The Gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac-like organ situated in the upper right part of the abdomen under the liver. It is a part of the biliary system that comprises the liver and the pancreas. Bile is a secretion of the liver that helps digest fats and is stored in the gallbladder. Gallstones are small solid particles or stony deposits composed of cholesterol, calcium salts, and bile pigments, formed in the gallbladder or the bile duct. The size of these stones ranges from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Usually, they don’t show any signs and symptoms and don’t need any treatment. Gallstones may form as single or multiple stones.
Symptoms of gallstone
Gallstones most of the time do not cause any signs or symptoms. Sometimes a gallstone may lodge in a duct and cause blockage. Gallbladder stones have no symptoms and people are unaware of the fact that they have them until and unless it hits you hard. Symptoms arise when the conditions get complicated and pain occurs. These are called attacks and they can occur at regular intervals. Pain happens when you consume foods that are high in fat. Although the pain may vary from person to person, usually it targets the right shoulder or back.
Symptoms Gallstone attacks often occur after eating a meal and especially fatty person. Symptoms are a pain in the upper abdomen and upper back. The pain may last for several hours. In most cases, this causes abdominal pain, although some people also experience other symptoms if the blockage is more severe or a blockage develops in another part of the digestive system. 70-80% of people with gallstones do not experience any symptoms. These are called “silent gallstones”.
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Bloating of abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen and back
- Itching of the skin
- Frequent eructations
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Fever and jaundice.
- Back pain between your shoulder blades
- Pain in the right shoulder
Types of gallstone
Gallbladder stones are of two types mainly:
1. Cholesterol Stones
Cholesterol stones may develop as a result of excess cholesterol in the bile. It is yellow-green in color and about 80% of gallstones are cholesterol stones. it can also be formed due to the concentration of bile due to the inability of the gallbladder to empty properly.
2. Pigment Stones
Pigment stones are more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as cirrhosis or sickle cell anemia. These stones are smaller and formed due to excess bilirubin in the bile.
Causes of gallstone formation
- Gallstones form when there is an imbalance in the constituents of bile.
- Gallstones are more common among women and older people.
- Obesity or rapid weight loss
- Irregular emptying of gallbladder and concentration of bile in the gallbladder.
- Insufficiency of bile to dissolve the cholesterol formed in the liver.
- Bilirubin is a pigment formed due to the breakdown of down of red blood cells. Sometimes the liver produces excessive bilirubin in conditions such as cirrhosis, biliary tract infections and certain blood disorders. This leads to gallstone formation.
- Genetics factors: Family history of gallstones
- Obesity: It is one of the biggest risk factors.
- Certain medications that are taken to reduce the cholesterol levels
- Estrogen can increase cholesterol and decreased the motility of the gallbladder. That is the reason why women are more likely to develop gallstones.
- Diabetes is also a risk factor due to high levels of triglycerides
- Rapid weight loss causes the liver to secrete extra cholesterol and fasting decreases the emptying of the gallbladder.
Some of the warning signs of gallstones are:
- Gallstones may lead to serious problems if they obstruct the flow of bile for longer periods or move into other organs. It may be expressed by:
- High temperature
- More persistent abdominal pain
- A rapid heartbeat
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Itching of the skin
- Incessant diarrhea
- Chills or rigors
- Confusion of mind
- Loss of appetite
Complications of gallstones
Complications of gallstones may include:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder: A gallstone may block the neck of the gallbladder leading to inflammation of the cholecystitis. It is a serious condition since it might lead to rupture of the gallbladder.
- Blockage of the common bile duct: Gallstones can block the bile ducts through which bile flows from the gallbladder to the small intestine. It is very painful and may need immediate medical attention.
- Blockage of the pancreatic duct: A gallstone may lodge in the pancreatic duct and lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
- Gallbladder cancer: People with gallstones have an increased risk of developing gallbladder cancer which is very rare.
- Infected bile ducts: When a duct is blocked, it leads to infection and sepsis.
Some lifestyle changes might lower your risk of gallstones.
- Try to stick to your usual mealtimes each day. Skipping meals or fasting can increase the risk of gallstones.
- Lose weight slowly. If you need to lose weight, go slow. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and being overweight increase the risk of gallstones.
- Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
- Avoid diets that make you lose a lot of weight in a short time.
- If you’re a woman at high risk of gallstones. talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid the use of hormonal birth control.
- Eat fewer refined carbs and less sugar.
- Increase the intake of healthy fats, like fish oil and olive oil.
- Eat more foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas, whole grains, including brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread.
- Avoid unhealthy fats, like those often found in desserts and fried foods.
- Increasing dietary calcium and vitamin C intake.
- Drinking coffee can help prevent gallstone formation.
- Drink a moderate amount of alcohol.
- Choose low-fat dairy products.
- Replace unhealthy fats with unsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil.
- Drink plenty of fluid at least two liters a day
Diagnosis of gallstones
A physical examination and a set of diagnostic tests will help to identify the problem. Some of the diagnostic tests for gallstones are:
- computerized tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Cholescintigraphy or hydroxyl iminodiacetic acid scan (HIDA scan), is a type of nuclear medicine scan used to evaluate the gallbladder and biliary system.
- Another radiologic test that could be used is endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This is a test to examine the bile and pancreatic ducts.
- Ultrasound: This is the fastest method to confirm the diagnosis.
- Abdominal CT scan: An imaging test that takes specialized X-rays of the liver and abdominal region.
- Gallbladder radionuclide scan: in this test, a person is injected with a radioactive substance to reveal any blockage in the biliary system.
A blood sample may be collected to test various functions of the liver and pancreas and to tests the values of the pigments and liver enzymes. They are:
- alkaline phosphatase
- ALT and AST enzymes
- gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT)
- Other signs of infection.
Homeopathic medicines used for treating gallstones
Homeopathic medicines are very useful in treating gallstones that are smaller in size and they help in reducing the size of the stones in the early stage. They help to treat the pain and other gallstone-related symptoms and to prevent stone formation. There are very good homeopathic medicines to dissolves small and medium-sized gallstones. It is advised to consult a homeopath for the proper treatment.