The presence of gallstones in the gall bladder is called cholelithiasis. Symptoms usually attack after meal. It is most common among women and overweight people. Gallstones may cause severe abdominal pain or no symptoms at all. Rarely, gallstones may indicate gall bladder cancer.
1 Know what gall bladder is and how gallstones are formed
The gall bladder is a pear-shaped sac located on the right side of the abdomen, situated under the liver. The gall bladder stores bile, the digestive liquid produced by the liver. After a meal, the gall bladder contracts and releases bile into the intestines to help in the digestion of fats.
Gallstones form when bile contains concentrated amounts of substances such as bilirubin or cholesterol. They form either in the gall bladder or the bile duct. Your gall bladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile duct. The blockage is usually caused by a gall stone.
2 Why do gallstones form? Know the causes and the factors that increase the risk of gallstones
Gallstones vary in size and may be as tiny as a grain of sand or the size of a golf ball and these are generally due to:
- Excess biliribin in bile
- Gall bladder’s inability to empty the fluid
- Bile contains too much cholesterol
- Low bile salts
- Family history
- Taking medications to lower cholesterol or birth control pills
- Being overweight
- Taking a quick and easy shortcut to reduce weight
- Being female
- Age between 55 and 60 or above
- Eating a high-fat diet
- Being pregnant
- Being diabetic
3 Types of gallstones
Cholesterol gallstones: These are the most common type of gallstones which are composed mainly of undissolved cholesterol and other components. They appear yellow in color.
Pigment gallstones: These are black and brown in color and form when there is too much bilirubin content in the bile.
4 Symptoms of gallstones
Gallstone pain may last for minutes to hours. In many cases, gallstones show no symptoms and you won’t know you have them until they show up when performing tests for some other health problems. The symptom checklist below will help you assess if you have gallstones.
- Intense abdominal pain right under the breast bone.
- Pain on the right shoulder
- Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the back, particularly between the shoulder blades.
- Fever with chills
- Vomiting that does not stop and causes nausea
- Indigestion, bloating, and gas
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Pain that strikes after eating meals
5 Treatment for gallstones and when to see a doctor
- Abdominal pain is so intense that you can’t sit or find a comfortable position to relax
- The skin or the sclera (white part) of the eye turns yellowish.
How are gallstones tested and diagnosed?
Images of the gall bladder are taken
Doctors may suggest for an abdominal ultrasound and a CT scan to create images of the gall bladder which are then analyzed to look for signs of gallstones.
The bile duct is tested for blockage
Imaging procedures that use a contrast medium (dye) to highlight the bile duct on the images help the doctors determine if the gallstones are causing the blockage. These imaging tests may include hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). If gallstones are present, it can be removed while performing ERCP.
Blood tests are done to look for any complications
Blood tests are done to check if there is any infection related to jaundice, pancreatitis, or other complications.
6 Treatment and drugs
Surgery is done to remove the gall bladder. You heard it right. You need not worry; one can live without a gall bladder and can still digest his food. Bile directly flows from the liver to the intestines rather than being stored in the gall bladder. It may, however, cause diarrhea temporarily.
Surgical removal of the gall bladder is called cholecystectomy. Gallstones are recurring in nature, thus removing the gall bladder would be a better option. In this case, tiny incisions are made and recovery is fast; you just need to spend half of your day at the hospital following surgery.
High-frequency sound waves are targeted at gallstones to break them into tiny bits. Further medication is given to dissolve these tiny bits.
Oral medications are given to break the gallstones and kill the pain but it may take several months to years to dissolve the stones.
7 Treat gallstones the natural way at home
Apple and apple cider
Take 1 glass of apple juice and 1tbsp of apple cider. Mix them well and drink once a day. This is a simple and easy way to dissolve gall stones.
Pear juice and honey
Take 1/2 glass each of lukewarm water and pear juice. Add 2 tbsp of honey. Mix well and drink 2-3 times a day.
Beet root, cucumber, and carrot
Combine juices of all three ingredients in 1:1:1 ratio and drink twice a day to naturally recover from gallstones.
Drink water as often as possible. It is advisable to have 8-10 glasses of water every day.
Avoid gallstones by eating citrus fruits liberally, not skip meals, losing weight slowly, maintaining a healthy weight, including turmeric in your diet, and avoiding white flour, artificial sweeteners, and red meat.