Diet for Gallstones

About Gallstones

They are pebble-like solid structures that get deposited inside the gallbladder, a four-inch sac located under the liver. They are formed from bile, a fluid that is composed of bile salts, water, cholesterol, and lecithin. Thus, they form wherever there is bile – in the common bile, intrahepatic, cystic and hepatic ducts. They can be as huge as a golf ball (sometimes filling the gallbladder) or as tiny as a particle of sand. They may grow over the years and they may be one or many.

Classes

They can be classified into the following categories:

  1. Asymptomatic Gallstones – They do not show any symptoms.
  2. Uncomplicated Gallstones – They are small-sized stones that travel within the gallbladder and show less severe complications.
  3. Complicated Gallstones – They are large-sized stones that show severe complications.

Types

They are of two main types, as given below:

  1. Stones made of Cholesterol – These are the most common type.
  2. Stones made of Bilirubin – They are called pigment stones.

Causes

They are caused because of the following reasons:

  1. Medical conditions, such as chronic Hemolytic Anemia and Sickle Cell Anemia, which cause the liver to produce too much Bilirubin
  2. Oral contraceptives
  3. Medical conditions, such as primary Biliary Cirrhosis, primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, and Obstetric Cholestasis, that affect the flow of bile
  4. Biliary Tract infections
  5. Solid Organ transplant or Bone Marrow transplant
  6. Abdominal operation
  7. High-dose Oestrogen therapy
  8. Diabetes
  9. Weak immune system
  10. Obesity
  11. Digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or metabolic syndromes
  12. Spinal injuries
  13. Rapid weight loss due to a very low-calorie diet, weight-loss surgery, such as Gastric Banding, or after Bariatric surgery.
  14. Old age
  15. Improper functioning of the gallbladder while emptying the bile. This is more common during pregnancy
  16. Hereditary reasons
  17. Decreased flow of bile (Bile Stasis), which occurs because of fasting for long periods, during which there is less requirement of bile
  18. Diuretic Thiazide drug
  19. Intravenous feedings for a long period of time
  20. Liver Cirrhosis
  21. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as Clofibrate (Atromid-S) and Gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  22. Cholesterol

Note – They are more common in women, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Effects

Some of the serious cases can lead to the following effects.

  1. Deaths, though they are very rare
  2. Severe inflammation of the Gallbladder (Acute Cholecystitis)
  3. Gallbladder cancer
  4. Inflammation of the Bile Ducts (Acute Cholangitis)
  5. Bile Duct Cancer
  6. Inflammation of the Pancreas (Acute Pancreatitis)
  7. Tissue death (Necrosis) in the Gallbladder
  8. Perforation and abscess formation
  9. Bowel obstruction
  10. Pus (Empyema) in the Gallbladder

Signs and Symptoms

The following are the commonly noticed symptoms of this disease.

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Discomfort
  4. Biliary Colic (Biliary pain)
  5. Cholangitis (infection of the Bile Duct)
  6. Tenderness in the upper right abdomen
  7. Chronic Cholecystitis (chronic Gallbladder disease)
  8. Gallstone Pancreatitis (Biliary Pancreatitis)
  9. Choledocholithiasis (Bile Duct stones)
  10. Clay-colored stools
  11. Jaundice
  12. Chills
  13. Fever

Note – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pneumonia, Acute Appendicitis, Hiatal Hernia, Stomach Ulcers, Kidney Infections, Hepatitis, Pancreatitis, and even a Heart Attack, are the health conditions that have some of the similar symptoms as Gallbladder disease. They may mimic a Gallbladder attack. Therefore, it is important to visit a physician immediately if the symptoms occur.

Prevention

They cannot be prevented in most cases. However, people who are obese can avoid rapid weight loss in order to prevent them.

Maintaining a normal weight is the key to reducing the risk of stones. According to a study, the intake of a very low calorie diet, with modest amounts of monounsaturated fats, may reduce the risk of Gallstone formation.

Apart from this, exercising regularly and vigorously may also help to reduce the risk of Gall bladder disease. According to a study, people who performed endurance-type exercises, such as running, jogging, brisk walking, and racquet sports, for 30 minutes, 5 times a week had a reduced risk of Gallbladder disease. The benefits depend more on the intensity of the exercise than the type of exercise.

Diagnosis

A physical examination is done in order to check whether there is any tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen. The area is tender in Biliary Colic and Acute Cholecystitis. It is not tender in Chronic Cholecystitis.

Some of the ways to diagnose this disease include imaging techniques, and other laboratory tests, as given below:

  1. Abdominal Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
  2. Abdominal Ultrasound
  3. Gallbladder Radionuclide Scan
  4. Endoscopic Ultrasound
  5. Cholescintigraphy (Hepatobiliary Scan or HIDA Scan or Nuclear Gallbladder Scan, or DISIDA Scan)
  6. Oral Cholecystography (OCG)
  7. Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP)
  8. Magnetic Resonance Cholangio-Pancreatography (MRCP)
  9. Percutaneous Transhepatic Chol-Angiogram (PTCA)
  10. Bilirubin Blood Test
  11. Pancreatic Enzymes Test
  12. Liver Function Test

Treatment

This health problem can be treated through diet and drugs.

