Gallstones are present in 10-20% of the Western population and are more common in women
The gallbladder is an 8-10cm pear shaped sac located on the right hand side, 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 is one of the ways our body can excrete cholesterol and toxins and it also acts as a digestive juice that helps to breakdown the fats we eat.
Gallstones are formed when there is an imbalance in the normal composition of bile. If the bile composition is not correct then hard stones, made up of bile components, can form. These remain in the gall bladder and may form blockages in the duct through which the bile is excreted.
The presence of gallstone is often asymptomatic but if a stone causes a blockage to the exit to the gall bladder then 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 – If bile is not properly secreted then it can stay in the gallbladder becoming more and more concentrated. This makes it much more likely for stones to crystallise out. A typical symptom of decreased bile excretion is difficulty digesting fats, this can be confirmed via A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. Smart Nutrition could advise you on which foods and supplements could be used to maximise bile excretion and reduce the risk of gallstones
Low stomach acid – If the food leaving the stomach isn’t sufficiently acidified it won’t trigger the gallbladder to release bile. This leads to decreased bile excretion (See above). If you have difficulty digesting heavy meals and you sometimes feel like you have a meal still sitting in your stomach some hours after eating, you may have low stomach acid and should consider having A Smart Nutrition Consultation where we can help to assess and test for hydrochloric acid levels. Luckily low stomach acid is easy to correct nutritionally and this will not only lead to a reduced risk of gallstones, but a happier digestive system in general!
Poor dietary habits – Excess sugar, refined foods, dairy products and saturated fats, combined with a lack of fibre can all predispose you to gallstones. Smart Nurition can give you practical advice on how to alter you 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 people who are obese may produce excessive levels of cholesterol, which can trigger gallstone formation. If you think cholesterol may be a problem for you click here to find out more about getting your Cholesterol Levels Checked. Paradoxically, losing weight too fast can also triggers gallstone formation. For this reason it is best to consult a nutritional therapist before embarking on a diet as they can provide advice and support to ensure a healthy rate of weight loss.
Liver sluggishness and toxicity – The gallbladder is a storage house for all the toxins from the liver. If the liver is not working properly the extra toxic load in the gallbladder can lead to the formation of gallstones. Smart Nutrition could then help you to optimise liver function and reduce the load on your gallbladder
Stress -During stress our bodies are in fight or flight mode. This means the many other functions, such as digestion, partially shut down. This can lead to reduced secretion of bile, leaving it to concentrate in the gall bladder and form stones. If you think stress may be a contributing factor in your condition and you have other symptoms associated with poor adrenal health then An Adrenal Stress Test can help pinpoint precise imbalances that can then be targeted with the help of a nutritional therapist.
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 also decrease gallbladder movement, resulting in gallstone formation. You can carry out A Female Hormone Test to check your hormone levels. If oestrogen levels are found to be a contributing factor, Smart Nutrition could put together a diet and supplement programme to help rebalance hormones and minimise gallstone formation.
Food allergies and intolerances – It is thought that the ingestion of allergy-causing substances causes swelling of the bile ducts, resulting in the impairment of 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 you may want to consider having An Allergy or Intolerance Blood Test. Smart Nutrition would then be able to give you useful advice on reducing and eliminating problem foods from your diet, as well as ensuring you have lots of tasty alternatives.