Gallstones and Gallbladder Disorders

Gallstones and other gallbadder disorders affect the gallbladder, a small sac-like organ located beneath the liver that stores bile made in the liver. The liver sends the bile to the gallbladder through a small tube called the cystic duct. During digestion, the gallbladder contracts and delivers bile to the intestines to help break down fats contained in the food. The most common problem associated with the gallbladder is gallstones, round-shaped stones composed of cholesterol, bile, pigments, and lecithin.

Problems associated with gallstones include acute cholecystitis, an irritation and infection in the gallbladder that is caused by a gallstone becoming trapped. Symptoms of acute cholecystitis are the abdomen becoming extremely painful, even to the touch, and fever. Recurrent attacks of this are called chronic cholecystitis, which manifests the same symptoms.

The gallbladder rarely gets inflamed without the presence of stones. Gallbladder cancer is another possible disorder, but it is extremely rare, occurring in only three cases per 100,000 people each year. Gallbladder cancer usually causes jaundice (yellowing of skin) and pain in the upper-right abdominal area, but it too is sometimes present with no symptoms at all.

What To Consider

Only about 20 percent of people who have gallstones experience symptoms; the rest are unaware that they have any problem. A common symptom of gallstones is pain in the right side of the abdomen and/or pain in or near the right shoulder or shoulder blade. Pain may also occur in the center of the upper abdomen, over the breastbone. In all cases, pain, wherever it manifests, is usually constant and progresses slowly. It rises to a plateau and then gradually decreases, usually within several hours after a meal and especially after meals containing large amounts of fat. Other symptoms can include nausea, a sense of fullness, belching, heartburn, flatulence, and vomiting.

Women get gallstones four times as frequently as men, especially women over 40 years old who are fair-skinned, and overweight. Twenty percent of adults over 65 years of age get gallstones that create problems and pain. Over half a million surgeries are performed each year to remove gallbladders due to gallbladder disorders, the most common being gallstones.

Constipation, food allergies (especially to milk products and eggs), digestive disorders (especially caused by a deficiency of hydrochloric acid), intestinal diseases, an excessively low-fiber diet, dental disturbances, parasites, rapid weight loss, and stress can all cause or contribute to gall stones and other gallbladder disorders. For lasting relief of symptoms, all of these factors must be addressed if they are present.

In order to make an accurate diagnosis of gallbladder disorders, ultrasound may be required. If surgery is required, typically laser surgery is used, which does not need to cut into the abdomen, and allows healing to occur much more quickly. However, most gallbladder surgeries can be easily avoided through nutritional and natural intervention, with emphasis on identification, avoidance, and treatment of food allergies.

Self-Care Tips

Diet
Identify and avoid all foods to which you are allergic or sensitive, especially eggs, milk, and dairy products. Also reduce your overall fat intake, keeping it below 20 percent of the total foods you eat, and eliminate all processed and hydrogenated fats. But do not cut eliminate fat completely, as this can actually increase your chances of developing gallstones. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, coconut oil) are the best fats to include in your diet.

Be sure to eat less, as well, since overeating places stress on the gallbladder. At the same time, don't skip meals, and especially make sure to eat breakfast. Also increase your intake of dietary fiber to improve bowel movements, and avoid refined carbohydrates, which can cause gallstone formation. Overall, eat less animal foods and move toward a vegetarian-oriented diet. In addition, if you are overweight, lose the weight, but slowly and sensibly.

Good foods to include in your diet are black cherries, pears, beets (raw and cooked), fresh beet tops steamed with spinach leaves, kale, and plain organic yogurt, as well as more raw foods in general.

Gallbladder Flush
Flushing the gallbladder of stones is a common practice of holistic physicians and is quite easy to do. For your first gallbladder flush, continue to eat a whole foods diet with almost no animal products and no processed foods. Drink plenty of raw, fresh apple juice or eat organic apples as much as possible, between meals, for six days. On the afternoon of the seventh day, have 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice. Drink all at once and skip your evening meal. Go to bed early (no later than 10 pm), and sleep with your right knee tucked up to your side. In the morning, you should eliminate the gallstones, which will appear greenish yellow.

Six months to a year after your first gallbladder flush, you can repeat the process.

Nutritional Supplementation
The following supplements can help relieve gallbladder symptoms: digestive enzymes with each meal, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, choline, inositol, lipotrophic factors, alfalfa tablets, acidophilus, lecithin, and the amino acid, L-taurine. Peppermint oil sipped in water throughout the meal can also be helpful.

Herbs
Combine the tinctures of wild yam, fringetree bark, milk thistle, and balmony in equal parts and take one teaspoon of this mixture three times a day. An infusion of chamomile or lemon balm can also be taken regularly throughout the day.

Hydrotherapy
Apply a hot pack to your abdomen and low back for 10-15 minutes several times daily, followed by a short period of cold application.

Juice Therapy
The following juice combinations can help improve gallbladder health: carrot, beet, cucumber, radish, and fresh dandelion roots, with a clove of garlic, or grape, pear, grapefruit, and lemon

Topical Treatment
Castor oil packs placed over the gallbladder can speed relief of symptoms.

Caution

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from gall bladder disease, seek the help of a qualified health professional immediately.

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