Gallstones are crystalline deposits that form in your gallbladder. They vary in size, ranging from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. About 30 million Americans have gallstones, but many aren’t even aware of their presence. Yet for others, the gallstones can trigger severe bloating, pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Gallstones develop due to the presence of excess cholesterol in the bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and released into the intestines to enable digestion of fat.
Risk Factors for developing gallstones include:
- Having family members with gallstones.
- Being a female, as they are twice as likely to develop gallstones.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Consuming a high-fat diet.
- Having diabetes.
- Using cholesterol medication.
Many of these risk factors cannot be changed. However, sensible eating can play an important role in lowering your risk of developing gallstones. Here are some simple tips for gallstone prevention:
- A Well-Balanced Diet: The best way to keep gallstones at bay is to ensure your diet contains the right amounts of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This helps prevent the solidification of bile.
- Avoid Crash Dieting: Drastically lowering your calorie intake to less than 800 calories per day or ‘yo-yo dieting’ can cause your liver to release large amounts of cholesterol into the bile which increases the chances of gallstone formation.
- Eat Moderate Amounts of Fat: Avoid eating too much fat, but you shouldn’t eliminate it altogether either. Adequate amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil or fish oil help the gallbladder contract and empty bile into your intestines on a regular basis.
- Consume More of Fiber-Rich Foods: Try to consume 4-5 serving of fruits and vegetables every day. A high-fiber diet speeds up transit time through the intestines and reduces the production of bile acids.
Abdominal pain due to gallstones may last for a few minutes to a couple of hours. Consult your doctor or the specialists at Greater Houston Gastroenterology if you suspect that your abdominal pain may be due to gallstones.
Greater Houston Gastroenterology is the largest full-service gastroenterology group in the Houston metropolitan area, bringing high quality, cost-effective personalized care to patients from The Woodlands and North Houston to Sugar Land, Richmond, Pearland, and Angleton. Please reach out of us if you have questions or would like additional information.