What can I do to remove gallstones?
Gallstones are a hard mass composed of bile pigments, cholesterol, calcium bilirubinate and calcium carbonate that can form in the gall bladder or bile ducts. A gall stone appears over many years and can range in size, some growing to a couple of centimetres. Many people will have gall stones present in their gall bladder without it causing complications and often they will dissolve naturally. Complications arise when they grow in size as they can dramatically reduce digestive function, cause inflammation and infections.
In Naturopathy any presence of gall bladder stagnation/ gall stones is indicative of sluggish movement of bile through the gall bladder or a continual demand on bile supply due to diet. There are some people who have passed gall stones successfully by drinking large amounts of olive oil and lemon juice. The amount of oil and bitters in the preparation causes the gall bladder to contract and expel the gall stones into the bowels for elimination via the stool. However we do not advise you try this without professional supervision.
It is recommended to speak to a Healthcare professional regarding gallstones as it is not professional to claim that a gallstone can be removed or broken down. This is due to the complications and possibility of a stone becoming lodged in the bile duct causing inflammation and infection as well as possible removal of the gall bladder.
Complications and risk factors for gallstones
Some of the risk factors for the production of gall stones are defects in cholesterol metabolism, reflux, heartburn, colitis, constipation, obesity, hormone imbalance, hypochlorhydria (low digestive acids), sluggish liver function and bile movement.
There are many complications associated with gall stones (indigestion, inflammation of the bile duct, liver damage) and caution is advisable in regards to treatment. It is not recommended that you do a liver/ gall bladder flush at this stage as it may be possible that the stone will lodge in the bile duct and cause inflammation and blockage of bile or even pancreatitis. It would be safer for to you to make an appointment with a Healthcare professional who will better asisst you with diet and supplement suggestions as well as giving you the long term support and advice this condition requires.
Liver and gall bladder
The gall bladder and the liver have a close relationship when digesting foods, so in order to maintain a healthy gall bladder it is important to support the liver as well. Bile is needed for digestive purposes to emulsify fats and oils. The manufacturing of bile takes place in the liver and is transferred to the gall bladder which acts as a reservoir to hold the bile until it is needed for digestive processes. Bile acids are released into the digestive processes to help break down the fats and oils in foods. Without proper gall bladder function or bile supply cholestasis arises and symptoms of reflux and heartburn can occur. The fats and oils become rancid in the stomach because they are not being properly broken down, this often causes constipation, flatulence and a decrease in digestive capabilities. When the liver and gall bladder are congested due to gall stones or poorly functioning digestion, complaints arise such as reflux, indigestion, gall bladder pain, stomach pain, heaviness after eating rich, fatty or fried foods, constipation or nausea.
Cholesterol and gallstones
Have you had your cholesterol levels checked recently? The ideal level of cholesterol for women is below 5. A blood test which tests for cholesterol levels is a fairly accurate indication of how well the gall bladder is dealing with an excess of fats in the blood stream. When serum triglycerides (fats from foods) levels are raised this is indicative that there is too much cholesterol being consumed in the diet. The body also manufactures cholesterol at night in the liver.
Diet tips for gallstones
- Begin each day with a glass of warm water with ½ lemon squeezed in it. Lemon juice stimulates digestive and liver function, cleanes the bowels and has a beneficial effect
- Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables as these contain gentle fibre to encourage bowel evacuation of small gall stones
- Have a vegetable juice each day (beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger) as these encourage liver detoxification, alkalise and cleanse the system and provide vitamin C to move the bowel
- Eat lots of fresh fruit, especially apples. Apples have a special affinity for binding to excess cholesterol
- Consume good raw oils in your diet. Foods which contain good oils are raw olive oil, fish oil capsules, flaxseed oil capsules, fish, nuts and seeds and avocados
- Reduce saturated fats (animal fats and dairy foods), transfatty acids, processed foods and simple sugars. Saturated fats and transfatty acids are commonly found in foods such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, bakery foods, margarine, donuts, processed and deep fried foods
- Eat more bitter foods to stimulate liver and gall bladder function such as rocket, endive, raddichio and kale. Also eating foods high in sulphur help to stimulate liver detoxification such as garlic, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and radish
- Increase dietary fibres such as oat bran, slippery elm powder, flax seed, apple pectin and psyllium seeds, the fibre in these foods ensures that the excess cholesterol and bile salts are excreted via the bowel
- Increase vegetables in your meals, especially the family of cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and green beans which encourage the liver to detoxify and support gall bladder function. Preferably steam your vegetables rather than boiling to retain maximum nutrients
- Introduce herbal teas such as Dandelion, Burdock, Peppermint, Green Tea, lemon and ginger to support liver detoxification, digestion and the production of bile
- Increase omega 3 essential fatty acids in the form of deep sea oily fish (Salmon, Snapper, Mackeral, Anchovies, Cod, Sardines, Halibut)
- Lecithin sprinkled on your food, cereal or in a smoothie helps to emulsify fats, lipids and oils and the break down of cholesterol and bile in the digestion due to the phosphotidylcholine
- A low cholesterol diet is an important aspect of helping to prevent gall stones. A low cholesterol diet takes the strain off the liver and gall bladder
Natural remedies for gallstones
- Probiotics increase beneficial bacteria, as an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria in the bowels is a contributing factor to chronic constipation and gall bladder function
- Vitamin C and bioflavinoid help to stimulate bowel movement and bile movement
- Liver herbs may help to encourage liver and gall bladder herbs due to their cholagogue (bile stimulant) effects such as Globe Artichoke, Dandelion, St Marys Thistle, Bupleurum, Citrus Peel, Greater Celandine, Agrimony, Golden Seal, Barberry, Yellow Dock, Chamomile, Ginger and Turmeric
- The amino acids Taurine and Methionine are beneficial for reducing the production of gall stones. They contain sulphur components which help to increase liver detoxification processes
Lifestyle factors for gallstones
- Check gall bladder and liver function as a decline in the function of these can dramatically affect the storage of bile in the bile duct and the production of bile in the liver. Bile produced in the gall bladder ensures adequate break down of foods and also helps to lubricate the bowels
- Reduce smoking and alcohol as these reduce liver function, dry up the bowel, dehydrate and cause gall bladder insufficiencies
- If you are carrying a few extra kilos then try to lose a little weight, exercise regularly and manage stress. Shedding excess weight will take the strain off the liver, reduce excess oestrogens which are stored in the adipose tissue (fats) and improve digestion
- Reduce high cholesterol levels
- Address constipation if this is a problem for you
Meal suggestions for gallstones:
- Oat Porridge with low fat milk or soy milk and fresh fruit e.g. strawberries, berries or prunes. Add some brewers yeast, grated apples or psyllium to it also
- Yoghurt with fresh berries and sunflower seeds or a sprinkling of muesli
- Wholemeal toast with avocado, tahini & tomato
- Green garden salad using rocket and chicory lettuce with tinned tuna in brine with balsamic vinegar
- Roast vegetable salad with grilled chicken breast
- Homemade vege soups with legumes (e.g. minestrone)
- Chickpea and vegetable curry and rice (no coconut milk)
- Try making sushi - great fun for the kids to try
- Couscous with kidney beans and tomatoes
- Salmon & vegetable patties with garden salad
- Try supplementing black tea with organic herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, ginger and green tea
- Dandelion coffee can be made with a little bit of honey and soy milk
The following website contains some good healthy recipes you might like to try: www.organicfood.com.au