The gallbladder serves an important digestive function. It is required to emulsify fats. What is emulsification? One can easily understand this concept when washing greasy dishes. It is nearly impossible to properly clean greasy dishes without soap as the soap emulsifies the fat so it can be removed.
Similarly, the gallbladder stores bile and bile acids, which emulsify the fat one eats so it can be properly transported through the intestine into the blood stream.
Anyone who has had their gallbladder removed will need to take some form of bile salts with every meal for the rest of their life, if they wish to prevent a good percentage of the good fats they eat from being flushed down the toilet. If one does not have enough fats in the diet, their entire physiology will be disrupted, especially the ability to make hormones and prostaglandins.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. The liquid, called bile, is used to help the body digest fats. Bile is made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs to digest fat. At that time, the gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube--called the common bile duct--that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion.
Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin. Bile salts break up fat, and bilirubin gives bile and stool a yellowish color. If the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, under certain conditions can harden into stones.
The two types of gallstones are cholesterol stones and pigment stones.
Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They account for about 80 percent of gallstones.
Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or almost any combination.
Gallstones can block the normal flow of bile if they lodge in any of the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. That includes the hepatic ducts, which carry bile out of the liver; the cystic duct, which takes bile to and from the gallbladder; and the common bile duct, which takes bile from the cystic and hepatic ducts to the small intestine. Bile trapped in these ducts can cause inflammation in the gallbladder, the ducts, or, rarely, the liver. Other ducts open into the common bile duct, including the pancreatic duct, which carries digestive enzymes out of the pancreas. If a gallstone blocks the opening to that duct, digestive enzymes can become trapped in the pancreas and cause an extremely painful inflammation called gallstone pancreatitis.
If any of these ducts remain blocked for a significant period of time, severe--possibly fatal--damage or infections can occur, affecting the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas.
Warning signs of a serious problem are fever, jaundice, and persistent pain.
What causes gallstones?
Scientists believe cholesterol stones form when bile contains too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or not enough bile salts, or when the gallbladder does not empty as it should for some other reason.
The cause of pigment stones is uncertain. They tend to develop in people who have cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and hereditary blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia in which too much bilirubin is formed.
It is believed that the mere presence of gallstones may cause more gallstones to develop. However, other factors that contribute to gallstones have been identified, especially for cholesterol stones.
Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones, especially in women. A large clinical study showed that being even moderately overweight increases one's risk for developing gallstones. The most likely reason is that obesity tends to reduce the amount of bile salts in bile, resulting in more cholesterol. Obesity also decreases gallbladder emptying.
Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills appears to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement, both of which can lead to gallstones.
Native Americans have a genetic predisposition to secrete high levels of cholesterol in bile. In fact, they have the highest rate of gallstones in the United States. A majority of Native American men have gallstones by age 60. Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, 70 percent of women have gallstones by age 30. Mexican American men and women of all ages also have high rates of gallstones.
Women between 20 and 60 years of age are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.
People over age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people.
Drugs that lower cholesterol levels in blood actually increase the amount of cholesterol secreted in bile. This in turn can increase the risk of gallstones.
People with diabetes generally have high levels of fatty acids called triglycerides. These fatty acids increase the risk of gallstones.
Rapid weight loss
As the body metabolizes fat during rapid weight loss, it causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of gallstones are often called a gallstone "attack" because they occur suddenly.
A typical attack can cause:
* Steady pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours.
* Pain in the back between the shoulder blades.
* Pain under the right shoulder
* Nausea or vomiting.
Other gallstone symptoms include:
Abdominal bloating, recurring intolerance of fatty foods, colic, belching, gas, indigestion.
Gallstone attacks often follow fatty meals, and they may occur during the night.
People who also have the above and any of following symptoms should see a doctor right away: sweating chills, low-grade fever, yellowish color of the skin or clay-colored stools.
Many people with gallstones have no symptoms. These patients are said to be asymptomatic, and these stones are called "silent stones." They do not interfere in gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.
