I still remember the day nearly fifty years ago that my grandfather had a gall bladder attack while visiting our family.  He was in such intense pain that all he wanted to do was to get home (a 2-hour drive) to his own doctor.  My parents made him a bed in the car and my grandmother nervously drove him home.

What causes gallbladder disease?  What causes gallstones?  

Eating foods high in fat and cholesterol causes gallstones and gallbladder disease according to Dr. John McDougall’s book, Digestive Tune-Up.

During an attack (such as my grandfather suffered), most patients experience severe pain in the upper-right section of the abdomen, which often radiates to the right shoulder blade.  Nausea and vomiting are also common.  

When the obstruction of the bile lasts for more than six hours, inflammation and a secondary bacterial infection can occur.  This is a serious complication and usually requires immediate medical attention.

Over 90 percent of the gallstones found in Americans are considered cholesterol gallstones.  Eating meals based on meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods containing trans fats can cause a person to develop cholesterol gallstones. 

Vegetarians rarely develop gallstones.

Nearly half of the patients who have had their gallbladder removed still report having abdominal discomfort from excess bowel gas or dull pain.  

The gallbladder is a storage sack to collect bile that is synthesized by the liver.  When you eat, the gallbladder empties the bile into your small intestine where the bile can mix with the food.  When you don’t have a gallbladder, the bile constantly drips into the intestine when no food is present.  This can be very irritating to the lining of the intestine, often causing diarrhea.  It can also lead to intestinal cancer.

Because of the diarrhea and the possibility of cancer, it is as important for people without a gallbladder to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet as it is to prevent an attack in the first place.  Dietary fiber (which is only present in plant foods) can drastically reduce the side effects of living without a gallbladder.

© 2013 Melinda Coker

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