Staying Healthy

The humble gallbladder

We barely think about this digestive organ unless something goes wrong. But there are ways to keep it healthy.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch
  • Reviewed by Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

photo of a woman holding her side, experiencing gallbladder pain

In the hierarchy of digestive organs, you might first list the stomach, liver, or colon. But there's a pear-shaped sac tucked under your liver that barely gets a second thought: the lowly gallbladder.

This small but mighty organ plays an important role in helping us digest food, but we often don't acknowledge it unless something goes wrong — which happens in about 15% of American adults, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet gallbladder disease — which includes stones, inflammation, infection, or blockage — can lead to excruciating pain or even life-threatening complications down the line.

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About the Author

photo of Maureen Salamon

Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has … See Full Bio
View all posts by Maureen Salamon

About the Reviewer

photo of Toni Golen, MD

Toni Golen, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing; Contributor

Dr. Toni Golen is a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, practicing in Boston. Dr. Golen completed her residency training at George Washington University Medical Center in 1995, and is an associate professor at Harvard Medical … See Full Bio
View all posts by Toni Golen, MD

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