Gallstones are present in 10-20% of the Western population and are more common in women than men.
The gallbladder is an 8-10cm pear-shaped sac located on the right hand side of the body, under the liver. It stores and concentrates bile produced in the liver. Bile is a bitter, green alkaline fluid made up of water, cholesterol and special bile salts and pigments. It allows the body to excrete cholesterol and toxins, and it acts as a digestive juice that helps to breakdown the fats we eat.
Gallstones, made up of bile components, are formed when there is an imbalance in the normal composition of bile. These remain in the gallbladder and may form blockages in the duct through which the bile is excreted.
The presence of gallstones is often asymptomatic but if a stone blocks the exit to the gallbladder, pain and inflammation can occur.
Typical symptoms include:
- Severe pain in upper right abdomen and across chest
- Pain in the back and the right shoulder area
- Constant pain behind breastbone that shoots into the shoulder and back
Decreased bile secretion: bile can stay in the gallbladder and become more and more concentrated if not properly secreted. This makes it much more likely for stones to form.
A typical symptom of decreased bile excretion is difficulty digesting fats. A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Test can confirm this, and Smart Nutrition can advise on foods and supplements to use to maximise bile excretion and reduce the risk of gallstones.
Low stomach acid: food leaving the stomach needs to be sufficiently acidified in order to trigger the gallbladder to release bile. Insufficient acidification can lead to decreased bile excretion.
If you have difficulty digesting heavy meals or feel like you have a meal still sitting in your stomach some hours after eating, you may have low levels of stomach acid. This is easy to correct nutritionally – Smart Nutrition can help you to minimise your risk of gallstones, and experience a happier digestive system in general!
Poor dietary habits: excess sugar, refined foods, dairy products and saturated fats, especially when combined with a lack of fibre, can all predispose you to gallstones.
Smart Nutrition can give you practical advice on how to alter your diet to reduce your risk of gallstones or minimise their effects.
Weight problems: as weight increases, so does the risk of gallstones. This is thought to be because obese patients have large gallbladders that do not empty normally or completely. Researchers have also found that obesity may include excessive levels of cholesterol, which can trigger gallstone formation.
As losing weight too fast can also trigger gallstone formation, we recommend a consultation with a nutritional therapist before embarking on a diet. Specialist advice can support a healthy rate of weight loss.
The Cardio Check is an advanced blood assessment that measures how well your cardiovascular system is functioning, including looking at your cholesterol levels.
Liver sluggishness and toxicity: as the gallbladder is a storage house for all the toxins from the liver, a liver that’s not working properly increases the toxic load in the gallbladder, which can lead to the formation of gallstones.
Smart Nutrition can help you to optimise liver function and reduce the load on your gallbladder.
Stress: stress puts our bodies into fight or flight mode in which many other functions, such as digestion, partially shut down. This can lead to reduced secretion of bile, allowing it to concentrate in the gallbladder and form gall stones.
If stress may be a contributing factor in your condition and you have other symptoms associated with poor adrenal health such as low energy and poor immunity an Adrenal Stress Test can pinpoint precise imbalances. Smart Nutrition can target them with diet and supplement advice.
Imbalance in female hormone levels: increased levels of the female hormone oestrogen as a result of pregnancy, hormone therapy, or the use of hormonal contraception may increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement. This can cause gallstone formation.
A Female Hormone Test can check your hormone levels. If oestrogen levels are found to be a contributing factor, Smart Nutrition can design a diet and supplement programme to help rebalance hormones and minimise gallstone formation.
Food allergies and intolerances: ingestion of allergy-causing substances may cause swelling of the bile ducts, impairing bile flow from the gallbladder. This reduced flow leads to an increase in stone formation.
If you suspect you have a food allergy or intolerance, an Allergy or Intolerance Blood Test can investigate. Smart Nutrition can also give you valuable advice on reducing and eliminating problem foods from your diet, as well as ensuring you have lots of tasty alternatives!