If you’re aged 50 or over, the answer is probably yes! They won’t cause you any harm and you won’t even be aware they are there. It’s only when they become large or numerous that they become troublesome. In extreme cases they can be very painful and even life-threatening.
- what are gallstones? gallstones are the formation of crystalline deposits in the gallbladder.
- what causes them? they usually form when bile liquid hardens. The most common reason for this is due to a diet containing too much protein (Atkins followers beware!) but skipping meals also heightens your risk; when you eat, the gallbladder contracts and squeezes bile through a little duct to help emulsify fats and oils in your food. If you regularly leave longer than 3 hours a day between meals, you can expect a sludgy, if not stony, gallbladder. Some recent studies have also linked food intolerances to gallstone formation with common foods such as eggs, poultry, pork, corn, beans and nuts high on the list.
- what are the symptoms? most commonly, there is nausea (especially after eating a fatty meal) and vomiting. A severe attack is accompanied by intense pain in the right side of the abdomen and sometimes in the shoulder blade area.
- how can I prevent them? the number one rule is to eat regularly! Going longer than 3 hours will cause the bile fluid to solidify and weaken the function of the gallbladder – just as any muscle becomes weak when not used regularly. Drinking warm water with lemon juice will help dissolve any stones that may be forming. Olive oil and lemon juice together will support the health of your gallbladder and naturally flush away small deposits. Another great ally is lecithin – a soy derivative that helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and assists emulsification of fats and oils you eat, reducing your risk of gallstones. Herbs such as Milk Thistle*, Peppermint and Golden Seal also have proven benefits.
Did you know?
The heaviest gallstone ever removed came from an 80year old English woman and weighed just under 6kg!
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