Treatment through Drugs

Generally, there are 3 approaches to remove stones, such as follows:

  1. Expectant management
  2. Initially, painkillers and intravenous fluids are used to treat the problem. At this time, the patient is not permitted to eat or drink anything. Medicines, such as Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) or Chenodeoxycholic acids (CDCA) are given in the form of pills to dissolve the cholesterol Gallstones. The doctors use the ‘wait and see’ formula. If this does not treat the problem, then stones are removed by surgical procedures.

  3. Non-surgical removal of the stones
  4. The stones are removed using non-surgical methods like Electrohydraulic Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL).

  5. Surgical removal of the Gallbladder (Cholecystectomy)
  6. The stones are removed using surgical methods.

Treatment through Diet

Just as in any medical condition, diet is responsible for the condition, in gallbladder disease too, diet plays a vital role. A dietary discrepancy can cause it as well as treat it. As such, to treat the gallbladder problem, dietary habits must be changed.

Nutritional Needs

To free your gallbladder from stones, plan your meals keeping the following nutritional specifications in mind.

  1. Calories
  2. Low-calorie meals must be taken because too much of calorie intake increases the risk of gallbladder stones.

  3. Fats
  4. Fat-free foods must be eaten because fat increases the risk of gallbladder stone.

  5. Carbohydrates
  6. Sugar, a form of carbohydrate, must be avoided as it forms stones.

  7. Proteins
  8. Products low in proteins must be consumed because high amount of proteins in your body leads to gallbladder stones.

  9. Fiber
  10. Fiber-rich foods must be eaten as the deficiency of fiber leads to stones.

  11. Fluids
  12. Drinking plenty of juices and water will be helpful.

List of Foods to Eat and Avoid

To get a better idea, you can refer to the following list of foods that can ease the problem, and foods that can worsen the problem.

Foods to Eat

  1. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as Alfalfa, Green Apples, Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Fennel, Horseradish, Mustard Greens, Radish, Swiss Chard, Kale, Romaine Lettuce, Lemons, Spinach, Water Chestnuts, Watermelons, Garlic, Kiwi Fruit, Cabbages, Peas, Endives, Parsley, Asparagus, Pepper Grass, Nettles, Brussels Sprouts, and Pepper.
  2. Green Tea
  3. White meats, such as Chicken, Turkey and Fish
  4. Cottage Cheese
  5. Olive Oil
  6. Barley
Foods Not to Eat

  1. Fruits, such as Oranges and Grapefruits
  2. Olives, Corns, Onions
  3. Meat products, such as red meats, goose, duck, pork, poultry, eggs
  4. Milk products, such as whole milk, cream, butter, mayonnaise, cheese
  5. Cocoa products
  6. Alcoholic products
  7. Sweet foods, such as ice creams, desserts, pancakes, doughnuts, waffles, cakes, pastry
  8. Fatty foods, such as cheese, yoghurt, butter, mayonnaise, buttered popcorn, rich sauces, high-fat rolls or bread
  9. Oily and fried foods, such as potato chips, fritters, crisps, soups
  10. Baked foods, such as baked potatoes, muffins, biscuits, pies
  11. Junk and fast foods, such as burgers, sausages
  12. Beans and Nuts
Dietary Tips
  • Drink plenty of water, about 10 to 12 glasses per day.
  • Do not miss breakfast.
  • Have a low-fat and low-sugar diet.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids.
  • Consume plenty of salads and sprouts.
Natural Method for Removing Stones through Foods

During the first 5 days of the natural treatment, you must drink 4 glasses of apple juice each day. One can choose from both packed and freshly squeezed apple juices. Eating 4 to 5 apples is also preferable. The juice of apple unstiffens the stones. Normal foods can be taken during these 5 days.

On the 6th day, have a breakfast and lunch as usual but do not take dinner. It is allowed to drink water or other light liquids at night time. But heavy liquids, such as a soup, are not allowed. On the same day, do as follows.

– At 6 pm, have a teaspoon of Magnesium Sulphate or Epsom salt with 1 glass of warm water. Magnesium Sulphate or Epsom salt opens the ducts of bladder.

– At 8 pm, repeat the same intake.

– At 10 pm, have half a cup of fresh juice of lemon with half a cup of sesame oil or olive oil. Both must be mixed well before drinking. The oil loosens the stones to allow them to pass easily.

– Now sleep or lie down to take rest, for some time. Do not get busy in any physical activity.

Once you get up the next morning, you will be happy to see that the procedure has worked, as you find those stones in your stools.

Benefits of Treating Gallbladder Stones through Diet
  1. It is safe for the body.
  2. It is effective.
  3. It gives long term benefits.
  4. It does not give any side effects.
  5. Regular intake of natural plant products reduces the risk of developing stones.
  6. Fruits and vegetables are overloaded with minerals, vitamins, and many other nutrients which help the body to function properly.
  7. Natural plant products contain many other substances such as lutein. Lutein is a naturally occurring pigment in plants that improves eyesight, strengthens the teeth and the bone system and prevents the body against cancer.
  8. The naturally occurring pigment, the chlorophyll that is extensively present in green plants has many anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help in purifying the blood from harmful toxins and waste substances.

Tip

Ayurvedic herbal treatments are also useful for treating gallstones naturally.