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Gallbladder stones are a common occurrence affecting at least 10 to 15% of the population. But before we understand what causes gallbladder stones, let’s know a little more in detail about the organ and it’s functioning.
The gall bladder is a small pear-shaped organ that is right below the liver. The main function of the gall bladder is to store and dispense bile secreted by the liver. Bile plays an important role in the digestion of fats. Bile is made of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin, and flows from the liver to gall bladder through the bile ducts. In the gall bladder where the bile is stored, it gets concentrated over a period of time which helps in better digestion of fat. The stored bile is released into the digestive system as and when needed, that is when the food consumed contains fat.
So what causes gallbladder stones?
It’s easier to understand ‘what causes gallbladder stones’ when we understand what gallbladder stones actually are. Gall stones are hard and pebble-like substances made of cholesterol or bilirubin. When cholesterol in the bile reaches saturation gall stones are formed. Gall stones are also called cholelithiasis.
Before we further understand what causes gallbladder stones, let’s also understand the different kinds of gall stones.
Two main types of gall bladder stones
Stones caused due to cholesterol are yellow-green in color and they are hard in nature. Those due to bilirubin are dark in color.
And based on the size, gall tones occur as small and big stones in the gall bladder. The small stones are the ones that usually cause trouble while the larger ones stay passive in the gall bladder. One might not even know their existence.
Certain factors increase the risk of developing gall bladder stones
This condition needs treatment only when the gall stones are causing pain. When a gall stone blocks the biliary duct, it gives rise to intense pain in the right part of the upper abdomen. This pain is also referred to as biliary colic or gall bladder attack.
Most of the time gall stones do not block the duct. Also known as silent gall stones, they do not cause any pain. These gall stones do not need any medical treatment.
Whereas, sometimes the gall stones may lead to inflammation of the gall bladder also called cholecystitis. This occurs when the cystic duct gets blocked with gall stones. It may be treated with antibiotics or surgery.
Only if the presence of the gall stones is resulting in complications such as jaundice or acute pancreatitis treatment becomes necessary. Therefore it important to understand in detail what causes gallbladder stones.
Once your doctor has diagnosed and understood what causes gallbladder stones, there are different ways to cure the condition. One of the treatments is to use laparoscopic surgery to remove gall bladder stones.
So, in terms of food habits, what causes gallbladder stones? And is there a way to treat it naturally?
In answer to these questions, it was concluded in a study that consumption of red meat from beef and pork, and animal fat was positively linked with the risk of cholesterol-gallstones. The intake of carbohydrates was also positively linked to gallstones. These results show that diet influences the type of gallstones formed.
To decrease the risk of gall stone formation eat foods that have dietary fiber, cut down on refined foods such as sugar, and eat healthy fats like fish and olive oil.
Gall stones usually do not cause any problems and do not need any treatment. Only if there are symptoms such as acute pain they require medical treatment.
A healthy diet that has less refined foods, more dietary fiber, and healthy fat very much helps in preventing the formation of gall stones.
1. Cleveland Clinic (2019). Gallstones.
2. National Health Service (2018). Overview-Gallstones
3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2017). Definition & Facts for Gallstones.
4. Njeze, G. E. (2013) Gallstones, Nigerian journal of surgery: official publication of the Nigerian Surgical Research Society. Vol. 19 (2).
5. Park, Y., Kim, D., Lee, J. S., Kim, Y. N., Jeong, Y. K., Lee, K. G. and Choi, D. (2017) Association between diet and gallstones of cholesterol and pigment among patients with cholecystectomy: a case-control study in Korea, J Health Popul Nutr. Vol. 36 (1).
6. Jessri, M. and Rashidkhani, B. (2015) Dietary patterns and risk of gallbladder disease: a hospital-based case-control study in adult women, Journal of health, population, and nutrition. Vol. 33(1).
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