladder flush appeared to be made mainly of fat while true gallstones are made mainly of cholesterol .
- There seems to be lack of reliable reports of gallstone disappearance proven by an ultrasound performed before and after the flush .
- There are photos of lumps bigger than 1 cm in the toilet after gallbladder flush, but the diameter of the cystic duct through which the real stones have to pass is only about 0.5 cm .
Can gallstones pass spontaneously?
Gallstones smaller than 5 mm may pass spontaneously through the stool, but currently, there is no known natural method to stimulate their passage [1,5].
- Moran P, 2007, The Truth about Gallbladder and Liver “Flushes” Quackwatch
- Sies CW et al, 2005, Could these be gallstones The Lancet
- Gaby AR, 2009, Nutritional Approaches to Prevention and Treatment of Gallstones Alternative Medicine Review
- Turmeric uses WebMD
- BMJ Publishing Group, 2016, Gallstones BMJ Best Practice
- Wirngo FE et al, 2016, The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes PubMed Central
- Milk thistle National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- Moga MM et al, 2003, Alternative treatment of gallbladder disease PubMed
- Fisher RS et al, 1987, Effects of meal composition on gallbladder and gastric emptying in man PubMed
- Turner MA et al, 2001, The Cystic Duct: Normal Anatomy and Disease Processes RSNA Radio Graphics