Gallstone symptoms are similar to those of heart attack, appendicitis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hiatal hernia, pancreatitis, and hepatitis. So accurate diagnosis is important.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
(Read also: Gallbladder Liver Cleanse )
Many people have unnecessary surgery to have their gallbladder removed. In my experience, more than half the time the gallbladder is taken out, the patient's pain that prompted the surgery still remains.
This is because the surgeon never fixed the problem. They only treated the symptom. This makes about as much sense as putting a piece of tape over the idiot light that would come on in your dashboard if your engine oil pressure is low. This would clearly solve the problem, the light would not bother you anymore, but you would be looking at expensive engine repairs if you failed to treat the cause of the light being on.
If you have abdominal pain that is immediately below your last rib on your right side and lined up with your right nipple, especially if your press down in that spot, there is a good chance that you have a gallbladder problem.
I believe it is nearly criminal what traditional medicine is doing to the public when it comes to managing this problem. It is RARELY ever necessary to remove someone's gallbladder. If one ignores warning symptoms and does not address the reasons why their gallbladder is not functioning properly, then the disease can progress to the point where the pancreas is inflamed or the gallbladder is seriously infected and may have to be removed to save a person's life.
However, it is important to have a proper perspective here. Nearly ONE MILLION gallbladders are removed every year in this country and it is my estimate that only several thousand need to come out.
So, not only are surgeons removing these organs unnecessarily, but also in their nutritional ignorance they are telling patients that their gallbladders do not serve any purpose and they can live perfectly well without them. This is a lie.
Gall Bladder Flush
(by Steven Horne)
Many people have safely eliminated gallstones by doing a gallbladder flush. Here's how it is done.
Start by fasting for 24 to 48 hours on fresh, raw apple juice or fresh squeezed grapefruit juice to clear the colon. Malic acid, an ingredient in the apple juice, also soften the stones, but persons with hypoglycemia or yeast infections will do better on grapefruit juice. If using grapefruit juice take Fibralgia, which contains malic acid and magnesium, for a similar effect.
Just before going to bed at the close of the fast, drink 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon (or
grapefruit) juice. Mix these together thoroughly like you would shake up a salad dressing. The lemon
juice cuts the olive oil and makes it more palatable. It sounds and smells worse than it tastes. Next, lie on
your right side for a half hour before going to sleep. In the morning, if you don't have a bowel movement,
take an enema. This procedure may need to be repeated 2 days in a row.
Generally, you will pass some dark black or green objects that look like shriveled peas the day after
drinking the olive oil and lemon juice. These objects are not gallstones. Gallstones that can be passed are
much smaller than this, generally less than 2 millimeters in diameter. Chemical analysis of these objects
shows they are composed of soap, and are created by the bile interacting with the oil. The large amount
of oil causes large amounts of bile to be flushed through the gallbladder in an attempt to digest the fats. This lowers cholesterol (because cholesterol is a major component of bile), and causes smaller stones to
be expelled. The materials used in the gallbladder flush can also help dissolve bigger gallstones when
used regularly in smaller quantities.
There are a number of versions of this procedure, but they all rely on olive oil. This is because olive
oil acts as a solvent of cholesterol, the chief constituent of gall stones. One variation that seems to work
particularly well is to take a dose of Epsom salt about two or three hours prior to taking the olive oil and
lemon juice. Follow the directions on the box of Epsom salts as per the dosage.
Certain herbs may also enhance the procedure.
Herbs called cholagogues increase the flow of bile and help to dissolve stones slowly over a period of weeks and months. Herbs that have this property include dandelion root, barberry bark, yellow dock root, fringetree bark and celandine. Any of these can be taken before attempting the gallbladder flush to increase its effectiveness, or afterwards to continue improving gallbladder function. Gall Bladder Formula is a mild cholagogue and antispasmodic and can be taken during the juice fast, or for several months to help the gallbladder. Take 2 capsules 3 times daily.
There is a small chance that a very large stone could become lodged in the bile ducts, which would
require that surgery be performed to remove the gallbladder. However, we are not aware of a single case
of this having happened, and know that thousands of people have used this procedure. Since this
procedure is typically done as an alternative to surgery, we believe it is well worth trying, as a person can
go ahead with the surgery if the procedure fails to relieve the problem.
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