Cholelithiasis is the formation of gallstones in the biliary tract. It affects about 10% of the population in developed countries. Gallstones consist of bile pigments, calcium and/or cholesterol and form due to fat-soluble endogenous waste, fat-soluble toxins and/or bile stagnating in the gallbladder. The stagnant ‘sludge’ accumulates and solids may precipitate out of solution and coalesce into gravel and/or stones.
Types of gallstones include:
Cholesterol stones—70% prevalence—composed of at least 70% cholesterol by weight.
Pigmented stones—20% prevalence—composed of calcium bilirubin.
Calcium stones—10% prevalence—composed of calcium carbonate: chalky, white appearance.
Factors that can contribute to the development of Gallstone (cholelithiasis) include:
- Imbalance in the relative amounts of cholesterol, phospholipids and bile salts in bile.
- Increased biliary secretion of cholesterol due to obesity, oestrogen therapy and/or age.
- Decreased hepatic secretion of bile salts and phospholipids.
- Stone formation requires cholesterol saturation due to hypercholesterolaemia and/or dyslipidaemia.
- Biliary stasis within the gallbladder due to hepatotoxicity.
- Gallbladder motor functioning impairment can cause delayed stasis and emptying.
- Biliary tract infection due to bacteria (especially E. coli) or parasites.
- Excessive consumption of fatty foods, dairy products and fried foods.
- Production of toxic bile by the liver.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Viral hepatitis
- Risk increases with age
- Female gender
- The hormonal changes of pregnancy
- The oral contraceptive pill and some types of hormone replacement therapy
Most people with gallstones never develop symptoms, but if they do, some common signs and symptoms include:
- Digestive disorders due to fats being inadequately solubilized and absorbed: e.g., nausea, vomiting, flatulence, anorexia, constipation and/or loose stool.
- Pain immediately following meals – particularly fatty meals.
- Indigestion and nausea after eating (especially fatty foods).
- Pain in the right upper abdomen, which often radiates to the right shoulder blade and back.
- Biliary colic
- Stools that are clay-coloured and/or float
- Liver damage can be a result of poor bile flow (due to stasis of flow in the ducts).
- Stones blocking the lower end of the common bile duct where it enters the duodenum may obstruct secretion from the pancreas, producing pancreatitis.
Ultrasound: If gallstone or gravel formation is suspected, ultrasound of the area is the simplest method of detection.
Treatment for Gallstones
Diet is fundamental in the treatment of gallstones, and the following are advisable in most situations. There are exceptions in some cases though and tailored advice is recommended to avoid exacerbating other health conditions.
- Achieve and maintain a normal body weight – weight reduction where appropriate is essential.
- Increase dietary fibre in order to promote the secretion of bile acids and reduce bile saturation.
- Avoid saturated fats including fatty meats, butter, cream, ice cream, cheese, chocolate, biscuits, fried foods, refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Avoid foods that contain high counts of bacteria, fungi and viruses— i.e. preserved meats, delicatessen meats, hamburger meats, smoked meats, and processed or junk foods— which may exacerbate gall bladder infections.
- Include foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as cold-pressed nut and seed oils, cold-water fish and avocados.
- Eat artichokes as they contain plant compounds known as caffeoylquinic acids, which increase the flow of bile and help to digest fats.
- Eat broccoli and other members of the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi) as they support the liver’s detoxification enzymes.
- Consume adequate amounts of complete protein as amino acids are required by the liver for detoxification.
Herbal Medicines, Diet, Probiotics and Nutrients play an important role in recovery.
- Herbal Medicines (most have multiple actions and Jodie chooses herbs that are beneficial to other health conditions you may have): St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke, Turmeric, Dandelion, Barberry, Golden Seal, Echinacea, Garlic and others
- Nutrients: Zinc, Vitamin C, Magnesium, NAC, Inositol, Choline, Lecithin, Taurine and others
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), L. paracasei (LP-33), L. Plantarum (299v), Bifidobacterium lactis (BB-12) and others
- Binders (for toxins): Charcoal, diatomaceous earth, pectin and others
- Diet: Anti-inflammatory diet, adequate soluble fibre, low alcohol and caffeine, minimise processed foods
For advice specific to your situation contact Jodie on 0419 668 803 or simply Book Online