The gallbladder is a pearshaped organ that is located beneath your liver. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid that the liver produces, until the fluid is required to help digest dietary fats in the small intestine. Normally, the acidic bile prevents cholesterol from becoming too concentrated. However, if too much cholesterol is present in the bile, it crystallizes in the gallbladder, forming gallstones. These crystalline formations may be round or jagged, small as a pea or large as a Ping-Pong ball. Some people with the condition develop only a single gallstone, while others develop several.
Gallstones that remain in the gallbladder typically produce no symptoms. If a gallstone exits the gallbladder, it can cause pain and other symptoms. Gallstones usually begin producing symptoms when they obstruct the duct that leads from the liver to the gallbladder or the duct that leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Once lodged in one of these ducts, the stones may produce painful spasms and inflammation at the site of the obstruction.
Gallstones most commonly affect people over the age of 40 and are generally associated with high blood cholesterol levels. Women who have had
are also at increased risk. In fact, women, in general, have a much higher incidence of gallstones than men do.
Signs and Symptoms
- Intense and very sudden pain in the upper-right portion of the abdomen that may radiate to the right shoulder blade and persist for several hours
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Conventional Medical TreatmentWhile many people who have gallstones never experience any symptoms, some people experience a painful attack that alerts them to visit a doctor. To diagnose the condition, your physician conducts a physical examination (to look for jaundice) and feels your abdomen to determine whether your gallbladder has become obstructed and distended. A blood test and ultrasound examination may be necessary to confirm diagnosis.
Non-surgical treatment is less common now and usually limited to patients who cannot un dergo surgery. Laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder is the most frequently used treatment. Stones can be broken up by directing high-frequency sound waves at the gallbladder. This is called lithotripsy. Alternatively, gallstones may be dissolved with cheno-ursodeoxycholic acid.
While the gallbladder provides a useful service, it isn't necessary in maintaining normal body functions; the liver still can produce bile in the gallbladder's absence.
Complementary and Alternative TreatmentsNutrition and Supplementation
For gallstones, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with lemon or grapefruit juice and drink before breakfast and before bedtime. This treatment often helps eliminate stones in the stool. Your diet should contain 75 percent raw foods and include applesauce, fresh apples, eggs, beets, and plain organic yogurt. Other dairy products, fried and fatty foods, and refined white sugar increase the risk of gallstone formation. Avoid coffee (even decaffeinated), as it contracts the gallbladder and constricts bile flow.
To cleanse the system, drink as much pure apple juice as possible for five days; pear juice may be substituted on occasion.
Obesity is a risk factor. If you are overweight, experts recommend a sensible weight loss program created with the help of a medical expert. Do not go on a crash diet, which in itself may be a risk for gallstones.
Supplement your diet with the following on a daily basis:
- vitamin C (3000 mg in divided doses)-a deficiency can result in gallstones
- vitamin E (600 IU)
- lecithin (1200 mg)-aids in the digestion of fats
- choline (1000 mg)-aids in liver and gallbladder function
- L-glycine (500 mg, taken with water or juice)-important for the biosynthesis of bile acids
- taurine (1 g twice daily)-increases bile formation
- vitamin D (400 IU)-may interfere with absorption (Consult your healthcare provider regarding the duration of treatment.)
Ayurveda views gallstones as a kapha disorder of slow metabolism (including underactive thyroid). An Ayurvedic practitioner may recommend taking an Ayurvedic formula containing six herbs, including musta and shilajit, to help prevent gallstones by speeding metabolism. To eliminate gallstones, the practitioner may also suggest a liver flush of olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Note: Use these treatments only with the approval of your doctor and under the supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.
Bodywork and Somatic Pradices
Oriental bodywork therapies and reflexology are good first lines of action for these painful conditions. Include Reiki and Therapeutic Touch for extra loving care.
Numerous herbs are recommended for banishing gallstones, improving the flow of bile, and preventing the formation of new stones. Any of the following treatments are suggested by herbalists: Combine equal amounts of tinctures of wild yam, fringetree bark, milk thistle, and balmony, and take a teaspoonful of the blend several times a day. Drink chamomile or lemon balm tea or a combination tea of balmany and fringetree. To make any of the teas, steep 1 or 2 teaspoons of the herb in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes; strain.
Other beneficial herbs for treating gallstones include catnip, cramp bark, dandelion, fennel, ginger root, and horsetail.
Gallstones may respond to homeopathic treatment. However, the selection of a remedy-more than one is available depends on your symptoms and the stage of the condition. Don't try treating this disorder yourself. See a homeopathic professional.
To help prevent gallstones, drink plenty of water-8 to 12 8-ounce glasses-everyday. Water dilutes the bile and helps flush it from the liver.
If you're bothered by gallstones and have frequent attacks, try constitutional hydrotherapy several times a week: apply alternating hot and cold packs to the abdomen and lower back.
Traditional Chinese MedicineAcupuncture Acupuncture can be used to improve circulation to the gallbladder, thereby helping to prevent the formation of gallstones. It also can be used to relieve gallstone-related pain, inflammation, digestive problems, and fever.
Acupuncture points may include Gallbladder 34, Pericardium 6, Bladder 19, Stomach 36, Large Intestine 11, and related ear points.
Acupressure Acupressure can be useful in improving the flow of bile in the gallbladder and lessening gallstone pain. Points targeted during this treatment include Liver 3; Gallbladder 34; and Bladder 17, 18, and 19.
Chinese Herbal Therapy To improve bile flow and remedy gallstones, a Chinese herbalist may prescribe Corydalis Formula, Liver Strengthening Tablets, Minor Bupleurum Formula, Rhubarb and Scutellaria Formula, and Lidan Tablets. For gallbladder pain, Corydalis Analgesic Tablets are usually recommended.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga poses that help ward off gallstones by emptying the gallbladder include the Bow, Peacock, and Spinal Twist.