The liver, gallbladder and ducts associated with the two organs comprise the human biliary system. The biliary system functions to produce, secrete and store bile. Bile is made in the liver and is necessary for the digestion of fats in your food. As you eat, the bile moves from the liver to your small intestine. However, when you are not eating, the bile gets stored in the gallbladder, where it also gets concentrated. During your fat intake, the gallbladder contracts to release the bile stored in it and pushes it into the small intestine. Sudden or fast intensifying spasm or pain at the upper right of your abdomen or back, usually after an evening meal, nausea and vomiting signal that all may not be well with your gallbladder. The pains last for a few minutes to a few hours in some cases.
What is a gallbladder stone?
Gallstones or cholelithiasis as it is known in medical terminology, are the most common cause of problems 0f your gallbladder. Gallstones are hard nuggets of cholesterol or bilirubin, i.e. bile salt. They do not have any specific shape or size. They may just be the size of a grain of salt or large enough akin to a golf ball. The number of stones inside your gallbladder may be anything – just a single one or many of them.
Types of gallbladder stones
Stones in your gallbladder are of two types – cholesterol gallstones and pigment gallstones.
Excess cholesterol in your bile is likely to give you cholesterol gallstone.
If your bile consists of excess bilirubin, you are likely to have pigment gallstones.
The third type, known as mixed gallstone, is a heterogeneous mix of cholesterol, bile pigments and calcium salts. This is also the most common type of gallstone found in a vast majority of incidences.
What causes stones to form in your gallbladder?
Chemical imbalance in the gallbladder is considered to be the reason for stones being formed in your gallbladder. These chemicals include cholesterol, calcium bilirubinate and calcium carbonate. There is no established reason yet known as to why some people have this chemical imbalance in their gallbladder to get gallstones and others do not.
Risk factors for growing stones in your gallbladder
There are hardly any specific reasons for the formation of gallstones. Some of the reasons attributed to the formation of stones in the gallbladder include:-
- Fat or cholesterol-rich diet
- Simply being a female
A study corroborates that women are at higher risk of growing gallbladder stones due to pregnancy and sex hormones. Secretion of biliary cholesterol is associated with estrogen, which is a group of hormones which play a vital role in aiding the reproductive development in women and maintaining normal sexual health. This results in supersaturation of bile with cholesterol rendering the bile lithogenic, i.e. prone to the formation of stone. The study further concluded that heaviness or obesity in the abdominal region, lack of physical activity and high intake of foods rich in saturated fats were the most common factors in the cases forming part of the cited study on “Lifestyle and Gallstone Disease”.
Gallbladder stones – symptoms and complications
In the majority of cases, there are hardly any symptoms of growth of stones in your gallbladder. They may be merrily swimming around in the stored bile, causing you no harm or pain or discomfort, not giving any inkling of their existence. In this condition, stones in the gallbladder continue to remain unknown unless revealed through an ultrasonography examination.
Here are some of the symptoms and complications that may indicate the presence of gallbladder stones:
- Sudden and intense pain in the upper right part of the abdomen.
- Intense and rapidly increasing pain in the central portion of the abdomen below the breastbone.
- Pain in between the shoulder blades
- Sharp pain in the right shoulder
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting.
When gallstone(s) block a biliary duct you start feeling the pain. About 10 – 22% of just the female population in India are estimated to have gallstone disease.
Here are some complications which may arise if gallbladder stones are left untreated:
- The stones in your gallbladder may result in complications like cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), leading to a tear in the gallbladder.
- Obstruction of bile duct leading to jaundice.
When to consult a doctor?
If you notice the above-mentioned symptoms or if the symptoms seem to be getting worse, those floating stones may need to be checked by a doctor. Consult a doctor right away.
Home remedies for gall bladder stone
There is no basis established yet that home remedies are an effective treatment for stones in your gallbladder. They are, however, known to provide some symptomatic relief and may help maintain the status quo. We will cover some exclusively home remedies and some natural remedies that too may be tried at home to maintain good digestive health and gallbladder.
DIY remedies: Every person is different, so these may/or may not suit you. Talk to your doctor before trying anything new.
- Have a mix of equal parts of carrot, beet and cucumber twice a day.
- To soothe your spasms and instant relief from gallbladder pain, you may drink peppermint tea. A teaspoon of lemon juice a day may act as a prevention against the formation of cholesterol stones.
- Thrice a day, consume the fresh juice of one pear mixed with half a glass of warm water and a teaspoon of honey.
Try some of the natural remedies that you follow by yourself at home.
- Apple cider vinegar with apple juice
Some suggest a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar as a cleanser. Apple cider vinegar is known to have some health benefits, but its efficacy in gallstone is not medically established. Consumption of large amounts of apple juice is not advisable for those with diabetes, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and stomach ulcer.
- Dandelion or Dalia
This flower (known better as Dalia or Singhparni in India) has been traditionally known as an effective home remedy for problems of the gallbladder, liver and bile ducts. Its bitter roots are known to stimulate the production of bile for storing in the gallbladder. Dandelion tea or coffee is available in stores and is often consumed for gallstones.
Extract of this drumstick is known to assist the production of bile and aid the functioning of both the liver and the gallbladder. You may have it cooked in various ways to your taste or buy it as a supplement which apparently works better.
- Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk or isabgol is a popular remedy used for regularising bowel movements in India. It has been known to inhibit the formation of cholesterol gallstones.
Preventive actions are one of the best remedies that you may try to keep yourself away from incurring gallstones.
- Ensure yourself a diet comprised of fibre, nuts, calcium, vitamin C, vegetable protein
- Coffee and alcohol, both in moderation, are good preventives.
- Include turmeric, ginger, cloves, asafoetida or hing in your daily cooking.
- Include and increase physical activity.
Home remedies do not have any proven effect in the prevention or reduction of gallbladder stones. Not every reason for the formation of gallstones is known; hence, one may get gallbladder stones even without any known risk factors or underlying problems. Early diagnosis and timely treatment by a doctor are recommended.