The Gall bladder is a small sac located under the liver. It stores the bile secreted by the liver, in a concentrated form until it is needed in the duodenum, to help the process of digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Bile is mainly composed of bile salts and acids, colour pigments, and cholesterol. Gallstones may sometimes be in the form of fine gravel initially but later clump together to form stones, due to further deposits. Women are twice as likely as men to develop gallstones, the reasons for which are not clear. Also, people older than 60 years of age have a greater risk of gallstones.
Types of Gallstones
Gallstones range in size and number. There are three types of gallstones. Cholesterol stones are caused by the change in the ratio of cholesterol to bile salts. Pigment stones consist of bile pigments and are caused due to the destruction of RBC, due to some blood diseases. There are also mixed stones consisting of layers of cholesterol, calcium, and bile and bile pigment. Approximately 80% of the gallstones are cholesterol stones. The pigment stones are smaller and are made up of bilirubin.
Symptoms of kidney stones
Gallstones usually cause no signs or symptoms. If a gallstone lodges in a duct and causes a blockage, symptoms may result like intense pain in the upper portion of the abdomen or in the center of the abdomen just below the breastbone. There may also be a pain in the upper back region and in the right shoulder. Other symptoms are nausea, gastrointestinal problems including indigestion, heartburn, and gas. Constipation, Piles, and disturbed vision are also disorders associated with the gallbladder.
Causes of Gallstones
There are no clear indications as to what causes gallstones to form. Gallstones may result when the bile contains too much cholesterol. If the liver excretes more cholesterol than the bile can dissolve, the excess cholesterol may form into crystals and later into stones.
Sometimes the bile contains too much bilirubin. Bilirubin is a chemical that’s produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. Certain conditions like liver cirrhosis, biliary tract infection, and blood disorders, cause the liver to make too much bilirubin, which contributes to the formation of gallstones.
Another reason is that if the gallbladder doesn’t empty completely or often enough, then the bile may become very concentrated and this contributes to the formation of gallstones.
Preventing and Treating Gallstones
Gallstones have also been associated with obesity and nutrition. Gallstones occur more frequently in people at two opposite ends of the weight spectrum — those who are overweight or obese, and those who fast or lose a lot of weight quickly. There is evidence that dietary factors influence the risk of developing cholesterol gallstones. The factors that increase the risk include cholesterol, saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, refined sugar, and possibly legumes. Dietary factors that may prevent the development of gallstones are polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and fibre. Consuming a vegetarian diet is also associated with decreased risk. Nutritional supplements that might help prevent gallstones include vitamin C, soy lecithin, and iron. Nutritional approaches to prevention and treatment of gallstones. In addition, a mixture of plant terpenes (Rowachol) has been used with some success to dissolve radiolucent (transparent to X-rays) gallstones. Terpenic compounds have the ability to dissolve fats and prevent the formation of cholesterol gathering in the liver. They also increase the bile content in the liver tracts.
A good idea would be to stop eating refined carbohydrates, as there is a loss of fibre. Avoiding fatty foods is next as food that is rich in fat can cause an attack of gallstone colic. Lack of exercise is another significant contributor to the development of gallstones. In fact, inactivity is said to account for more than half of the risk of developing gallstones.
The Gall Bladder Flush
The gallbladder flush is a folk remedy said to promote the passage of gallstones. While minimal scientific evidence supports the efficacy of this treatment, anecdotal reports suggest the gallbladder flush may be beneficial for some people. A gallbladder cleanse — also called a gallbladder flush or a liver flush — is an alternative remedy for ridding the body of gallstones. In most cases, a gallbladder cleanse involves eating or drinking a combination of olive oil, herbs, and some type of fruit juice over several hours. Proponents claim that gallbladder cleansing helps break up gallstones and stimulates the gallbladder to release them in the stool. The olive oil acts as a laxative.
