What are Gallstones?
A health article about Gallstones fromYour Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies
Do you suffer from:
• steady pain in the right upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours?
• pain in the back between the shoulder blades?
• pain under the right shoulder?
Many people feel these symptoms and think they may be having a heart attack. When they seek medical advice to find what the real problem is then it can be a relief to find that the problem is not the heart at all but Gallstones.
Gallstones are solid deposits of cholesterol or calcium salts that form in your gallbladder or nearby bile ducts. They often cause no symptoms and require no treatment. But some people with gallstones have a gallbladder attack that can cause symptoms, such as nausea and an intense, steady ache in their upper middle or upper right abdomen. In some cases, the pain can be severe and intermittent.
Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the right upper abdomen. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. The liquid—called bile—helps the body digest fats. Bile is made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it. The gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube—called the common bile duct—that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion.
Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin—a waste product. Bile salts break up fat, and bilirubin gives bile and stool a yellowish-brown color. If the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, it can harden into gallstones.
The two types of gallstones are cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They account for about 80 percent of gallstones. Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or a combination of the two.
Gallstones can block the normal flow of bile if they move from the gallbladder and lodge in any of the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. The ducts include the
• hepatic ducts, which carry bile out of the liver.
• cystic duct, which takes bile to and from the gallbladder.
• common bile duct, which takes bile from the cystic and hepatic ducts to the small intestine.
Bile trapped in these ducts can cause inflammation in the gallbladder, the ducts, or in rare cases, the liver. Other ducts open into the common bile duct, including the pancreatic duct, which carries digestive enzymes out of the pancreas. Sometimes gallstones passing through the common bile duct provoke inflammation in the pancreas—called gallstone pancreatitis—an extremely painful and potentially dangerous condition.
If any of the bile ducts remain blocked for a significant period of time, severe damage or infection can occur in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas. Left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Warning signs of a serious problem are fever, jaundice, and persistent pain.
Signs & Symptoms
As gallstones move into the bile ducts and create blockage, pressure increases in the gallbladder and one or more symptoms may occur. Symptoms of blocked bile ducts are often called a gallbladder “attack” because they occur suddenly. Gallbladder attacks often follow fatty meals, and they may occur during the night. A typical attack can cause
• steady pain in the right upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours?
• pain in the back between the shoulder blades?
• pain under the right shoulder?
When to seek Medical Advice:
Notify your doctor if you think you have experienced a gallbladder attack. Although these attacks often pass as gallstones move, your gallbladder can become infected and rupture if a blockage remains.
People with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately:
• prolonged pain—more than 5 hours
• nausea and vomiting
• fever—even low-grade—or chills
• yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes
• clay-colored stools
Many people with gallstones have no symptoms; these gallstones are called “silent stones.” They do not interfere with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas function and do not need treatment.
What Causes Gallstones?
Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. The liquid, called bile, is used to help the body digest fats. Bile is made in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs to digest fat. At that time, the gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube--called the common bile duct--that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion.
Bile contains water, cholesterol, fats, bile salts, proteins, and bilirubin. Bile salts break up fat, and bilirubin gives bile and stool a yellowish color. If the liquid bile contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin, under certain conditions it can harden into stones.
The two types of gallstones are cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol. They account for about 80 percent of gallstones. Pigment stones are small, dark stones made of bilirubin. Gallstones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder can develop just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or almost any combination.
People at risk for gallstones include
• women—especially women who are pregnant, use hormone replacement therapy, or take birth control pills
• people over age 60
• American Indians
• Mexican Americans
• overweight or obese men and women
• people who fast or lose a lot of weight quickly
• people with a family history of gallstones
• people with diabetes
• people who take cholesterol-lowering drugs
How are gallstones diagnosed?
Frequently, gallstones are discovered during tests for other health conditions. When gallstones are suspected to be the cause of symptoms, the doctor is likely to do an ultrasound exam—the most sensitive and specific test for gallstones. A handheld device, which a technician glides over the abdomen, sends sound waves toward the gallbladder. The sound waves bounce off the gallbladder, liver, and other organs, and their echoes make electrical impulses that create a picture of the gallbladder on a video monitor. If gallstones are present, the sound waves will bounce off them, too, showing their location. Other tests may also be performed.
• Computerized tomography (CT) scan. The CT scan is a noninvasive x ray that produces cross-section images of the body. The test may show the gallstones or complications, such as infection and rupture of the gallbladder or bile ducts.
• Cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan). The patient is injected with a small amount of nonharmful radioactive material that is absorbed by the gallbladder, which is then stimulated to contract. The test is used to diagnose abnormal contraction of the gallbladder or obstruction of the bile ducts.
• Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). ERCP is used to locate and remove stones in the bile ducts. After lightly sedating you, the doctor inserts an endoscope—a long, flexible, lighted tube with a camera—down the throat and through the stomach and into the small intestine. The endoscope is connected to a computer and video monitor. The doctor guides the endoscope and injects a special dye that helps the bile ducts appear better on the monitor. The endoscope helps the doctor locate the affected bile duct and the gallstone. The stone is captured in a tiny basket and removed with the endoscope.
• Blood tests. Blood tests may be performed to look for signs of infection, obstruction, pancreatitis, or jaundice.
Because gallstone symptoms may be similar to those of a heart attack, appendicitis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hiatal hernia, pancreatitis, and hepatitis, an accurate diagnosis is important.
