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Gallstone and its Prevention


Figure 1. Gall bladder opened to show numerous gallstones

An estimated 20% of the world's population will develop gallstones in their gallbladder (see Figure 1) at some stages in their lives; many of them will opt for surgical removal of this important organ (don't remove if possible; see Note # 1). This statistical figure does not account, though, for the many more people who will develop gallstones (or already have them) in their liver. Johns Hopkins University refer to them as "intrahepatic gallstones" (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Intrahepatic biliary gallstones resulting in ductal dilation

Our liver is an amazing organ with literally hundreds of functions, including detoxification, metabolic regulation, nutrient synthesis, hormone processing, and cholesterol and bile production. Liver performance can be restricted by the existence of gallstones in the liver and gallbladder. They prevent the necessary amount of bile from reaching the intestines. If that happens, your stool would have lighter color (because bile has dark green to yellowish brown color), float in the toilet (because its fatty content), and may have oil seen on the surface of the water[5].  Note that color changes can also come from food, but red, black, or white stools could also indicate more serious conditions like digested blood or liver disease, so do get it checked out[9].

It's believed that most patients suffering a chronic illness have excessive amounts of gallstones in the liver. Gallstones found in gallbladder tend to be hardened and relatively large while stones found in liver tends to be soft and noncalcified. Sometimes intrahepatic gallstones may be diagnosed as "fatty liver" by doctors. Under ultrasound, the picture of liver appears to be white instead of black.

Symptoms of Liver Dysfunction
Gallstones can cause liver congestion. Many people may have perfectly normal liver enzyme levels in the blood, despite suffering from liver congestion. The tests used to determine liver function are not designed to show mild dysfunction, but rather liver damage. For a list of symptoms of liver dysfunction[3], see the table below:


Symptoms of Liver Dysfunction


  • Acne, allergies, or asthma
  • Allergic conditions such as hay fever, hives, skin rashes, asthma
  • Back pain
  • Brown or dark spots on the skin, often called age spots or liver spots
  • Bursitis
  • Cancer
  • Candidiasis
  • Coated tongue or bad breadth in the morning
  • Fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fluid retention, swollen legs, fingers, or toes
  • Headaches: migraines, tension headaches, hormonal headaches, cluster headaches, pain in the eyes, vision problems
  • High blood pressure

  • Hypoglycemia, blood sugar instability
  • Immune system weakness
  • Inability to tolerate fatty foods
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Kidney problems
  • Lupus
  • Mood changes, depression, "foggy" brain
  • Nausea, abdominal pains, acid reflux
  • Obesity
  • Poor digestion, bloating, gas, weight gain, cellulite, and constipation
  • Sinus problems
  • Small bright red spots on the body (called cherry angiomas)
  • Thin stools (diameter of a rope or pencil)


What's Bile?
Apart from assisting with the digestion of fat, calcium, and protein foods, bile is needed to maintain normal fat levels in the blood, remove toxins from the liver, help maintain proper acid/alkaline balance in the intestinal tract, and keep the colon from breeding harmful microbes. To maintain a strong and healthy digestive system and feed body cells the right amount of nutrients, the liver needs to produce 1-1.5 quarts of bile per day.

Bile consists of water, mucus, bilirubin, bile salts, and cholesterol, as well as enzymes and beneficial bacteria. The production of bile and intestinal digestive juices naturally peaks during midday. This suggests that the biggest meal is best eaten around midday.


What Causes Gallstones?

The dissolving action of bile salts and water normally keep cholesterol in liquid forms. Gallstones develop when bile contains too much cholesterol and not enough bile salts. Besides a high concentration of cholesterol, three other factors seem to be important in causing gallstones:
  1. How often and how well the gallbladder contracts (incomplete and infrequent emptying of the gallbladder may cause the bile to become over-concentrated and contribute to gallstone formation).
  2. The presence of proteins in the liver and bile that either promote or inhibit cholesterol crystallization into gallstones.
  3. Based a recent research, scientists have found that NETs play an important role in the assembly and growth of gallstones
    • Like spiders catching prey, neutrophils build web-like structures called neutrophil extracellular traps, better known as NETs, that catch and kill microorganisms that make us sick. 
Interestingly, a lack of melatonin could significantly contribute to gallbladder stones, as melatonin both inhibits cholesterol secretion from the gallbladder, enhances the conversion of cholesterol to bile, and is an antioxidant, capable of reducing oxidative stress to the gallbladder.


