Gallbladder Disease



Gallstones are the most common form of gallbladder disease and can lead to occasional abdominal pain after meals due to the blockage of bile outflow from the gallbladder. Gallbladder stones can also lead to chronic inflammation or even infection of the gallbladder.

 
  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Related Info
  • Success Stories

Overview


The prevalence of gallstones (with or without symptoms) in the United States ranges from 5% to 9% in men and 14% to 27% in women.1 It is thought that influences of hormones in women, especially with pregnancy, contribute to the build-up of gallstones. In pregnancy, higher estrogen levels cause a higher amount of cholesterol to enter the bile in the gallbladder, and a lower progesterone causes a lower amount of bile acids in the bile and a slowing of gallbladder emptying, which all leads to a more concentrated accumulation of cholesterol in the gallbladder, forming bile stones. Other risk factors include:

  • Hormone therapy (birth control pills), although the lower the dose, the lower the risk
  • Obesity
  • Extreme weight loss from dieting or weight loss surgery
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High triglyceride levels and low HDL cholesterol (on blood testing)
  • Low physical activity
  • Low intake of vegetables, nuts, and seeds

So, as you can see, even though genetic and hormonal factors contribute to gallstones, there is plenty more you can do every day to help prevent and possibly reverse gallstones. A Nutritarian eating style includes the right foods that preserve normal function of the gall bladder, as well as the right balance of cholesterol in the bile. Studies, as well as my experience and recording the incidence with thousands of dieters, suggest that the risk of gallstone formation is dramatically reduced in those using a Nutritarian diet with the regular use of a small amount of nuts and seeds.

 
References
  1. Everhart JE, Khare M, Hill M, Maurer KR. Prevalence and ethnic differences in gallbladder disease in the United States. Gastroenterology 1999, 117:632-639.

Action Plan


Diet

A Nutritarian diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds is ideal for preventing and even treating gallstones. Be sure to include the following foods, which have been associated with a low risk of gallstone formation1 or needing gallbladder surgery:2

  • High vitamin C foods (citrus fruits, peppers, etc.)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc.)
  • Green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds (limit to 1-2 ounces daily if overweight). It is best divided between meals, limiting to one ounce with a meal.

Other Considerations

  • Lose weight, but not with unhealthy methods such as low calorie dieting (less than 500 kcal per day) or high protein diets. As long as you are eating a Nutritarian diet and eating enough to satisfy your hunger, you will lose weight without a substantial risk of gallstone formation.
  • Exercise regularly. This will not only help lower your cholesterol, but also raise your good cholesterol (HDL), which is associated with a lower risk of gallstones.
  • Avoid moderate to high doses of hormone therapy, particularly estrogen. Very low dose birth control pills or topical preparations contribute very little to this associated risk.
 
References
  1. Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, et al. A prospective cohort study of nut consumption and the risk of gallstone disease in men. Am J Epidemiol 2004, 160:961-968.
  2. Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Med 2006, 119:760-767.

Ask The Doctor


The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)

Q.

I have had gallbladder attacks with symptoms of pain, nausea, and heartburn. I had bloodwork, an ultrasound, and a HIDA scan. These tests showed that my gallbladder is not functioning properly and should be removed. My doctor said this will not improve on its own and that surgery is my only option. My current diet is terrible, and I am very overweight. Do you think a Nutritarian diet can reverse gallbladder disease enough to avoid surgery?

A.

Yes, I have seen people with gallbladder disease get well again. That does not mean all gallbladder pathologies are reversible. The body is a miraculous, self-healing machine once nutritional excellence is achieved. Also, we are not just talking about a gallbladder here. I am more concerned with cancer, dementia, strokes, and premature death from conventional food. Maybe this gallbladder problem will motivate you to save your own life.

 
Q.

I have gallbladder disease and am curious how I control the nausea I feel after eating most of my meals. I follow a Nutritarian diet pretty closely, although I probably overdo it on the nuts and seeds.

A.

You need to limit your nuts and seeds to just one ounce per day. Gallbladder disease causes nausea that occurs after eating a high fat meal. Even with gallbladder disease, it is still important to eat nuts and seeds every day, but it should be only one ounce split so that you only have a half ounce with two of your meals.