Natural Remedies to Treat Gallstones
There are a few natural treatments that can be tried to boost the function of a bad gallbladder. As said above one could try flushing out the gallbladder, or take in food and nutrients that promote the bile flow. There are a number of foods and supplements that can stimulate the production and flow of bile.
Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus niruri)
Chanca piedra, is the Spanish name for Phyllanthus niruri, which means “stone breaker” or “shatter stone.” It was so named as it has been used by generations of Amazonian indigenous peoples in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones. Research done in Brazil on Chanca Piedra revealed an alkaloid (phyllanthoside) in the leaves and stem with strong antispasmodic activity. It served as a relaxing agent for smooth muscles and they concluded that its spasmolytic action probably accounted for the efficacy of Chanca Piedra in expelling stones. In a 2002 study, Indian researchers reported that Chanca Piedra increased bile acid secretion in the gallbladder and significantly lowered blood cholesterol levels in rats. Dr. Wolfram Wiemann of Nuremberg, Germany, used Chanca piedra on his patients and reported that 94% of all the cases he encountered among his patients of gallstones and kidney stones were “completely eliminated” within one or two weeks. More on health benefits of Chanca Piedra
Dandelion root is considered a useful home remedy in removing gallstones. It contains a bitter substance namely, taraxacin, which stimulates bile production. The thinking is that increasing the bile produced, decreases its concentration and the greater volume of bile may flush out a stone. Dandelion root is a gentle liver tonic and can be used to treat inflammation and congestion of the liver and gall bladder.
Soak 1-2 tsp of chopped dried dandelion root in about 2 cups of water for 2 hours. Heat the soaked mixture and boil it for about 2 mins. Let it stand covered for about 15 mins. Strain and take 1 cup twice a day.
The flowers, seeds, and roots of the chicory plant are an effective home remedy in gall bladder disorders. It is used to treat gallstones by increasing the secretion of bile from the liver and gallbladder, promoting urination and excretion of harmful substances. Ancient Egyptians were known to consume Chicory Root to help purify the liver and blood.
Take 1-2 tsp of the crushed root, leaves, and flowers of the chicory plant and pour one cup of hot water over it. Cover and steep for ten minutes. Strain and have one cup twice a day.
Another common home remedy is to mix beet juice, carrot juice, and cucumber juice in equal quantities and drink this mixture twice daily for two weeks. All three vegetables help flush toxins out of the system and are considered one of the finest cleansers of the gall bladder.
Lemon juice and other juices which are high in citric acid and vitamin C have been used by themselves or combined with olive oil and Epsom salts to reduce calcifications in the gallbladder and kidneys. Citric acid and vitamin C, once in the blood, can dissolve certain types of calcifications in the body. The center of gallstones is usually a mixture of cholesterol, bilirubin, and calcium, in differing amounts of each.
In traditional European medicine, the leaves of the artichoke were used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and as a “choleretic” (an agent that stimulates the liver to increase the output of bile) to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. Leaves from the artichoke plant contain caffeoylquinic acids, which promote bile flow. Take 1-2 tsp of dried crushed leaves of the artichoke, and add it to one cup of water. Heat the mixture and bring to a boil. Remove and let the tea brew for about 10 mins before straining. Take one cup two to three times a day.
Other Home Remedies For Gallstones
Other foods that promote bile production are rosemary, grapes, and pears. Rosemary stimulates bile production, in addition to eliminating any spasms that might occur in the bile duct. Pears have a healing effect on the gall bladder. Mix together half a cup of hot water, half a cup of pear juice, and 2 tbsp of honey. Drink this thrice a day. Studies have shown that concentrated mint oil capsules can, when taken over a period of time, help break down small gallstones. Wild yam is another herb that increases bile flow and is also said to lessen the pain of gallstones. Some other home remedies for gallstones include apple cider vinegar. Mix well together with one cup of apple juice with one cup of apple cider vinegar and drink once a day. Herbal medicines such as turmeric, Oregon grape, bupleurum, and coin grass may reduce gallbladder inflammation and relieve liver congestion.