Gallstones affect over 25 million Americans. Between 65% and 75 % of them are women. Most people do not experience any severe symptoms from gallstones, which is good news. However, there are efficient solutions to the problem when they do act up.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are digestive fluid deposits that have solidified and can develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ. It is shaped like a pear on the right side of your belly, beneath your liver; it stores bile, a digestive fluid discharged into the small intestine.
Gallstones can range in size. For example, they can be as big as a golf ball or as small as a grain of sand. In addition, while some people only have one gallstone, others may experience multiple gallstones at once.
Causes and Symptoms
Your doctor will be able to discover the precise reason for your gallstones. There are numerous possible causes of gallstones, including:
- Family history
- Improper gallbladder emptying
- History of gallbladder problems
- High cholesterol
Your risk for gallstones may be higher if you:
- Are a female
- Are over 40 years old
- Are obese
- Are pregnant
- Take birth control pills
- Take hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms
- Have liver disease, diabetes, or pigment stones
Symptoms can include:
- Pain in the upper back or stomach that lasts for hours at a time
- Sudden and rapidly increasing pain under the breastbone or in the upper right region of the abdomen
- Pain in the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades
- Digestive issues, like heartburn, bloating, gas and indigestion
Tips to Reduce Your Risk for Gallstones
Adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise will help you achieve and keep a healthy weight, lowering your risk of developing gallstones.
To help prevent gallstones, experts recommend the following:
- Increase your consumption of fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole wheat bread.
- Consume less sugar and refined carbohydrates.
- Consume beneficial fats like olive oil and fish oil to support proper gallbladder contraction and emptying.
- Avoid harmful fats, such as those found in fried and dessert dishes.
Your doctor may prescribe ursodiol, chenodiol or a combination of the two to dissolve gallstones. However, this is a very cautious approach, since it could take months or years for your gallstones to disintegrate this way. Additionally, your gallstones may recur if you stop taking the medication.
Another choice is to have a cholecystectomy, a procedure that removes the gallbladder. As gallstones tend to return, this is the best course of action. Bile will immediately flow from your liver into your small intestine following gallbladder removal.
Similar to your appendix, you can survive without your gallbladder, and its removal does not affect your ability to digest food. Diarrhea may increase at first, but this is a common and short-lived side effect.
Schedule a Consultation for Gallstones Treatment
If gallstones are causing you pain, please do not hesitate to contact our Los Angeles office to book a consultation.
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