What Causes Gallstones?
At a time when chronic healthcare problems such as blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer have taken center stage, gallstones have remained an Achilles’ heel to a significant share of the global population. In the United States alone, nearly 1 million people are diagnosed with gallstones yearly. This worrying trend has put at least 25 million people struggling with this problem.
Therefore, as much as you’re paying attention to the prevailing healthcare challenges resulting from changes in your lifestyle, you need to pay considerable attention to them. It’s the only way to keep yourself safe while being proactive immediately after you detect gallstone-related symptoms.
What Are Gallstones?
Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that develop in your gallbladder. The gallbladder’s primary function is to store bile; a fluid your liver produces to help digestion. When this fluid hardens, it forms gallstones. There are two types of gallstones:
These are the most common type of gallstone, accounting for approximately 80 percent of all of them. They form when there’s an imbalance in the composition of bile and too much cholesterol. This means that the liver produces more cholesterol than bile can dissolve. You need cholesterol for many body functions, such as building cell membranes and producing hormones, but too much of it can be harmful.
These are less common, accounting for about 20 percent of gallstones. They form when your bilirubin levels are high. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when your red blood cells break down. If your liver can’t process bilirubin efficiently, it can build up and harden, forming pigment stones.
What Causes Gallstones?
Over the years, researchers have failed to pinpoint the actual causes of it. However, some advanced research studies have established that the bile’s chemical imbalance inside the gallbladder plays a role. There are other few causes of gallstones that have been discussed for several years.
1. Excessive Cholesterol in Bile
Traditionally, gallstones have been thought to form when there’s too much cholesterol in your bile. This means that your liver produces more cholesterol than your bile can dissolve. When this happens, the excess cholesterol may form crystals. These crystals can grow and eventually harden into gallstones.
If you have too much cholesterol in your bile, it’s usually because you have too much cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol is often lifestyle-related and may be due to eating a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat, being overweight or obese, or having diabetes.
2. Bile That’s Too Concentrated
An established theory has shown that gallstones are more likely to form if your bile is too concentrated. This means that there’s not enough water or other liquids in your bile to keep the cholesterol dissolved. As a result, the cholesterol may form crystals and eventually harden into gallstones. In such a case, you’re more likely to develop them if you lose weight quickly or don’t eat for an extended period. This is because both can cause your bile to become more concentrated.
3. Changes in the Levels of Bilirubin
As mentioned earlier, bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when your red blood cells break down. If your liver can’t process bilirubin efficiently, it can build up and harden, forming pigment stones. Conditions that may cause an increase in bilirubin levels include Gilbert’s syndrome and hemolytic anemia. Gilbert’s syndrome is a condition that affects the way your liver processes bilirubin. Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which your red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be produced.
4. Inflammation of the Gallbladder
The gallbladder may become inflamed for various reasons, such as an infection or the formation of gallstones. When this happens, it’s called cholecystitis. This condition can cause the gallbladder to release higher amounts of bile, which may lead to the formation of gallstones. This condition is a serious one and may require hospitalization.
These are not the only causes of gallstones. As you will discover, other conditions and lifestyle choices may put you at a higher risk for developing this condition. Although you might not be able to do anything about some of these conditions, it’s essential to understand the factors.
- Being female
- Older age
- Family history of gallstones
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
Dietary Recommendations to Avoid Gallstones
If you have been diagnosed with gallstones, it’s essential to consider the necessary treatment approaches. This is not a chronic healthcare condition, which means you’ll be able to get the necessary treatment. Today, there has been a drastic move toward dietary approaches that can help to treat and avoid gallstones. Some of these diets include:
Usually, when people think about protein, they think about meat. However, you don’t have to consume meat to get protein in your diet. Instead, focus on plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts, and seeds. These are all excellent sources of protein that can help you avoid gallstones.
Fiber is essential for keeping your digestive system healthy. It helps to add bulk to your stool and keeps things moving smoothly. Fiber is also beneficial for maintaining cholesterol levels. A diet high in fiber can help reduce the risk of developing gallstones because it helps keep cholesterol levels in check.
Not all fats are bad for you. Some healthy fats can help to reduce the risk of gallstones. These healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts. Adding these healthy fats to your diet can help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your bile and help to prevent gallstones.
Vegetables and Fruits
The role of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet can’t be overstated. These foods are packed with nutrients that are essential for good health. They’re also low in calories and fat, making them an excellent choice for people trying to lose weight. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can help you avoid gallstones.
Mediterranean and DASH Diets
Regular consumption of a Mediterranean or DASH diet has been linked with a reduced risk of gallstone formation. These diets focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. These are two excellent dietary choices if you’re looking to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of gallstones.
How Can Allied Digestive Health Help?
Gastroenterology Group of Northern New Jersey focuses on providing comprehensive care for all our patients. We understand the importance of diagnosing and treating gallstones as quickly as possible. Our team of experts is here to provide the treatment you need to get rid of your gallstones and improve your overall health.
Contact us today at one of our care centers to schedule an appointment.