Gallstones and Gallbladder Disorders

A pregnant friend of mine was found to have a gallbladder full of gallstones. Scheduled for immediate surgery, she promptly did a liver cleanse and avoided surgery. Three years later, after doing the liver cleanse and pregnant again scheduled for surgery, a sonogram revealed that she was still free of gallstones. It was this story that prompted me to write this article about the subject – enlightening both the writer and the reader.

I will discuss gallstones in the following order:

  • Definition
  • Types
  • Symptoms
  • Cause
  • Natural Cures

Definition

Gallstones and other gallbladder disorders affect the gallbladder, a small sac-like organ located beneath the liver that stores bile made in the liver. The bile, originally produced in the liver, emulsifies fats in partly digested food. During storage in the gallbladder, bile becomes more concentrated which increases its potency and intensifies its effect on fats.

People can go for years with digestive symptoms and never realize that they may be related to a gallbladder problem. That’s because they are so inter-woven with other digestive symptoms such as indigestion, gas, bloating and constipation.

Types

The most common problem associated with the gallbladder is gallstones, round-shaped stones composed of cholesterol, bile, pigments, and lecithin. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. These gallstones can exist for years without symptoms, but eventually can cause blockages or damage. This can cause extreme digestive symptoms and pain.

Under health conditions the liquid, called bile, is used to help the body digest fats. Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, and bilirubin. Bile salts break up fat, and bilirubin gives bile and stool a brownish color. Bile is made in the liver, and then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs to digest fat. At that time, the gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube, called a duct, which carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion. If the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into stones.

Problems associated with gallstones include acute cholecystitis, an irritation and infection in the gallbladder that is caused by a gallstone becoming trapped. Symptoms of acute cholecystitis are the abdomen becoming extremely painful, even to the touch, and fever. Recurrent attacks of this are called chronic cholecystitis, which manifests the same symptoms.

While extremely rare, gallbladder cancer is another possible disorder, occurring in only 3 cases per 100,000 people each year. Gallbladder cancer usually causes jaundice (yellowing of skin) and pain in the upper-right abdominal area, but is sometimes present with no symptoms at all.

Symptoms

Only about 20% of people who have gallstones experience symptoms; the rest are unaware of the problem. A common symptom of gallstones is pain in the right side of the abdomen and/or pain in or near the right shoulder or shoulder blade. Pain may also occur in the center of the upper abdomen, over the breastbone. In all cases, pain, wherever it manifests, is usually constant and progresses slowly. It rises to a plateau and then gradually decreases, usually within several hours after a meal and especially after meals containing large amounts of fat. Other symptoms can include nausea, a sense of fullness, belching, heartburn, flatulence, and vomiting.

When symptoms do occur, it’s usually because the gallstone has moved and become lodged within a duct that carries bile. The typical symptom is abdominal pain, perhaps accompanied by nausea, indigestion, or fever. Stones can also clog the common bile duct, which carries bile into the small intestine, and the hepatic ducts, which take bile out of the liver.

  • Pain or tenderness under the rib cage on the right side
  • Pain between shoulder blades
  • Stools light or chalky colored
  • Indigestion after eating, especially fatty or greasy foods
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Burping or belching
  • Feeling of fullness or food not digesting
  • Diarrhea (or alternating from soft to watery)
  • Constipation
  • Headache over eyes, especially right
  • Bitter fluid comes up after eating
  • Frequent use of laxatives

Cause

Toxins overloading into your system from chemicals, additives, processed and junk foods, as well as excessive saturated animal fat in the diet, contribute to gallbladder problems. If the liver becomes overloaded with excess saturated fats, the gallbladder gets stressed and inflamed. This excess of saturated fats becomes cholesterol deposits and when enough have formed, they crystallize with the bile to form gallstones.

