In India, more than 9% of the adult population gets gallstones and experience severe and sudden pain in their upper right abdomen, eventually leading them to emergency rooms. What are gallstones and how can you prevent them? Let’s find out.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are hardened deposits of fluids that form in your gallbladder. You might not even know you have gallstones until they block your bile duct, causing pain that needs immediate medical attention.
The two types of Gallstones are:
- Cholesterol stones, which is the most common, and are usually yellow-green in colour.
- Pigment stones, which are smaller and darker, and are caused by bile (a fluid stored in your gallbladder).
What Causes Gallstones?
There are multiple reasons why a gallstone can form in your gallbladder. The most common causes are:
- Excessive cholesterol in your bile: If your liver excretes more cholesterol than your bile can dissolve, it may lead to the formation of cholesterol crystals and eventually into gallstones.
- Excessive bilirubin in your bile: Bilirubin is a chemical that helps your body break down red blood cells. If conditions like liver cirrhosis or biliary tract infection are causing your liver to produce too much bilirubin, it can lead to gallstone formation.
- Your gallbladder is not emptied: If your gallbladder isn’t emptied completely, it may cause the bile to become heavily concentrated, leading to the formation of gallstones.
When Should You Visit The Gastroenterologist?
Signs and symptoms of gallbladder stones are:
- Sudden, intense pain in the upper right and centre of your abdomen
- Back pain, near the shoulder blades
- Nausea, vomiting, or high fever with chills
- Yellowing of skin and eyes
Gallstone pain can last several minutes to a few hours. It is generally treated with gallbladder removal surgery. However, consult your gastroenterologist if you experience any of the above symptoms.
How Can You Prevent Gallstones?
Gallstones can be prevented with some simple changes in your lifestyle and diet.
Here are the 5 ways to prevent gallbladder stones:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is one of the top contributors to gallstone formations. Avoid crash diets or rapid weight gain/loss as it can increase your chances of developing gallstones. Set a routine and gradually ease into it until you reach your desired weight.
- Stick to healthy fats: Fats found in olive oil, canola oil, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flaxseed - all contribute to keeping your gallbladder healthy and preventing gallstones. High levels of cholesterol can cause cholesterol gallstones. Choose low-fat alternatives to your meats and milk to keep cholesterol levels in check.
- Eat fibre-rich foods: Whole-grain bread and cereals, peanuts, walnuts, and legumes help prevent gallstone disease. Snack on almonds to help you lose weight and ease your hunger.
- Exercise: If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s time to get moving. Inactivity increases your chances of gallstones as it slows down the digestion process. As a result, your bile is not flushed out of your gallbladder correctly. Get atlas 150 minutes per week of exercise to reduce your risk of gallstones.
- Take preventive medications: If you are obese, take birth control pills, or have undergone hormone replacement therapy - you are at high risk of developing gallstones. Consult your gastroenterologist to know if you need any preventive medication to lower your risks of gallstone formation.
Apart from the above, keep your hydrated at all times and eat a balanced, healthy diet to keep yourself safe from gallstone formations. If you feel any discomfort, get in touch with your doctor right away.