Gallstones – What Are They ?

The gall bladder stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver, until it is needed for the digestion of fats during a meal. The gall bladder contracts and expels its contents into the narrow passageway of the bile duct and finally into the intestinal canal. Bile not only digests fats, but contains the wastes eliminated by the liver as it breaks down substances like drugs, hormones and proteins.

Gallstones are the most common gall bladder problem, capable of causing colic and jaundice. Stones in the gall bladder usually go undetected for a long time, but once a large stone passing through the bile duct becomes lodged, it can cause intense pain, appearing as a sharp cramp just under the right rib cage, which recurs and subsides. In some cases, the pain will shoot into the right shoulder or back often there is accompanying nausea and fever with chills.

Not all lodged gallstones cause colic however. If the gallstones remain blocking the bile flow, jaundice results instead, causing yellow and itchy skin. The back up may cause the gall bladder to inflame. The resulting infection causes aching under the right rib cage, indigestion, nausea and fever.

Bloating and pressure under the right rib cage are often an indication of liver and gall bladder trouble and possible stone development.
Mild symptoms of indigestion, gas and bloating from eating rich, oily or creamy foods high in fat content are often a sign of inadequate bile.
The digestive trouble affects the absorption of all foods and hinders the assimilation of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in particular.

Foods To Help Prevent Gallstones

Most gall bladder trouble is associated with a poor diet and sluggish liver. When too little bile is produced, stones are more likely to form. Also the longer the bile remains in the gall bladder the thicker it becomes, increasing the likelihood of stones.
Eating foods that stimulate the gall bladder such as essential fatty acids will prevent the development of stones. These acids support the transport of cholesterol, and stimulate bile when production and release are poor. For this reason, the consumption of fats should be limited to natural, cold pressed oils high in essential fatty acids, such as flax seed oil. Diets low in fiber and high in cholesterol from meat sources in particular are crucial in the development of cholesterol stones.

A high fiber diet is key to the prevention of gall stones. Especially beneficial is water soluble fiber, such as the pectin found in apples and carrots or those found in oat bran and dried beans.

Avoid the intake of animal fats or artificially hardened fats such as margarine, shortening and the fats found in over processed foods, which stress the liver and gall bladder. Gallstones are composed mostly of animal fat and cholesterol. Also limit milk and milk products.

Certain foods and herbs are very beneficial to the liver and gall bladder.
Artichokes and rhubarb stimulate bile flow and help heal gall bladder inflammation. Bitters from lettuce and chicory also stimulate bile flow.
Herbal bitters are excellent to help eliminate the pain seen typically in gall stone sufferers. We, over the years, have seen many individuals suffering with gall stones ease their symptoms by using herbal bitters 15-20 minutes before eating their meals. It is a simple but effective treatment for gallstones.

If the gallstones are extra large then you can try a herb called Quebra Pedra from the jungles of South America, which has a well deserved reputation for reducing the size of both kidney and gallstones.

David Foley
Medical Herbalist