Women get gallstones 4 times as frequently as men, especially women over 40 years old who are fair-skinned, and overweight. 20% of adults over 65 years of age get gallstones that create problems and pain. Over 500,000 surgeries are performed each year to remove gallbladders due to gallbladder disorders, the most common being gallstones.

Constipation, food allergies (especially to milk products and eggs), digestive disorders (especially caused by a deficiency of hydrochloric acid), intestinal diseases, an excessively low-fiber diet, dental disturbances, parasites, rapid weight loss, and stress can all cause or contribute to gall stones and other gallbladder disorders. For lasting relief of symptoms, all of these factors must be addressed if they are present.

Natural Cures

Note: In order to make an accurate diagnosis of gallbladder disorders, ultrasound may be required. If surgery is required, typically laser surgery is used, which does not need to cut into the abdomen, and allows healing to occur much more quickly. However, most gallbladder surgeries can be easily avoided through nutritional and natural intervention, such as the Liver Cleanse, with emphasis on identification, avoidance, and treatment of food allergies.

Diet: Identify and avoid all foods to which you are allergic or sensitive, especially eggs, milk and gluten, wheat and dairy products. Also reduce your saturated and overall fat intake, keeping it below 20% of the total foods you eat, and eliminate all processed and hydrogenated fats. But do not cut fat completely, as this can actually increase your chances of developing gallstones. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, coconut oil) are the best fats to include in your diet.

Be sure to eat less, since overeating places stress on the gallbladder. At the same time, be sure to eat breakfast, don’t skip meals, and eat a balanced and healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and other vegetarian sources of protein. Increase your intake of dietary fiber to improve bowel movements, and avoid refined carbohydrates, which can cause gallstone formation. Overall, eat less animal foods, remove processed foods and move toward a whole foods vegetarian-oriented diet. If you are overweight, lose the weight, but slowly and sensibly.

Good foods to include in your diet are black cherries, pears, beets (raw and cooked), fresh steamed and water sautéed greens such as beet tops collards, kale, plenty of steamed broccoli and cauliflower, snack on seasonal fruits, eat plain organic yogurt, as well as more raw foods in general.

Liver Cleanse: A liver cleanse is a common natural cure. It is quite easy. The method used by my pregnant friend to rid her of gallstones, was easy and effective.

Herbs: Combine the tinctures of wild yam, fringetree bark, milk thistle, and balmony in equal parts and take one teaspoon of this mixture three times a day. An infusion of chamomile or lemon balm can also be taken regularly throughout the day.

Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is the application of water, ice, steam and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Treatments include full body immersion, steam baths, saunas, sitz baths, colonic irrigation and the application of hot and/or cold compresses. Hydrotherapy is effective for treating a wide range of conditions and can easily be used in the home as part of a self-care program. We suggest several at-home hydrotherapy treatments. Please seek the advice of your alternative health care practitioner before undergoing these procedures to make sure they are appropriate for you. *Purified water is essential for any hydrotherapy treatment. Remedies for Treating Chlorinated Bath Water offers clear instructions and recommendations.

Juice Therapy: The following juice combinations can help improve gallbladder health: carrot, beet, cucumber, radish, and fresh dandelion roots, with a clove of garlic; or grape, pear, grapefruit, and lemon.

Lifestyle: Choose non-toxic cleaning supplies and personal body care products.

Nutritional Supplementation: The following supplements can help relieve gallbladder symptoms: digestive enzymes with each meal, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, choline, inositol, lipotrophic factors, alfalfa tablets, acidophilus, lecithin, and the amino acid, L-taurine. Peppermint oil sipped in water throughout the meal can also be helpful.

Topical Treatment: Castor oil packs placed over the gallbladder can speed relief of symptoms.

Alternative Professional Care

If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional. The following professional care therapies have all been shown to be useful for treating gallstones and gallbladder disorders: Acupuncture, Detoxification Therapy, Environmental Medicine, Magnetic Field Therapy, Naturopathic Medicine, Neural Therapy, and Osteopathy.