How Does Food Affect Gallstones?
According to the World Gastroenterology Organization, 15% of the population in the USA alone suffer from gallstones.
Gallstones are formed when the food intake is too high in cholesterol, or the bile is low on bile salts. When we eat food, the gallbladder contracts to release bile juices, but the presence of gallstones can restrict the movement of these juices from the gallbladder to the small intestine. They can also block these contractions, resulting in unbearable pain.
Some of the reasons for the formation of gallstones are –
Too much cholesterol in bile – Bile juices stored in the gallbladder are responsible for breaking down the cholesterol. These bile juices are produced by the liver and secreted into the gallbladder by hepatic ducts. But if the cholesterol produced by your liver is more than the amount the bile can digest, the cholesterol crystallizes and eventually turns into a stone.
Too much bilirubin in bile – Bilirubin(1) is produced when the liver breaks down red blood cells. It is a brownish-yellow compound that is flushed out from the body through feces. If not flushed out of the body, the surplus of bilirubin can cause gallstones.
The gallbladder doesn’t empty properly – If the gallbladder does not empty itself often, the bile in it concentrates over time, which results in the formation of gallstones.
Did You Know!
|The bile that is secreted from the liver is different than the bile stored in the gallbladder. The bile in the gallbladder is more concentrated as it removes some electrolytes and water from the fluid content of the bile, making it ten times more concentrated.|
Foods to Avoid With Gallstones
As we know, the main function of the gallbladder is to store the bile juices that are needed for digestion. Thus, its health largely depends on the kind of food intake.
There are certain foods that one should avoid for the healthy functioning of the gallbladder, and to prevent the formation of gallstones. Here’s a rundown of what not to eat when you have gallstones:
Greasy foods and foods high in fat, such as dairy products, are hard to digest if you have gallstones. Bile juices stored in the gallbladder consists of acid that is vital in the digestion and absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.
A diet rich in fats tends to result in the overworking of the gallbladder. An overworked gallbladder may not be able to break down all the fats, leaving behind cholesterol deposits, which will then take the form of gallstones.
[Read: Diet for Gallstones]
Foods that contain excessive fat includes:
- Fried foods (French fries, chicken nuggets, etc.)
- High-fat dairy products (Milk, butter, cream, etc.)
- Fatty meat (pork, beef, and mutton)
- Processed meat
People suffering from gallstones always wonder about the drinks they can opt for. Alcohol is definitely not the answer to this question.
There are myths about the relation between alcohol and gallstones. Many suggest that a moderate amount of alcohol may help get rid of gallstones by stimulating the gallbladder to empty. Science has not been able to confirm this claim, and research on this subject is still underway.
That being said, the consumption of alcohol in large amounts can invariably lead to gallbladder issues. Liver cirrhosis is a condition of the liver where scarred tissues gradually start replacing the healthy tissues. One of the proven causes of liver cirrhosis is excessive alcohol consumption, and one of the side effects of liver cirrhosis(2) is gallstones. Hence, it is recommended to steer clear of alcohol for a fit gallbladder.
Refined carbohydrates are low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These are complex foods that are difficult to digest. A diet rich in refined carbs can put a lot of pressure on the gallbladder, leading to its inefficient performance that can eventually result in the formation of gallstones.
One should consume refined carbohydrates in limited quantities only. Some of the foods you should cut off from your diet are mentioned below –
- Sugary foods (Sweets, dessert, breakfast cereal, etc.)
- Refined grain (Pizza, pasta, white bread, white rice, etc.)
Although it might seem difficult to enjoy eating when you are suffering from gallstones, you need not worry. These gallbladder-friendly foods are completely safe to eat –
- Lean meat (Poultry, fish)
- Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
- Low-fat dairy products
- Whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice, wheat bran, etc.)
For some people, gallstones can be very troublesome, while some may not even notice their presence! Only about a ⅓ of people with gallstones have symptoms severe enough to undergo surgery.
The presence of gallstones can be very uncomfortable to live with. Every time the gallbladder contracts to release the bile juices, the gallstones present could constrict the movement, causing pain and discomfort. But, some smart choices in the kind of food you eat can help deal with these issues and more effectively.
[Also Read: Gallbladder Removal Diet Basics ]
1. Is Drinking Water Good for Gallstones?
Yes, drinking water helps to keep the bile production in check, which eventually helps with gallstones. The suggested amount is about 6-8 glasses of water a day.
2. What Are the Foods That Can Trigger Gallbladder Attacks?
Fatty foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates are some foods that can trigger gallbladder attacks. Continuous consumption of these foods can affect the proper functioning of the gallbladder, leaving cholesterol deposits that could lead to gallstones later.
3. Can I Drink Soda With Gallstones?
No, drinking soda is not a good idea since it is high on sugar, and sugary foods are not recommended for gallstones.