Understanding Gallbladder Disease: Symptoms, Causes and More

Do you feel pain in the upper right of your abdomen? Do you have a fever? Maybe, you are feeling nauseous. If you answer yes to all these questions, there are chances that you have gallbladder disease. However, proper diagnosis is necessary, and only doctors can help you with this. To understand whether you have this disease or not, your physician or GP may suggest some diagnostic tests and perform a physical examination.

What Is Gallbladder Disease?

Gallbladder disease refers to any health condition that affects the gallbladder, a small organ, located under the liver. The gallbladder stores bile that our liver produces. If you ask what bile is, here is our answer for you – bile, a yellowish liquid, breaks down fats and thus helps us digest our food.

Since the gallbladder is not essential for the digestion process, removing this organ does not usually cause any major health problems or digestion issues. However, a small risk of fat malabsorption and diarrhea will always be there. Therefore, it is necessary to cure this health condition with proper gallbladder treatments.

History of the Gallbladder Disease: What You Should Know

Today, gallbladder removal surgery, also known as cholecystectomy, has become one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. However, before the late 1800s, the scenario was different. Physicians used to treat patients by removing only stones and draining fluid while keeping the gallbladder intact. They used to fear that removing this organ would kill the patients. But only removing the stones provides patients with temporary relief from their pain.

To cure this disease from the root, Carl Johann August Langenbuch, a German physician, performed a gallbladder removal surgery in 1882 and thus treated a patient who was suffering from gallstones effectively. By 1897, performing the gallbladder removal surgery had become common, as it was clear that this surgical treatment not only saves patients but also relieves their pain permanently.

How Common Is the Gallbladder Disease?

As we have already mentioned, the gallbladder removal surgery or cholecystectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures, being performed widely. Now let’s see what the statistics say – as per the PubMed article, more than 700,000 people go through gallbladder surgery every year. Gallbladder disease or problems account for approximately 6.5 billion dollars in the United States, demonstrating how common this disease is.

Another study, published by the Cancer Research UK, showed 29% of gallbladder cancer cases are in males, while 71% are in females in the UK. This study also shows – about 3600 people, diagnosed with gallbladder cancer between 1992 and 2010 were alive by the end of 2010 in the UK.

Common Symptoms and Possible Causes

One of the most common gallstones or gallbladder symptoms is severe pain in the upper right abdomen. You may feel pain while eating, especially fried foods. The pain usually lasts for a few hours. Here are the other symptoms and signs of gallbladder issues, as one of the PubMed articles says:

  • Jaundice
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever etc.

Patients with gallstones usually have these symptoms. However, gallstones sometimes cause no symptoms. In such cases, doctors diagnose silent gallstones with Ultrasonography. Below are two common causes of gallbladder disease and gallstones:

  • Too much cholesterol and bilirubin in your bile
  • Your gallbladder fails to empty bile properly

Whatever the cause is, you can expect to get relief from pain with proper treatments and medicine for gallstones.

Risk Factors of Gallbladder Disease

As per one of the PMC articles, here are some risk factors for gallstones or gallbladder disease:

  1. Obesity or overweight
  2. Females are at higher risk than males
  3. Foods high in cholesterol or fat
  4. Rapid weight loss
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Older people are at higher risk than younger ones
  7. Genetics or family history of gallstones
  8. Diabetic Patients with high levels of fatty acids are at risk
  9. Medications, containing estrogen such as oral contraceptives

Diet and Gallbladder Disease

High consumption of pork, beef, and fried food increases cholesterol gallstone risks; while intake of carbohydrates increases the risk of pigment gallstone, as a recent study in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition showed.

Foods That Help with Gallbladder Disease

For a healthy gallbladder, make sure you add the following foods to your diet chart, as suggested by an NIH article.

  • Fresh fruits
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, freekeh, whole wheat bread and oats
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fish, poultry, and lean meat

Foods You Should Avoid

If you are looking for natural remedies for gallstones, make sure you maintain a healthy diet. A recent study in the PMC Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition showed the following high-fat foods increase the risk for gallbladder disease. So, make sure you avoid them.

  • Refined grain
  • Red meat
  • Tea
  • Sugar
  • Solid fat
  • Processed meats
  • Soft drinks
  • Baked potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products, including cheese, ice cream, and butter

Does Exercise Prevent One from Developing Gallstones?

Gallstones usually develop because of high cholesterol levels. Therefore, reducing cholesterol levels can help in preventing gallstones from developing. However, a recent study, published by PubMed showed that physical activity does not always decrease the risk of gallbladder disease and gallstones. As per this study, only one analysis confirmed how physical activity reduces the risk of gallbladder disease.

Exercises like brisk walking, lifting weight, running are effective for reducing cholesterol levels. For gallbladder pain remedy, make sure you maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. The following exercises can help you maintain a healthy weight – biking, dancing, weight lifting, swimming, stretching, etc. But before doing any strenuous activity, do not forget to consult your doctor and fitness experts.

Treatments for Gallbladder Disease or Gallstones

From natural remedies to medication and surgery – there are several treatment options for gallstones.

1.      Home Remedies and Natural Treatment

If you have gallstones without any acute symptoms, you may try the following ways to improve your condition:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid foods high in fat and cholesterol
  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take supplements that your doctor recommends

In case you feel severe pain even after implementing the above, consult with your doctor. Physicians usually suggest medication or surgery when non-pharmacological interventions fail.

2.      Medication and Nonsurgical Treatments

Robotic and laparoscopic techniques being less risky, physicians usually do not use medication as a gallbladder pain remedy these days. However, if you cannot have surgery and are looking for a gallbladder stone treatment without operation, you may take medications like ursodiol. But be sure that you take this medicine only when your doctor prescribes it.

3.      Surgery

After performing a physical examination and using some diagnostic tests like ultrasound, gallbladder radionuclide scan, abdominal CT scan, blood test, etc., your doctor will decide whether you need to undergo a laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery. This common surgical procedure requires general anesthesia. It involves making 3 to 4 incisions in the abdomen and inserting a small lighting device into the incision. After this, your surgeon will remove your gallbladder. Since this treatment involves rapid recovery, doctors often suggest this surgery.

Bottom Line

Gallstones or gallbladder disease can be painful. If not treated in time, it can be dangerous. So, make sure you eat the right foods and avoid intaking high-fat foods for a healthy gallbladder. Regular exercise is equally important to maintain a healthy weight and also to reduce the risk for gallstones. Just eat healthy, exercise regularly, and follow your doctor’s advice to get rid of gallbladder pain.

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