Who Are at Higher Risks?

The following groups of people have higher risk of having gallstones:
  1. Fat (i.e., overweight)
  2. Forty (an age near or above 40)
  3. Female
  4. Fertile (pre-menopausal)
  5. Fair (gallstone condition is more prevalent in Caucasians)
How to Avoid Gallstones?

Follow the following simple guidelines to avoid gallstones and improve your liver health:
  1. Maintain healthy weight
  2. Drink a cup of coffee per day[5](However, don't drink too much it[6])
  3. Exercise regularly[7]
  4. Don't skip meal; avoid overeating; eat small meals in shorter intervals (Note that some patients actually have their gall bladder burst after having a big fatty meal[5])
  5. Take ionic essential minerals
  6. Drinking enough water
  7. Reduce or eliminate your use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  8. Reduce your sugar consumption (note that sugar consumption can actually increase triglycerides)—eat whole fruits rather than drinking fruit juice
  9. Add sour-tasting foods to your diet (see Note # 2)
  10. Eat vegetables every day, especially greens—In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the color green is associated with the liver. If you could, eat a vegetarian/vegan diet.
  11. Avoid toxic fats, eat beneficial ones
  12. Eat close to nature—Avoid artificial ingredients by eating less packaged foods; go organic as much as possible
  13. Avoid light (i.e., low-fat or low-calorie) food products
  14. Eat unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt
  15. Getting enough sleep
  16. Avoid overworking
  17. Get regular exposure to sunlight
  18. Take liver herbs (e.g., milk thistle)
  19. Replace all metal tooth fillings (note that don't do this during pregnancy)
  20. Bring balance to your emotional health
  21. Cleanse your liver twice a year; keep your colon clean; cleanse your kidney [1,8]
21-day Plan to Dissvolve Gallstones

If you've been diagnosed with gallstones, you might want to try the following 21-day plan to slowly dissolve the stones as recommended by Paul Pitchford in [4]. Each day you should:
  • Eat one or two radishes
  • Drink 5 cups of chamomile tea
  • Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of fresh, cold-pressed flax oil to two meals

After 21 days, continue using the flaxseed 6 days a week over the next 2 months.

Along with this plan, he suggests you include foods that help to dissolve gallstones, such as pears, apples, parsnips, sea vegetables, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and the spice turmeric. According to Paul Pitchford, this program will safely remove all sediment from your gallbladder.

Reference

  1. The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse--An All-Natural, At-Home Flush to Purify & Rejuvenate Your Body by Andreas Moritz.
  2. Gallstone, Wikipedia
  3. Juicing, Fasting, and Detoxing for Life by Cherie Calbom, MS and John Calbom, MA
  4. Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd Edition. Berkley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2002.
  5. Dr. Oz Show
  6. If You Drink Too Much Caffeine
  7. Exercise and Its Benefits
  8. The Swiss Secret to Optimal Health by Thomas Rau, M.D.
  9. Body Check: Stools
  10. Fibrates (gemfibrozil, fenofibrate, bezafibrate)
    • The most important class of medications which can be effectively used nowadays to combat atherogenic dyslipidemias is the fibrates
    • However, since fibrates increase the cholesterol content of bile, they may increase the risk for gallstones
  11. Scientists Just Solved a Mystery of How Gallstones Form
Notes
  1. One big problem when a person has gall bladder surgery is that the body has no where to store bile until it is needed. Therefore, it just drips continually. And when a large amount is needed to digest a meal with a lot of fat, there is not anywhere enough bile added to digest it properly.
  2. Add sour-tasting foods to your diet. These include citrus fruits (sprinkle lemon in your water and on foods such as fish and vegetables), raw apple cider vinegar (good for balancing pH--try two tablespoons in a glass of water, or use with olive oil on your salad), and sauerkraut (which contains beneficial bacteria). With our over-sugared, over-salted palates, we often overlook sour-tasting foods. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sour flavor is associated with the liver, and it enhances bile flow.
  3. Deep colonic cleansing should be done only by a licensed medical professional under controlled conditions.  Well-meaning amateurs can do serious harm warned Dr. Rau[8].
  4. As noted by Dr. Rau[8], many supposed gallbladder problems problems actually arise in the liver.
  5. The malolactic acid in the apple juice can open up and relaxes the bile ducts and is often used in the Liver Cleanse.


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