It seems like everyone is having their gallbladder out these days—it’s the new tonsillectomy. If you are diagnosed with gallstones, doctors are jumping to cut. The number of gallbladder surgeries performed yearly has gone up. But should surgery be the first option?
Gallbladder removal has a high risk of complications: 10-15% of patients could develop chronic pain & gastrointestinal distress, while another 10% could suffer from chronic diarrhea. And even if you don’t have complications, having your gallbladder out requires some serious lifestyle changes—you have to really control the amount of fat in your diet, for instance, or potentially bounce back into the ER (I have a relative going through this).
That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who will need gallbladder removal. I just have a very strong hunch that most of the people currently getting probably didn’t need that as a first resort.
(I don’t feel bad questioning doctors’ motives; since the early 2000s hospitals have included c-sections as filler in their budgets—they take 20 minutes and cost 4-6 times as much a natural delivery, which can take hours—OBs are encouraged to push them on women, and will often use scare tactics to do so.)
And you can expect this to become a problem that gets worse with the new healthcare laws. Hospitals are penalized if they have a patient bounce back—so why would you offer someone the chance to make simple, gradual changes when you could make a quick surgical one that brings in lots of money to boot?
Ideally, you don’t want to end up where you have to consider surgery, so prevention is your best bet.
Your gallbladder is responsible for concentrating bile so that it can digest fat. Because of this, and because you have to really avoid fat if you get your gallbladder removed, many people think that it’s a high fat diet that causes gallstones, but studies haven’t really found a strong link between that sort of poor diet and gallstones.
It’s more what’s missing in your diet that causes gallstones—namely, good nutrition. Most first world gallstones are believed to be caused by a deficiency of melatonin (the powerful antioxidant that helps us sleep), as well as a deficiency of folate, calcium, magnesium, or Vitamin C. There are other risk factors—being a white North or South American, family history, weight, pregnancy & menopause—but the easiest to fix is getting all the nutrients you need.
Supplements are the easiest way to get them—a high quality natural sleep aid like Nite MGR has melatonin, for instance. But you can also work hard to DIY—black out your windows and turn off electronics so you make more melatonin when you sleep. Choose vitamin fortified foods, and up your intake of calcium sources like dairy.
Gallstones take decades to form, so there isn’t a natural way to get rid of them quickly. You can try a gallstone cleanse, but science says it’s just solidified olive oil that you’ll pass. No, if you want to remove gallstones naturally, it will take time and good nutrition. (If you already have severe gallstone problems, ask about ultrasound or surgery to remove just the gallstones before getting the whole organ out).
But prevention really is your best option. There are serious risks of infection and liver damage if the gallstones are the right size and make it into the right place, so it’s better to prevent them then work against that.
Have you ever gotten rid of gallstones naturally? What did you do?