Gallstones are stone-like hard materials that develop in the gallbladder, a small pear-shaped organ tucked up under the liver and on the right side of your abdomen. The gallbladder stores a digestive fluid called bile that’s dispensed into your small intestine. Bile is a green-yellow colored mixture of cholesterol, bilirubin, bile salts and lecithin that helps digest fats in the food you eat.

Gallstones are often made of cholesterol or bilirubin, a waste product which your body makes during normal breakdown of red blood cells.

There are two types of gallstones:

  • Cholesterol gallstones are made up of excess cholesterol and are yellow-green in color. These are most common, making up 80% of gallstones.
  • Pigment gallstones are made up of excess bilirubin and are smaller and darker in color.

The size of gallstones can vary from a tiny grain of sand to a large golf ball. Interestingly, larger stones tend to remain quietly in the gallbladder whereas small stones can cause the most trouble as these can get stuck in the bile ducts after leaving the gallbladder. Many people who have gallstones are never bothered by them and might not know that you have them until they block a bile duct, causing pain and complications that need immediate medical attention. Treatment options often involve minimally invasive surgery to remove the gallstones, and sometimes cholecystectomy surgery to remove the gallbladder. Silent gallstones which are routinely asymptomatic, don’t need treatment.

Possible causes of gallstones

The actual cause of gallstones isn’t clear. Gallstones are thought to develop when the chemicals inside the gallbladder are out of balance.

Here are a few possible reasons that can cause chemical imbalance:

Excessive cholesterol in the bile

Generally, the bile contains an adequate amount of chemicals to dissolve the cholesterol made by your liver. When the liver excretes extra cholesterol, your bile can’t dissolve it all. Then the excess cholesterol might form crystals and eventually into yellow cholesterol stones.

Check out your cholesterol levels with the comfort of your home.

Excessive bilirubin in the bile

Certain conditions such liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infections and certain blood disorders can cause your liver to make too much bilirubin. This excess bilirubin then leads to formation of pigment gallstones.

Bile is secreted by your liver cells. Pay good attention to your liver health. Book test now.  

Overly concentrated bile

If your gallbladder doesn’t empty wholly or often enough, the bile may become overly concentrated, contributing to the formation of gallstones.

Healthy Dietary changes to prevent gallstones

There is no foolproof way that can prevent gallstones. However, you can lower the risk factors by following some healthy lifestyle and dietary changes. Most of the gallstones are formed from cholesterol; limiting cholesterol in your diet can help prevent the condition.

Keeping your weight within a moderate range through exercise and a nutritionally balanced diet is another way to limit the possibility of gallstones formation. Take advice from your doctor about weight loss and cholesterol management if you have a family history of gallstones.

Follow these tips to improve your condition and reduce your risk of gallstones:

Never skip your meals

Stick to your regular mealtimes every day. Skipping meals is not a good idea as it can cause bile juices build up. This in turn increases the cholesterol levels in your gallbladder. Over time, this can harden into gallstones.

Avoid rapid weight loss

If you are overweight and planning to lose weight, go slow. Risk of developing gallstones is much higher in a rapid weight loss program since losing your weight too quickly will cause a chemical imbalance. It is important to discuss your risks with a doctor, if you are planning a weight loss surgery especially important if you have had stones in the past. It is common for gallstones to occur more than once.

Include high-fiber foods in your diet

Eat more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains to get proper amount of fiber per day. Women should aim for at least 21- 25 grams of fiber a day and men should eat 30-38 grams a day.

Eat more healthy fats

Include more healthy fats like nuts, fish oil and olive oil in your diet. This may help empty your gallbladder on a regular basis.

Exercise regularly

Get some sort of physical activity every day. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (such as walking, cycling).

Finding and treating gallstones

The most common technique to spot gallstones is an ultrasound examination. Post diagnosis, your doctor will devise a treatment plan.

No treatment is required if your gallstones aren’t causing any symptoms. You’ll only need a surgery if a stone blocks one of your bile ducts and is causing severe lower abdomen pain or complications, such as jaundice, acute pancreatitis, cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder) or cholangitis (inflammation of bile ducts). If you have any blood disorder, your doctor may consider cholecystectomy as a precaution, even if there are no symptoms. In rare cases, if a person is at high risk for surgery complications, other non surgical methods like medications may be used.

Surgical treatments

The most common surgical treatment for gallstones is removal of the gallbladder, called cholecystectomy. There are two types of cholecystectomy:

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy, also known as minimally invasive procedure, is the most common surgery for gallstones. This procedure uses several small incisions instead of one large one. A narrow, flexible tube with a camera and a light called laparoscope is passed into your belly through one small incision. Your gallbladder is taken out through another small incision. You’ll usually go home the same day if you have no complications.

Open cholecystectomy

In this procedure, your surgeon will make a large incision on your belly to take out your gallbladder. People who undergo open surgery need to stay in the hospital for a few days afterward. This surgery is typically performed in patients having a bleeding disorder or severe gallbladder disease or late term pregnancy. This surgery may also happen if experiencing difficulties during a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

For both types of surgery, patients will be given general anesthesia. So that they won’t feel any pain while it’s being done. If the gallstones are present in your bile ducts, your doctor may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to find and remove them before or during surgery.

Nonsurgical treatments

There are a few nonsurgical ways of removing gallstones that doctors can try on patients that can’t undergo surgery.

