Understanding Gallstones


Think of your gallbladder as a way station, a place where bile (a thick greenish-yellow digestive juice) from your liver is stored. When your body needs bile to help it absorb fat, the gallbladder propels it into your intestines. Bile contains a mix of cholesterol, calcium, and a waste product from old blood cells called bilirubin. If too much of one of these builds up, a crystals form, clump together, and enlarge into gallstones. A stone can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as big as a golf ball.

Odds are, you won’t have symptoms and will learn about your stones during another test ( a chest x-ray often includes the gallbladder). Although these ‘silent gallstones’ are generally harmless, sometimes they can create problems. If a stone tries to squeeze through a narrow duct from your gallbladder to your small intestine, you’ll have severe pain until it passes. A more serious condition called acute cholecystitis occurs when the stone can’t pass; this creates a blockage and sometimes even an infection in the gallbladder or the duct that is potentially life threatening. Acute cholecystitis will respond to antibiotics once the stone passes or is removed.

If you have an infection or a blocked duct, you’ll know it. Symptoms start with a pain in your upper right abdomen that may radiate to your back or right shoulder; and if you breathe deeply, it gets worse. When the pain comes in waves, it may be colic, meaning your duct is struggling to pass a stone. If the pain is more constant, and the whole area tender, acute cholecystitis may be the problem. Gallbladder flare-ups frequently occur after eating a large or fatty meal; bloating, nausea, and vomiting may also be present. Warning signs of a prolonged blockage are a high fever, jaundice, and a constant pain.

An interesting thing about a profile of an at-risk person is the five “F’s”: someone who is Fair (light complexion), Female (estrogen boosts cholesterol secretion), Fat (excess weight also ups cholesterol output), Fertile ( previous pregnancies), and older than Forty. Other risks include a history of crash dieting, diabetes, or an inflammatory bowel condition.

Medical Treatment

If you have gallstones but no symptoms, your doctor will probably recommend a wait-and-see approach. Most mild, intermittent symptoms respond to certain lifestyle changes, namely following a low-fat diet and losing some weight. If you’ve passed one gallstone and x-rays show that more are present, your doctor will likely suggest surgery. If you’re having symptoms of acute cholecystitis, with constant pain and fever, your doctor will want you hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics and pain control. For recurring attacks, or after and episode of acute cholecystitis that has “cooled down” with antibiotics, your doctor may well advise surgical removal of the gallbladder, a process now greatly simplified by laparoscopic procedures.

Natural Medicine

The top priority of most people who’ve passed a gallstone is to keep it from happening again. You can reduce the number of repeat episodes (and maybe even prevent them) by doing the following:

Watch your weight. An ideal body weight can help keep gallstones from forming. If you need to shed pounds, don’t lose too much too fast: Rapid weight loss increases gallstone production.

Reduce dietary fat and sugar. Both have been linked to an increase risk for gallstones. Instead, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; vegetarians infrequently get gallstones.

Drink plenty of water. At least eight glasses a day will help you maintain the right water content for bile.

Stay regular. Eating fiber-rich foods is always helpful. For occasional constipation, use a laxative herb such as psyllium.

Exercise. Researchers theorize that exercise is beneficial because it reduces blood levels of cholesterol. Try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise – jogging, swimming, biking, playing tennis, brisk walking – at least 3 to 5 times a week.

Inflammation of the gallbladder responds well to herbal remedies. The diet must be carefully examined and strictly followed: avoid all fatty and roasted foods and reduce all fats to an absolute minimum; drink alcohol only in moderation. A mixture that will ease the pain and reduce the inflammation can be made from:

2 parts marshmallow root

1 part dandelion

1 part fringetree bark

1 part wahoo

1 part mountain grape

This tea should be drunk three times daily.

With the extreme pain that often accompanies this condition, relaxing nervines such as Valerian might be useful.

Herbs can in some cases help the body to eliminate the stones with a minimum of pain. However, this may take some time. A good mixture is:

2 parts marshmallow root

1 part balmony

1 part boldo

1 part fringetree bark

1 part golden seal

This tea should be drunk three times daily.

The golden seal in this mixture may be substituted with barberry or mountain grape, as all contain very similar alkaloids.

The whole of the digestive system must be helped in a case of gallstones, so it has to be treated with the appropriate digestive herbs. If the nervous system is under stress, then it should be treated accordingly.

Have you been through the medical treatment of a gallstone attack? Have you had your gallbladder removed and want to tell others about your experience? Write a comment and give some feedback.


One Response to “Understanding Gallstones”
  1. drugs says:

    Excellent article , much useful information for itself has heard .
    Thank you Author!

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