GALL BLADDER – Cholelithiasis

Gallstones are commonly found in the gall bladder and cause few problems. However, they may be the source of much discomfort if they become lodged in the bile duct.

Gallstones are found in approximately 1 in 5 women in the West and 1 in 10 men. They are generally made out of cholesterol, liver breakdown products known as bile pigments, calcium and other minerals or, most often, a mixture of the above. They are generally asymptomatic, sitting in the gallbladder quite innocuously.

Gallstones develop when the bile becomes too concentrated. This may also occur because too much cholesterol and pigment is being made. The former indicates excess activity by the liver on dealing with toxins in the system, and the latter indicates dehydration .

Symptoms, if they occur, are caused by the stones moving from the gallbladder into the bile ducts, causing obstruction and pain as they travel down the tubes. The absence of bile in the bowel because of the obstruction will lead to poor digestion causing abdominal distension, burping and flatulence, nausea and potentially vomiting. The discomfort is usually in the right side of the abdomen although it can radiate to the back, which is sometimes a tell-tale sign of gallbladder disease or gallstone obstruction. An experienced physician will be fairly accurate about the diagnosis but firm assurance can be obtained by using ultrasound.

Prevention of gallstones is much easier than treatment. Principally this is because a gallstone in the gallbladder is not a problem and the larger it is the less likely it will escape into the narrow bile duct tube. Treatments that reduce gallstones are therefore potentially hazardous and best left in the hands of complementary medical practitioners who can support and monitor the situation. As a rule of thumb, therefore, I recommend that anyone who has a diagnosis of gallstones through a screening test or who has had one attack should endeavour not to reduce their gallstones but to prevent further gallstone growth or formation.

Those who have recurrent or frequent attacks and who are being threatened with surgical procedures should come under the care of an experienced complementary practitioner, who will use specific treatments to reduce gallstones and at the same time encourage the patient to maintain a low-fat diet, thereby inhibiting any aggressive contraction by the gallbladder which may dislodge a gallstone. It is because of the need to be monitored that I have chosen not to mention the details of specific treatments, which if effective may reduce the size of the gallstone and lead to the potentially serious medical condition of a blocked bile duct and cholecystits.

There is a popular gallstone treatment called the olive oil liver flush. There are variations of this but they all revolve around an olive oil mix with lemon juice. Patients have proudly presented saying that they found green stones in their stool. This is not the case. What has been produced is a complex of minerals, fats and acid which form within the gut. The treatment is not a good idea. The extra oil can cause the gall bladder to contract and the oleic acid in olive oil may be a cause of gallstone formation.

See Cholecystitis.

For recurrent chronic gallstone-related problems, consult an experienced complementary medical practitioner for specific therapies.

Reduce the input of foods containing saturated fats, refined sugars, cholesterol and fried foods. Animal protein should be kept to a lean minimum. Increase the intake of fibre through fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps most importantly, ensure good hydration so that the bile is not encouraged to become concentrated .

Check for food allergies and vitamin E should be taken.

If an individual has had one attack or falls into the risk categories mentioned above, then the following compounds should be taken prophylactically on a daily basis per foot of height: phosphatidylcholine , choline and L-methionine .

When discussing the situation with your complementary practitioner, ensure that the following herbs are considered in the treatment: Taraxacum, Cynara, Scolymus and Silymarin.

There are pharmaceutical medications that can dissolve some types of gallstones but this has to be discussed with your GP and only as a last resort because it does not deal with the underlying cause or tendency.

Surgical intervention may be required and, at the time of writing, laparoscopic gallbladder removal is the favoured method. This avoids major abdominal incisions and reduces the length of time an individual needs to stay in hospital. Ensure that the procedure is performed by a surgeon with experience in this area.

One may be offered lithotripsy, a sound-wave procedure that shatters the gallstones. This is losing favour in some parts of the world because the small particles tend to reform into a larger number of gallstones. This would certainly be the case if the underlying causes of the predisposition, such as dehydration or overactive liver function, were not dealt with. Keep this technique at arm’s length.