Having Gallstones can be very painful and the prospect of having surgery to remove them or have the gallbladder taken out is not a very nice prospect for people.
In this article I will look at what gallstones are and what causes them. I will also look
at who is at risk, ways to help prevent gallstones and gallstone treatment options.
The function of the gallbladder is to store bile. Bile is produced in the liver and then stored in the gallbladder. When we eat, the gallbladder contracts and pushes bile into the small intestine where it aids in breaking down fats.
Bile is made up of water, cholesterol, fats and bile salts. Under certain conditions some of the things that are in bile, especially the cholesterol, can start to harden and this hardening can form stone like structures, hence gallstones.
There are a few risk factors thought to contribute to gallstones:
– Women for instance are 4 times more likely to get gallstones than men. This is because of things such as excess amounts of estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy and the use of the birth control pill. These factors tend to increase the levels of cholesterol in bile and makes it more likely to harden and form stones. It also decreases the contractions of the gallbladder, which means the bile in the gallbladder isn’t being used as readily and will sit and become more likely to harden.
– Your diet can put you at risk of gallstones. Diets that are high in fat and cholesterol increase the chances of getting gallstones.
– Other risk factors include being overweight, your genetics and rapid weight loss.
Gallstones can form in two ways: You can either develop one big gallstone, which tends to be very painful and needs treatment, or you can develop lots of tiny little ones, some as small as a grain of sand. A lot of small gallstones can have the same effect as one big one but if you have a few tiny ones
then they can pass out of your body without you knowing that you had them. These are called silent gallstones because they are small and un-noticeable.
If possible it is always better to prevent rather than cure. So looking at the risk factors above, two of the easiest ways in which you can help prevent the formation of gallstones are:
1/ Decrease the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet.
2/ keep your body weight under control.
If you can do these then it will help prevent gallstones but if you do get them then gallstone treatment usually involves either removing the gallbladder or going through an oral dissolution therapy. This is where you take drugs which are made up of things that are naturally in bile. These drugs are taken to help break down the stones however treatment this way can take months and in some cases years.
Having surgery isn’t always the best option for people and if the other option is a drug programme that could take months this can leave people feeling helpless. Is there a better way to treat gallstones? What if you could treat and get rid of gallstones naturally, how great would that be?