Keeping Our Gallbladder Free From Gallstones
Have you ever had gallstones? Do you know someone who has gallstones? Sometimes people don’t know that they have already gallstones until they have all the symptoms.
The major disorder associated with the gallbladder is the presence of gallstones which vary in shape and size. They could be from a pea to a small pear or from tiny as a grain of sand to large as a golf ball. These gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of pebble-like material. The liquid bile helps the body digest fat and is made in the liver, and then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it. Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin—a waste product. If the bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into gallstones. Gallstones are most common in diabetic patients, in blacks, and in women. The presence of the gallstones in the gallbladder increases with age. There are two of the reasons for the growth of gallstones. One is the presence of excessive amounts of substances such as calcium and cholesterol in the bile. Second is the retention of bile in the gallbladder for a long period of time.
There are two types of gallstones:
1) Cholesterol stones - Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green in color and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They are formed when there is too much cholesterol in the bile. Aside from too much cholesterol, scientists believe cholesterol stones form when bile contains too much bilirubin, or not enough bile salts, or when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough.
2) Pigment stones - Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. They are formed when there is excess bilirubin in the bile. They tend to develop in people who have liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, or hereditary blood disorders—such as sickle cell anemia—in which the liver makes too much bilirubin.
Will Removing Your Gallbladder Make A Difference?
If you have gallstones without symptoms, you do not require treatment. If you are having frequent gallbladder attacks, your doctor will likely recommend you have your gallbladder removed—an operation called a cholecystectomy or Laparoscopic surgery, the most common treatment.
Fortunately, removing your gallbladder doesn't make a difference. The gallbladder is an organ people can live without but it is still better to have your gallbladder intact. Your liver produces enough bile to digest a normal diet. Once the gallbladder is removed, instead of being stored in the gallbladder, the bile flows out of the liver through the hepatic ducts into the common bile duct and directly into the small intestine. Because the bile now flows into the small intestine more often, softer and more frequent stools can occur in about 1 percent of people.
Who Are At Risk Of Gallstones?
1. Women - Those who have been pregnant are more likely to develop gallstones and those who are taking birth control pills or on hormone/estrogen therapy.
2. People over age 60 - As people age, the body tends to secrete more cholesterol into bile which hardens and become gallstones.
3. Hispanics, Native Americans, and Caucasians of Northern European descent are most likely to be at risk for gallstones. African Americans are at lower risk.
4. Overweight men and women - Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women.
5. People who fast or lose a lot of weight quickly on a "crash" or starvation diet.
6. People with a family history of gallstones, possibly because of inherited genes.
7. People with diabetes – They generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids may increase the risk of gallstones.
8. People who take cholesterol-lowering drugs or birth control pills.
You know that you have gallstones if:
• there is a steady pain in the right upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours;
• there is pain in the back between the shoulder blades; and
• there is pain under the right shoulder
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately:
• prolonged pain of more than 5 hours
• nausea and vomiting
• fever or chills
• yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes
• clay-colored stools
These symptoms may not mean you have gallstones. It might be you are only having a gallbladder attack. However, a gallbladder attack is often caused by gallstones. A typical gallbladder attack includes the gallstone symptoms such as persistent pain in the right upper abdomen, pain under the right shoulder, fever, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, restlessness, belching and indigestion. Many people with gallstones have no symptoms; these gallstones are called “silent stones.” These "silent stones" do not interfere with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.
How To Prevent Gallstones
If you can, try to avoid or eat less of these:
1. Beef, pork, butter and lard
2. Whole milk, soft and hard types of cheese
3. Mayonnaise and margarine
4. Rice cakes and pastries, white bread, beans, corn and nuts
6. Black tea, coffee, alcohol, especially cocktails and hard liquors
7. Colas and sodas
8. Artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives
9. Eggs should be avoided as they contain high amounts of cholesterol
10. Chocolates, candies, ice creams, desserts and sweets
11. Fast foods
Eat More of These
1. Steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, and brown rice
2. Broiled fish
3. Fresh vegetables and fruits as well as juices
4. Apple butter instead of jam
5. Yogurt or cottage cheese
6. Soaked and sprouted grains
In addition to gallstone diet, you should drink plenty of water, preferrably 10-12 glasses, and other fluids. Regular exercises are also important to reduce obesity and maintain normal weight.
Having gallstones may not be dangerous but they can make us sick, causing us unable to perform our daily routines. Let’s take care of our bodies and our health by avoiding gallstones.