Ursodeoxycholic acid therapy 

It typically includes use of ursodeoxycholic to break up gallstones. This treatment is best suited for breaking up gallstone made of cholesterol and may take many months or years to effectively dissolve the stone. This treatment is also known as oral dissolution therapy.

Shock wave lithotripsy 

Lithotripsy is another nonsurgical option. A lithotripter is a machine that generates ultrasonic shock waves. These shock waves can break gallstones into smaller pieces that can pass safely through a person’s stools.

The takeaway

Gallstones are not fatal; but they can cause many complications that could be life threatening, particularly in people who are already in poor health. Fortunately, deaths from gallstones are very rare.

Gallstones can be easily treated with a gallstone or gallbladder removal surgery and it’s possible to lead a normal life without a gallbladder. You can still digest your food without a gallbladder. Your liver will still produce bile, but bile will no longer go through the gallbladder, it will drip into the small intestine. You might experience symptoms of diarrhea after gallbladder removal, but the laxative effect should resolve on its own for most people. So, If you have been diagnosed with gallstones and advised to undergo surgery to remove them or your gallbladder, the prospective is often positive.

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Our liver plays a vital role in our body’s digestive system. Whatever we eat or drink, including medicines, almost all of it passes through the liver. Therefore, we need to treat our Liver right, so that it can stay healthy and do its job effectively. Amid the hectic schedule, it is quite easy for most of us to forget to pay our liver the attention that it rightly deserves.

The liver, situated under the lower ribcage on our right side, is responsible for getting rid of harmful chemicals to cleanse the body, producing liquid called bile which is required for breaking down all the fat from our food. Most importantly it stores glucose which gives us energy to carry out our daily activities. The liver is the only organ in our body that can regenerate itself; a person can donate a part of their liver to another person.  This article will provide you with insights that can help lower the risk of liver problems and eventually other vital organs as well.

Major Liver problems include infectious conditions like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and liver damage caused due to excessive alcohol consumption, like fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Liver failure and liver cancer are fatal diseases that can be caused due to multiple causes, with most cases associated with liver damage and scarring of the liver. All such problems can adversely affect the normal and healthy functioning of the liver, thus proper care and caution is essential when it comes to keeping the liver in good health

6 ways to keep the liver problems at bay:

  • Limit your alcohol intake

Our liver and body can usually cope up with consuming only a certain amount of alcohol.As per the guidelines, men should not go for drinking more than 2 drinks a day and women should limit themselves to just one drink a day. One “standard” drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. For example, around 12 ounces of regular beer. But if you continue to drink more than what your liver can take, it will affect the liver cells; they will not be able to process it and this can lead to liver damage, leading to permanent scarring of the liver. If you continue with excessive drinking, it might cause liver failure too.

  • Get a Liver Function Test regularly

Liver function tests aka Liver Panel, is a simple blood test that can be taken to measure different enzymes, proteins and all other substances that our Liver produces. This simple blood test can reveal much information about your liver health and may be an early indication of liver disease. This allows you to take action in time.

  • Exercise regularly

Though this is something which is important for preventing most lifestyle diseases, we never tend to take this seriously. This helps keep our weight under control, and prevent excess fats from getting stored in our body. Regular exercise can help keep non alcoholic fatty liver disease at bay, a severe condition that can lead to cirrhosis if not taken care of. If currently you are not doing any physical workout, start by doing some daily exercises and slowly and gradually move up towards increasing it to half an hour or an hour daily.

  • Don’t go for fad diets

Following trends, a lot of people go for random diet plans, weight loss pills or protein pills, without understanding the after-effects it can have. Fad diets and pills available without prescription that promise quick weight loss or weight gain might end up harming the Liver in the long run. If in any doubt what can be the perfect diet or tablets to keep the health in check, always ask a doctor or a dietician.

One simply cannot stress over the fact enough that having a balanced diet is important for anyone. Try and avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats as much as possible. Our culture these days is to simply have leftovers or packaged / processed foods, keep a check on that. High levels of cholesterol are identified as common causes leading to fatty liver disease. Therefore it is suggested to eat more fibrous food, like fruits and vegetables and dairy produce for a healthy liver functioning.

Want to check how your diet might have harmed your cholesterol levels. Book a lab test right away.

  • Be careful with medication

We often tend to self diagnose ourselves when it comes to common cold or cough, doing so we take medicines that can affect the liver badly. By not consulting a doctor or a physician, we tend to put our health at risk. Of all the organs present in our body, the liver is most vulnerable to the harmful effects of self-medication. It acts as the main organ that detoxifies whatever medicines go inside our body. Over dose of any medicine, not consulting a doctor, taking herbal supplements can all have irreversible side effects on the liver. Thereby always check with a specialist and avoid compromising your liver health.

  • Get vaccinated

Vaccinations protect yourselves against Hepatitis A, B & C. Always consult your family doctor or physician before getting these shots. Hepatitis A can be caused due to contaminated food or water and Hepatitis B can be because of sexual contact or contaminated blood and needles. Remember prevention is better than cure

The liver is wonderfully created to perform countless functions for our body. It protects and nurtures our body every day, from getting rid of toxins, giving the body the desired energy, fighting viruses and other infections to maintaining mineral and vitamin supply in our body. All of these are not possible without a healthy liver. It is a complex yet resilient organ of our body that needs to be taken care of day in and day out.

Schedule that long-pending liver health test now. Book here.





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