Unlike the heart, kidneys, liver and brain, the gallbladder is usually not paid much attention. Most people are not even reminded by it that it exists, as patients with gallstones do not necessarily develop symptoms. However, in some cases they do get symptoms, and alleviating them can be a challenge. A special diet cannot remove gallstones, but if you avoid certain kinds of food, it can help you feel better.
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What is the gallbladder for?
The small organ few remember about is designed to store bile, a special substance produced by the liver and used to digest fats from food that you consume.
The gallbladder is unusual because a human being can live without it – unlike other organs, such as the pancreas, heart, etc., gallbladder removal does not lead to death. That is why patients who have gallstones – formations inside the gallbladder – undergo surgery if the stones cause symptoms. However, not all patients with gallstones need to have the organ removed: in many cases, gallstones do not manifest themselves in any ways, and a routine ultrasound can reveal gallstones in people who have never heard the organ complain.
Yet in some patients the condition leads to nausea, abdominal pain, and bloating. If these symptoms are recurrent and force the patient to visit a doctor, the gallbladder is taken out.
No diet can eliminate the gallstones that are already there, but there are nutrition patterns that can benefit such a patient and reduce the symptoms.
What food should I avoid if I have gallstones?
The key message here is to reduce the amount of saturated fats consumed. The reason for it is the following: since the gallbladder stores bile that helps digest fats, the more fats get into your digestive system, the more bile the body deploys to process them. The bile flow can be blocked by a gallstone inside the gallbladder, and that is when symptoms occur. Diet restrictions can help prevent such situations.
However, it must be noted that eliminating fats from your diet completely is a bad idea, and if your overall food intake is reduced significantly, gallstones are more likely to appear. Thank is why losing 1-1.5 kg a week is the maximum weight loss you can afford if you have gallstones: otherwise the symptoms can aggravate. Eager to know why? If the gallbladder has to contract less often in order to release bile, the salts in the substance get more concentrated, which contributes to stone formation.
So it’s a tricky thing: on the one hand, you should avoid fatty food and fight obesity (another risk factor for gallstones); on the other hand, getting rid of fats in your dishes and eating small amounts of food can lead to more gallstones.
One more important thing to remember when understanding the mechanics behind gallstones is that they are formed mostly by cholesterol and bilirubin. Consumption of foods high in fat should be limited, including:
- Processed foods, like cookies, cakes, pastry, doughnuts, etc.
- Fatty red meat. It contains saturated fats, and consuming red meat can contribute to gallstone formation. You can use poultry instead.
- Fried food. French fries, grilled meat and other fried foods benefit neither patients with gallstones nor healthy people.
- Refined carbohydrates. Such carbs as those found in sugar, refined grains, sweeteners and flour can also be used as ingredients in soft drinks and fried foods.
As seen from the list above, the gallbladder feels better if its owner follows a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, for example, and the nutrition pattern implied by healthy diets can benefit not only the organ in question, but also other body systems.
Reducing symptoms of gallstones by means of dieting boils down to cutting down on refined carbs and saturated fats. If changing your dieting habits does not help, you should visit a doctor and, perhaps, have your gallbladder removed.