If you have gallstones without symptoms, you do not require treatment. If you are having frequent gallbladder attacks, your doctor will likely recommend you have your gallbladder removed—an operation called a cholecystectomy. Surgery to remove the gallbladder—a nonessential organ—is one of the most common surgeries performed on adults in the United States.
Nearly all cholecystectomies are performed with laparoscopy. After giving you medication to sedate you, the surgeon makes several tiny incisions in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope and a miniature video camera. The camera sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. While watching the monitor, the surgeon uses the instruments to carefully separate the gallbladder from the liver, bile ducts, and other structures. Then the surgeon cuts the cystic duct and removes the gallbladder through one of the small incisions.
Recovery after laparoscopic surgery usually involves only one night in the hospital, and normal activity can be resumed after a few days at home. Because the abdominal muscles are not cut during laparoscopic surgery, patients have less pain and fewer complications than after “open” surgery, which requires a 5- to 8-inch incision across the abdomen.
If tests show the gallbladder has severe inflammation, infection, or scarring from other operations, the surgeon may perform open surgery to remove the gallbladder. In some cases, open surgery is planned; however, sometimes these problems are discovered during the laparoscopy and the surgeon must make a larger incision. Recovery from open surgery usually requires 3 to 5 days in the hospital and several weeks at home. Open surgery is necessary in about 5 percent of gallbladder operations.
The most common complication in gallbladder surgery is injury to the bile ducts. An injured common bile duct can leak bile and cause a painful and potentially dangerous infection. Mild injuries can sometimes be treated nonsurgically. Major injury, however, is more serious and requires additional surgery.
If gallstones are present in the bile ducts, the physician—usually a gastroenterologist—may use ERCP to locate and remove them before or during gallbladder surgery. Occasionally, a person who has had a cholecystectomy is diagnosed with a gallstone in the bile ducts weeks, months, or even years after the surgery. The ERCP procedure is usually successful in removing the stone in these cases.
Nonsurgical approaches are used only in special situations—such as when a patient has a serious medical condition preventing surgery—and only for cholesterol stones. Stones commonly recur within 5 years in patients treated nonsurgically.
• Oral dissolution therapy. Drugs made from bile acid are used to dissolve gallstones. The drugs ursodiol (Actigall) and chenodiol (Chenix) work best for small cholesterol stones. Months or years of treatment may be necessary before all the stones dissolve. Both drugs may cause mild diarrhea, and chenodiol may temporarily raise levels of blood cholesterol and the liver enzyme transaminase.
• Contact dissolution therapy. This experimental procedure involves injecting a drug directly into the gallbladder to dissolve cholesterol stones. The drug—methyl tert-butyl ether—can dissolve some stones in 1 to 3 days, but it causes irritation and some complications have been reported. The procedure is being tested in symptomatic patients with small stones.
Self Care strategies for Living with Gallstones
One of the first options that should be looked at to assist with any problem with the bowel is the use of a high quality Aloe Vera Juice.
If the gall stones are only small and not cause serious problems the use of Aloe Vera Juice gives a very gentle detoxification that in many cases prevents the problem form continuing.
The Gradual Method
Here is a suggested cleansing program:
Take 20ml daily of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon mixed in a glass or cup. Take the juice of the other half a lemon sometime later in the day. The addition of a kidney bean sized piece of raw garlic finely sliced and added to the olive oil and lemon juice mixture will help further.
For a stronger and deeper effect on cleansing the liver and the lymphatic system you can also add some Black Seed Oil to your daily regime. Start at 5ml per day, increasing to 10ml and then further to 15ml if the overall effect is not too strong (especially for sensitive persons). This may cause very loose bowels for a period of a few days. This is part of the cleansing process. A few months of Black Seed Oil use can improve liver function and that of other internal organs. It is less likely that fresh stones will form, especially if a healthy diet and lifestlye is maintained.
To further help dissolve gall stones take 2 level dessertspoons of Lecithin granules daily.
In addition, the following foods can help to naturally remove gall stones and sediment. These taken daily for months, in support of the gradual method, should remove even the biggest gall stones.
• Turmeric - About half teaspoon daily of the powder
• Raw Beetroot juice
• Radish - 6 a day
• Lime, Apple, Pear, Grapefruit - 1 a day
• Chamomile and Cleavers Tea
Simple Gall Bladder Flush One Day Method
There are many suggested flushing methods for flushing gall stones. If you are having problems with your gall bladder you are wise to consult your doctor before beginning a flushing program.
If you are going to proceed, here is a simple flush that you may find helpful:
Eat only organic or spray free apples on the day of the flush (or raw apple juice up to one pint) green apples are the most effective, but any type will help. No other food.
At bed time warm two thirds of a cup of virgin olive oil to body heat and mix with one third a cup of fresh raw lemon juice. Slowly sip the entire mixture, and then go straight to bed lying on your right side, with the right leg drawn up. In the morning stones will be passed in the stool.
This procedure may need to be repeated several times for complete clearance of the gall bladder and the liver. There is no need for an operation to remove the gall bladder.
Diet change strategies:
Gall stones are directly effected by diet. If you have your diet right then there is less chance of having Gall Stones in the first place and less chance of them reoccurring.
Further reading through our articles on health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your Gallstones problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.
We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.
More Resources available about Gallstones :
I strongly recommend you start your research by reading this article on nutrition
You may also find value in this article -why is nutrition such an issue nowadays?
Below here are examples of Health Success Results other people have had with using a self care strategy for dealing with Gallstones:
Much of the information on this page has been sourced from National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse which is an information dissemination service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reference link http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gallstones/
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