The Gall Bladder and Rage
Watching a science programme the other day, the researchers had created a mechanised version of the human digestive system with which to study the process. Not so remarkable, except for the fact that it cost £1 million ($1.5 million) to create - which gives you some appreciation of how complex the various processes that take place during digestion are!
One of the organs involved is the gall bladder and, although regarded as non-essential by allopathic medicine, this organ is given pride of place in Traditional Chinese Medicine as one of the six ‘extraordinary organs’ and is believed to be crucial to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
What is the gall bladder?
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped hollow organ on the underside of the liver that stores and concentrates the bile produced by the liver. It contracts in response to hormones released by the small intestine when fat-containing foods are present.
The role of bile is to aid in the digestion of fats and also to act as a route of excretion for particles (eg: parasites) and fat-soluble toxins. The bile is bright green because it contains the breakdown products of haemoglobin and it is this that gives the faeces their dark brown colour.
Ideally, fibre in the foods present will absorb the bile and it will pass out of the body in the faeces. However, if the bile is not absorbed adequately or if the transit time is too slow, much of the bile may be re-absorbed further down the small intestine and sent back to the liver for recycling in what is referred to as the ‘bile loop’. In this way both the bile and the individual concerned can slowly and stealthily become more and more toxic over time.
Gallstones can form or collect in the gall bladder and the rest of the biliary tree (the duct system for transport of bile within the liver). Gallstones are most often collections of cholesterol although they can become mineralised. Almost all adults will have a thousand or more gallstones by mid-life and for much of the time these are asymptomatic. These may occasionally pass spontaneously with the faeces and can be seen as pea-like objects that float because of the fat they contain. Typically you may feel non-specifically off-colour when passing gallstones until the reason becomes evident.
Other indications of the presence of gallstones may include occasionally sharp or severe pain on the right hand side of the body under the ribs which may occur about 3 or 4 am in the morning. The stool may also be pale or float, and the individual may get referred pain to the right shoulder. Raised blood cholesterol levels may well be due to fats not being able to pass out of the body either because the gall bladder is not functioning effectively, gallstones are blocking the biliary tree or because of a lack of dietary fibre.
The conventional treatment for gallstones if they become problematic is either to attempt to dissolve them using medication, to break them up using ultrasonics or to surgically remove the gall bladder. Gallstones can be removed without surgery by performing one or more liver flushes as described in Chapter 16 of Chronic Fatigue, ME and Fibromyalgia: The Natural Recovery Plan.
Other problems with the gall bladder can include thickening of the wall and/or the development of various polyps or tumours and these affect approximately 5% of the adult population and are more common in men and in people of Chinese ancestry. Various other issues which may be harder to detect such as inadequate expulsion of contents, etc may also have important effects over time.
The TCM view of the gall bladder
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the gallbladder is paired with the liver and is regarded as being crucial to effective detoxification. It is a wood-energy yang organ that is believed to provide muscular strength and vitality. It is regarded as working with the lymphatic system to clear metabolic by-products from the muscles, thereby preventing muscular aches and fatigue.
Headaches and migraines – especially if one-sided – are regarded as being caused by an obstruction of the gall bladder meridian and are often accompanied by neck and shoulder tension. If the gall bladder energies are deficient, the individual concerned will tend to wake up suddenly in the early hours of the morning and be unable to get back to sleep. Other signs of underlying gall bladder problems include constipation, jaundice, shingles and feeling sleepy after eating.
The gall bladder meridian
The gall bladder meridian starts at the outer corner of the eye and traces a complex path over the side of the head before continuing down the neck, across the shoulder and down the side of the body to finish on the fourth toe.
Internally the gall bladder meridian passes inside of the chest, down through the diaphragm, spirals around the liver and gallbladder and then traces a path around the inside of the ribs before re-emerging. It makes connections with both the stomach meridian (in the jaw) and the small intestine meridian.
Muscles associated with the gall bladder
The two muscles that are related to the gall bladder meridian are the anterior deltoid muscles and the popliteus muscles. The anterior deltoid muscle is on the front of the shoulder and flexes the shoulder when the elbow is bent, for example in brushing the hair. This muscle rarely tests weak. The popliteus muscle is on the back of the knee and turns the foot and knee and flexes the leg. Much knee pain is actually associated with popliteus and the knees may either hyperextend if this muscle is weak or bending the knee can be difficult and/or painful.
On an emotional level, the gall bladder is believed to govern issues relating to courage, daring, initiative and decisiveness and this is recognised in the phrase ‘To have some gall’. Although the kidneys control drive and vitality, the energies of gall bladder give this direction. Weak gall bladder energy is associated with timidity, indecisiveness and being easily discouraged.
The gall bladder is also associated with rage. Rage is an extreme state of anger and is believed to be mostly a defensive primal instinct when threatened. Rage usually lasts until the threat has passed or until the person is incapacitated and is often accompanied by distorted facial expressions. However, true threats to survival are rare in modern society and rage tends to be felt when someone feels that their pride, position or dignity has been threatened. Evidence also suggests that people with low self-esteem may experience more feelings of rage and may feel the desire to harm others.
On a biochemical level, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated by rage resulting in large amounts of corticosteroids and adrenaline (epinephrine) being released. The effect of this is that the person becomes very focussed and can only process one thought at a time and cannot think laterally or clearly during an episode of rage.
Whilst to feel anger, frustration or dissatisfaction is normal, rage can be caused by a build-up of anger relating to past traumas and as such can become locked into our mind and bodies. This can be masked by the individual becoming overly dominant or depressed. People who experience a lot of rage are, of course, setting themselves up for high blood pressure and heart disease.
There are several points on the body that relate to the gall bladder, but most commonly there is a point on the side of the thigh about half way down where the middle finger naturally contacts the thigh when turned towards the body that may become very tender and sore. Rubbing this point can aid gall bladder function and if always extremely tender, indicates either an underlying gall bladder problem or ongoing issues with rage.