Gallstones are hard deposits of bile that sometimes form in the gallbladder. Usually you don’t even know you have them. But if these stones block the flow of bile, it can be heartbreaking. Gallstones to affect more than 30,000 Americans each year. You may wonder if you have gallstones. Here’s what doctors say: the causes and symptoms of gallstones and how you can get rid of them.
What does your gallbladder do?
Your gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right part of your stomach. It stores the fluid made by your liver called bile. Bile helps break down fatty foods. As you eat, your gallbladder contracts, causing the bile to drain from the gallbladder into the small intestine. When the chemicals that make bile get out of balance, gallstones form. The two types of gallstones are cholesterol or pigment gallstones.
Cholesterol gallstones form if there is too much cholesterol in the bile inside the gallbladder. These represent 80% gallstones and are often to blame for obstructions or inflammation in the gallbladder.
Pigment stones are made of calcium and a variety of other minerals. These stones do not normally cause gallbladder problems. But brown pigment stones, which are made up of calcium, protein, and cholesterol, can cause blockages and pain.
Gallstones often have no symptoms, but if a stone blocks the flow of bile, it can cause irritation and pain. Gallbladder attacks cause pain in the upper right part of the stomach. They often occur late at night after eating a large, heavy meal. If you have had a seizure, you will probably have more. Once the gallstones are clear of the bile ducts, the pain may go away.
If gallstones continue to block the bile ducts, they can cause complications, including
- Damage to your gallbladder, liver, or bile ducts
- Infection in the gallbladder or liver.
- Inflammation in the gallbladder.
- Pancreatitis or inflammation of your pancreas
If you think you have a gallstone attack, seek medical help immediately. Gallstones can be fatal if left untreated.
Who is at risk for gallstones?
You can be prone to this problem due to specific risk factors.
Women between the ages of 20 to 60 are at high risk of developing gallstones. Pregnant women are more likely to have symptoms, as are men over 60 years of age.
Your genes may play a role in the presence of this condition. If you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with gallstones, you have a higher risk of getting them.
Medical condition factor:
Certain medical conditions or lifestyles put you at risk for gallstones, including the following:
- Over weight
- Intravenous feeding
- Sickle cell anemia
- Liver cirrhosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Rapid weight loss
- Spinal cord injury
- Gastric bypass
- Sedentary lifestyle
Certain ethnic backgrounds are more prone to gallstones.
- Native Americans (Pima people have the highest gallstone rate in the United States)
- Northern Europe
- Americans of Mexican descent
Taking certain medications:
If you take certain medications, you are more susceptible to gallstones. These pharmaceuticals include the following:
- Oral contraceptives
- Medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Hormone replacement drugs
- Thiazide diuretics
Certain dietary changes put you in situations such as:
- Losing weight too fast
- Consume too much trans fat.
- Consume high glycemic index foods.
Gallstones often don’t cause any problems and are only found if a CT scan is done for something else. But if you have gallstones that are blocking a bile duct, there will be noticeable symptoms, including:
- Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, below the rib cage.
- The pain worsens within an hour.
- Sharp, knife-like pain radiating to the back or right shoulder
- The pain may go away for a while and then come back later.
If a gallstone gets stuck in the bile duct, it can cause serious problems. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or surgery depending on the severity of the gallstone attack.
Why are women at higher risk for gallstones?
Gallstones affect women more than men. This is due to a hormone estrogen that increases cholesterol in the bile and the hormones progesterone, slowing down the gallbladder’s ability to empty properly. Before age 40, women are diagnosed. three more times often than men. Estrogen therapy also increases the risk of gallstones.
How can someone prevent gallstones?
There are some simple things you can do to lower your chances of developing gallstones.
Eat a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Eat a Mediterranean diet reduces your chances of developing gallstones. Researchers say that parts of the world where people have a high consumption of olive oil are less likely to have gallstones. A Mediterranean diet includes eating:
- Lots of vegetables and fruits.
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy grains
- Olive oil
- Small amounts of dairy and meat.
- Red wine
Exercise is another key component to avoiding gallstones. A sedentary lifestyle puts you at greater risk.
Avoid fast diets
Strict diets in which you reduce your calorie intake too much or skip meals can damage your heart and gallbladder. When you lose a lot of weight quickly, the gallbladder empties slowly. This allows the accumulation of bile and cholesterol. Instead, choose to lose weight at a slower rate, usually 1 to 2 pounds per week, by eating a healthy diet and increasing your exercise.
Eat a diet rich in fiber.
Eating plenty of fiber is essential for lowering bad cholesterol. This not only protects your heart, but it also protects against gallstones. Eating high in fiber and low in fat keeps bile cholesterol in the gallbladder in liquid form rather than turning into hard stones. Fiber removes bile from the gallbladder and activates the digestive system. Choose high-fiber foods to eat, such as
- Wheat pasta
- Whole grain bread
- Integral rice
- Wild rice
keep a healthy weight
If you are overweight or obese, you are at risk of developing gallstones. The extra pounds enlarge the gallbladder, so it doesn’t work as well. This raises your cholesterol levels. This is especially true if you carry your weight around your waist instead of your hips or things.
Another natural compound that can help prevent cholesterol from hardening and forming gallstones. Lecithin is naturally found in certain foods, including:
You can take lecithin supplements, but be careful. Taking too much lecithin can lead to liver problems. So check with your nutritionist before taking it.
Do gallbladder cleanings work?
Gallbladder Cleanse is a popular remedy for removing gallstones. There is no evidence that a gallbladder cleanse can remove gallstones. These cleanses often involve a drink that is a combination of olive oil, herbs, and fruit juice. Cleansing supposedly breaks down gallstones and helps the gallbladder release them. Olive oil is a laxative, but doctors haven’t seen cleansers dissolve gallstones. People claim to see large gallstones in their stools, but they are actually drops of oil and juice that combine and are flushed out in the stool.
Cleaning routines can be dangerous. You may experience vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain while cleaning. If you think you have this condition, it is best to speak with your doctor to decide your next step. If you have a gallbladder infection due to stones, you need a doctor’s attention, which may be followed by surgery. The surgery is usually a laparoscopic outpatient procedure. They also use sound waves to break up gallstones.
For further guidance, check with your doctor before proceeding with this option.
You can live without a gallbladder.
If you need to have your gallbladder removed because of frequent gallbladder attacks, a gallbladder infection, or the risk of damaging your liver, don’t worry. You can live a healthy life without a gallbladder. You don’t need your gallbladder for digestion. Without a gallbladder, your liver will make enough bile to digest your food, and instead of storing the bile in your gallbladder, it will leak into your small intestine. You will not need to eat a special diet after surgical removal. But of course you must continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise for overall good health. Some people say they experience bloating and diarrhea after surgery. But this usually improves over time.
If you are the competitive type, it may interest you to know that an Indian doctor removed what experts believe to be the largest number of gallstones ever removed from a person. Dr. Makhan Saha remote a whopping 11,950 gallstones from a 51 female patient in 2015.
The largest gallstone in the world.
The larger gallstone in the world was removed from a 72-year-old woman in Trinidad and Tobago, a small area of twin islands off the coast of Venezuela. The gallstone measured 5 inches by 2.7 inches and was removed laparoscopically in 2020.
The best way to avoid gallstones is prevention. Eating a healthy Mediterranean diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight reduce your chances of getting them.