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Diet and Nutrition

Gallstones and diet

03/14/1998

Question:

dear expert i m a 42 year old female living in indonesia. well could u give me info on collingites( not sure about the spelling!!!).to make it more clearer a stone in the gall bladder !!.well could u please give me info on the dietary measures and other precautions!!!!

Answer:

The gallbladder is an organ attached to the liver which stores bile acids until they are needed. Bile acids are a component of the digestive system. Bile acids help to break down fats into particles that can be absorbed into the body.

In many individuals, the contents of the gallbladder, normally a liquid, forms large stones - commonly called gall stones. Many people have gallstones, but no symptoms. Many people with gallstones develop symptoms of pain in the right side of the abdomen, bloating, or diarrhea. Sometimes a gallstone causes inflammation of the gallbladder, a condition called cholangitis, which can be a serious illness requiring admission to a hospital.

In the United States, gallstones tend to occur more commonly in women than in men. In addition, being overweight increases the risk of gallstones considerably. Most stones are made primarily from cholesterol. Certain dietary changes may decrease the chances of developing gallstones. These factors are the same ones usually recommended for good health: a diet low in saturated fat, high in fiber and calcium. In addition, avoiding long fasts is important in preventing gallstones. In fact, eating three modest sized meals daily with a small evening snack may be protective. To date, no studies have been performed to prove whether or not these specific recommendations actually decrease the risk of developing a gallstone.

In other parts of the world, gallstones are less commonly composed of cholesterol than in the United States. Non cholesterol stones may not be readily prevented by diet.

Gallstones are a common complication of certain types of weight loss diets. Individuals who are on very low calorie diets (often a liquid diet - most commonly used to treat very heavy individuals) need close supervision by a physician to help prevent gallstones from developing.

Once a gallstone has occurred and is causing symptoms, dietary changes have little to offer. The usual treatment for a gallstone is surgery. Alternatives do exist, but they are slow and are usually recommended only for individuals who are too frail to undergo surgery. Fortunately, recent advances in laparascopic gallbladder surgery now make the procedure a relatively safe one. Hospital stays are usually short hospital stay and most patients recovery and return to their usual activities quickly.

Hofmann, AF Primary and Secondary Prevention of Gallstone Disease. Am J Surgery 1993; 165: 541-546

Related Resources:

National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases - Gallstones

For more information:

Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jill Foster, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati