A recent report says that in North America, more than 750,000 of surgeries are carried out to remove gallstones every year. In addition, around 10-15 percent of the adult American population has gallstones.
What is the Gallbladder and how does it work?
The gallbladder is a soft, flimsy, bag-like organ. Its size differs from person to person depending upon their eating schedules and diet. Most of the times, it ranges between the size of a small plum and a large apple.
Gallbladder stores bile in it. Bile is the digestive liquid produced within the liver. It has bile salts and other substances that help break down fats in our food.
Bile is transported to its target areas via a valve-like muscle that is our “bile duct.” It controls the transport of bile in response to eating. The bile duct valve is closed when we haven’t eaten anything. It opens up to release enzymes, secretions, and bile, whenever we have our meal.
Our body produces bile and other digestive secretions, regardless of the fact that we had our meal or not. Similarly, liver always pumps out extra bile whether it’s needed at the time or not. It continues to make bile that reaches the bile duct valve, but the valve stays shut until we eat something. Thus, the bile has no choice but to pour back into the gallbladder. This is the reason gallbladder acts as a digestive backup system. It catches the extra secretions and doesn’t let them interfere with the digestive process, until or unless they’re needed.
What are Gallstones?
Gallstones are tiny solid pieces of matter in the gallbladder. “Cholelithiasis” is the medical term for the condition. Gallstones normally constitute cholesterol particles, calcium deposits and other substances present in bile. They can vary in terms of size, shape, composition, and density.
Cholesterol, calcium and other particles are normally present in bile. In excess amount, these particles bind and become lodged in the gallbladder. This results in the formation of stones in the gallbladder that can even block the bile duct. This can lead to conditions like indigestion and back pain.
The gallbladder normally stores liquid material, so when solid stones accumulate it attacks them. This condition is also termed as “Biliary Colic”. It happens due to a gallstone temporarily blocking the bile duct and refers to when pain strikes in the abdomen area. The pain may radiate to the shoulders and last for an hour or longer.
What causes the Gallstones to form?
Bile has the enzymes required necessarily to dissolve cholesterol released by the liver. However, in some cases, the liver might excrete more cholesterol than a body can dissolve. The excess cholesterol builds up into solid pieces giving rise to gallstones. Other reasons that contribute to the situation include,
- Improper functioning of the bile duct valve
- Increased production of bilirubin by the liver, forming “pigment gallstones”
Bilirubin is a chemical to break down red blood cells.
How to treat Gallstones naturally?
Apart from medications and surgeries, gallstones can be treated naturally. However, the results may depend upon the severity of the case. Some of the natural measures to treat/prevent gallstones are as follow,
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Obesity or overweight contribute greatly to the formation of gallstones. Studies report high levels of cholesterol in obese people. Research shows that overweight people experience more inflammation and swelling within the gallbladder. A high amount of visceral fat around the organs also promote gallstones. Maintaining your weight within healthy ranges can keep gallstones at bay. It can reduce the dangerous levels of cholesterol within your body.
- Avoid rapid weight loss
People should lose weight in a moderate manner. They should avoid crash diets or fad-diet programs because losing and gaining weight over and over again has harmful impacts on your health. It affects hormones, digestion, immune system, and metabolism of your body. Rapid or abrupt weight loss also triggers deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances. It increases the odds for gallstone formation.
A recent research reports that people who lose more than three pounds a week have greater chances of developing gallstones. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases-NIDDK, low-calorie diets and weight loss surgeries increase the risk of gallstones.
- Follow a liver-supporting diet
Diet has major impacts on your corporal health. People should opt for healthy eating choices for a healthy body. People with gallstones should go for following kinds of foods,
Anti-inflammatory foods regulate the use of cholesterol within your body. It also lowers the high level of estrogen that may also contribute to the situation.
People can have high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and gluten-free grains for improved digestion. Processed foods must be avoided because they are low in fiber and high in sugar. They also contain artificial ingredients and inflammatory compounds that may cause increased production of stones.
Beets, artichokes and dandelion greens are great choices for a healthy digestion and improved bile flow breaking the fats effectively. For consuming fats, opt for easy, digestible healthy fats like fish oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. It supports your liver and helps a regular contraction and emptying of the gallbladder. Sprouted seeds such as flax, chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds also benefit the situation because they are digested easily and can reduce inflammation.
A vegetarian diet can also decrease the risks of gallstones. For a healthy, cleansed liver, remove the following foods from your diet as much as possible,
- Hydrogenated oils
- Lunch/deli meats
- Refined sugar
- Excess alcohol
- Farm-raised animal products or dairy products
All of these foods are difficult to digest and often pro-inflammatory.
People must prefer fresh, organically produced vegetables and fruits, grass-fed animal products, and potassium-rich foods like avocado, leafy greens, tomato, sweet potato, and bananas.
Acupuncture can relieve some of the pain from gallstones. Moreover, it reduces spasms, eases the flow of bile, and restores the healthy functioning of the gallbladder.
A small study evaluated the effects of acupuncture on cholecystitis in 60 participants. The results of the study reveal acupuncture to relieve symptoms and reduce the volume of the gallbladder.
It is a common belief that apple juice soften gallstones. A letter published in 1999 detailed an anecdotal account of a woman successfully passing her gallstones with the use of apple juice. However, there are no scientific studies that support this claim.
A study supports yoga to improve lipid profile in people with diabetes. Another study reports that people with cholesterol gallstones were more likely to have abnormal lipid profiles. Thus, yoga may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with gallstones. However, there is no scientific evidence which supports yoga against gallstones.
Avoid unnecessary medications
Birth control pills and other hormonal medications increase the level of estrogen in your body. It also influences the production and storage of cholesterol. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, states a statistically significant increase in the risk of the gallbladder in women who took oral contraceptives.
Thus, people must abstain from medications especially the hormonal ones, to prevent any kind of damage to the body.
People with gallstones should try the above-mentioned hacks in order to prevent severe conditions. These remedies may not treat the situation completely but they can relieve the symptoms in the best possible manner. However, in case of severe conditions, people must consult their physician and go for the relevant medical treatment.