The gallbladder is a digestive organ on the right side of the body, under the liver. Its primary role is to store the bile that the liver makes. Bile is a fluid that the body needs for digesting fats. Sometimes the liver makes more cholesterol and bile salts than the body can use. This excess bile is stored in the gall bladder, solidifying over time, and forming small dark stones called gallstones.
The stones can be tiny, like a grain of salt, or as big as a ping pong ball. Stones are usually asymptomatic and may be discovered when undergoing tests for other health issues. The cholesterol stones are yellow or yellow-white, while bile salts form dark stones, called pigment stones.
Complications from gallstones
Gallstones are small stones made mainly from cholesterol that form in the gallbladder and can block the bile duct. The bile duct connects the gallbladder to the small intestine (the duodenum). This may bring on an attack or cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation). A gallbladder attack is excruciatingly painful. There may be severe pain in the abdomen, or the pain can be referred to the shoulder or between the shoulder blades. If the stone causes a backup of bile, medical treatment is necessary to remove the stone.
According to NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), between 10 and 15 percent of Americans suffer from gallstones. The risk factors include genetics, age, and gender, which are beyond your control. However, based on a study published in April 2012 in the journal Gut and Liver, obesity is a major lifestyle predictor of gallbladder problems. Therefore, start by keeping an eye on your eating habits and calorie intake. Another common risk factor for gallstones is ethnicity. Caucasian women over 40 are in the highest risk category for gallstones.
Prevention and Cure
There are many ways in which you can prevent developing gallstones. Some of them are listed below:
Change Your Diet and Lose Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight and diet is the best way to prevent gallstones. People with a higher body mass index (BMI) are more prone to developing gallstones, as obesity increases your risk of developing cholesterol-based gallstones. Therefore, keeping your BMI in check and maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sugar is best.
It's also important to avoid overeating, especially during meals. If you fall slightly on the heavier side or are obese, losing weight through diet and exercise is recommended. Even if you have never had gallstones or any other digestive issues, keeping your weight in check for your overall health is essential. You can do this through a combination of diet and exercise or by using a weight-loss treatment such as a low-calorie diet, medical weight-loss treatment, or bariatric surgery.
Avoid extreme calorie restriction or crash diets (less than 800 calories daily). Eat less fat and fiber-rich foods, including raw fruits and vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, whole grain cereals, and bran. A diet high in fiber and low in fat can aid in maintaining the fluid state of bile cholesterol. Avoid drastic fat reduction or elimination, however, as eating too little fat might cause gallstones to grow.
Consuming coffee has been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing gallstones.
Olive oil may help reduce the risk of gallstones if used in moderation (approximately two tablespoons daily). It has been shown that a component of olive oil can help lower blood cholesterol.
Foods to Avoid
Limit yourself to the good fats. Unfortunately, not every fat deserves a poor reputation. Olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids from avocados, canola, flaxseed, and fish and canola oil are all excellent choices for lowering one's risk of developing gallstones. People with high triglyceride levels may benefit greatly from consuming healthy fats and fish oil since this encourages the gallbladder to clear its contents regularly. Saturated fats, such as those found in fatty meats, butter, and other animal products, should be avoided since they raise cholesterol and the risk of gallstones. Substitute lean chicken, skim milk, and low-fat yogurt for high-fat options like red meat and full milk.
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are good sources of fiber. Gallstones can be avoided with a diet high in fiber from whole-grain bread and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins like peanuts, walnuts, and legumes. Almonds are a great weight loss snack since they satisfy your appetite without adding extra calories.
To lose weight, you need to stay away from sweets and starches. White bread, white pasta, and refined sugars have been linked to an increase in incidences of gallstones and gallbladder disease. Avoid sugary foods and seek low-sugar alternatives.
Don't be afraid to indulge in a cup of coffee. Forget giving up coffee in the morning; doing so won't help avoid gallstones. Caffeine may stimulate gallbladder contraction and the flow of bile, which may explain why coffee drinking was reported to dramatically lower the incidence of gallstone disease in 2015 research published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Monitor Your Portions of Fat and Cholesterol
Some people with a history of gallstones are also genetically predisposed to developing cholesterol-based gallstones. People with this genetic variation produce more cholesterol in their bile. They are more likely to have their gallbladder removed due to repeated bouts of gallstones. When you have this cholesterol-based type of gallstone, you should be careful with your fat and cholesterol intake.
To maintain a healthy diet, consume low fat and high fiber, which is also best to keep your cholesterol low. You can do this through a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
Drink Plenty of Water
Many doctors believe that dehydration is one of the leading causes of gallstones. When you don't drink enough water, your bile is thicker, more concentrated, and more likely to turn into gallstones. A lot of individuals don't get enough water in their diets.
Keeping a log of your water consumption is the greatest way to ensure you drink enough daily. To accomplish this, you may either keep a water journal or use a smartphone app to record your daily water consumption.
Be Careful With Vegetable Oils
While most are aware of the risks associated with consuming too much-saturated fat, less recognize that consuming an excessive amount of vegetable oils can also be dangerous. Some vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, and soybean, contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids.
These fatty acids can eventually turn into cholesterol-based gallstones in people with a genetic predisposition to them. It's best to avoid eating these vegetable oils and using them in cooking. Instead, eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Exercise
A positive family history of gallstones is a clear indication that you, too, are at risk of developing them. However, maintaining a good diet and improving your eating habits is one of the best ways to prevent the formation of gallstones. While it's essential to eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, being overweight can affect your health in other ways as well. Excess weight puts pressure on your organs and increases the risk of developing diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiac or heart diseases, and high blood pressure.
Regular exercise might help lower the risk of gallstones. And it doesn't make a huge difference how hard you work out. According to research in the Journal of Physical Exercise and Health in July 2016, both vigorous and non-vigorous physical activity was related to a lower risk of gallbladder disease.
Exercising for at most 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes five days per week, is recommended to enhance health outcomes and avoid weight gain, according to guidelines from the U.S. Health and Human Services.
The standard surgical treatment for gallstones is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The gallbladder is removed by a few small incisions in the belly. Surgery is quick, and healing time is reduced because the abdomen muscles do not need to be cut. Other methods can be used but are reserved for exceptional circumstances.
If, for some reason, the patient cannot have surgery, medicine can be taken to dissolve the stones. Another procedure uses shock waves to break up the stones for easier passage. Fortunately, the body can still function after the gallbladder has been removed. The liver produces enough bile for digestion. However, the bile goes right into the small intestine instead of getting stored in the gallbladder.
Lecithin, a natural ingredient used as a thickening in ice cream, mayonnaise, and other foods, has been linked in some research to a reduction in the formation of gallstones by inhibiting the accumulation of cholesterol in the gallbladder. Soybeans, oats, eggs, milk, peanuts, cabbage, and chocolate are just a few of the foods that contain lecithin. Most individuals get enough lecithin from their regular diet, but you may find lecithin supplements in pill or liquid form at food stores or pharmacies. If the label doesn't specify a dosage, 500 mg to 1 gram per day is typical.
NOTE: Choline, a component of lecithin, may cause liver damage or other health issues if consumed in excess over time. Before using any lecithin supplements, talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
Gallstones are common in people with a family history. However, there are many ways to prevent them. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight and drinking plenty of water is essential. You should also be careful with your fat and cholesterol intake and maintain a healthy weight. Follow the tips from Cured.com to stay in healthy shape and enjoy life, however, if you are suffering from gallstones, ensure to take your physician's advice before taking on any of these tips in this article. Your physician will make sure what treatment route is best for you so that you can feel better soon.From the Web