What to eat and what to avoid if you have gallstones

The gallbladder is a small organ found under the liver. It is responsible for storing the bile that the liver secretes, to release it when food is consumed, and thus achieve a correct digestive process.

When this digestive fluid hardens, it can form deposits called gallstones. These can be small (the size of a grain of sand) or large (almost a golf ball).

Here we tell you everything about this condition and what precautions you should take from the diet so as not to run any risk.

Why do gallstones appear?

In many cases gallstones do not cause symptoms and go unnoticed. However, they can become lodged in the pancreatic or common bile duct, and cause:

  • Back pain.
  • Pain in the shoulder.
  • Sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper or middle right part of the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting

This discomfort can last from a few minutes to several hours. You should consult a doctor if the pain is so intense that you cannot achieve a comfortable position, you have a fever with chills or you suffer from jaundice, that is, a yellowish color on the skin or the sclera (white membrane of the eye).

Currently, it is not clear what the origin of gallstones is, although the most common causes are:

  • Too much bilirubin– This is a substance that is produced when red blood cells are destroyed. This condition can occur for different reasons, generally diseases associated with the liver, such as liver cirrhosis, although it can also be due to bile duct infections.
  • Too much cholesterol: bile is capable of dissolving cholesterol released by the liver (thanks to its chemical composition). However, when it is present in large quantities, the bile cannot break it down, so cholesterol accumulates in the gallbladder, forms crystals and eventually stones.
  • Problems with emptying the gallbladder– When the emptying of the gallbladder does not occur completely or is insufficient, bile can accumulate and contribute to the formation of stones.
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  • Effective foods to lower cholesterol

Although we can all suffer from gallstones, those who are most at risk are:

  • Adults over 40 years of age.
  • Hispanic or Latino.
  • Women.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with a family history of gallstones.
  • People with diabetes.
  • People with liver disease.
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People with blood disorders.
  • People who use estrogen-containing medications, such as oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs.
  • Sedentary people.

Another key aspect is food. Professionals linked a higher incidence of gallstones among people who have diets high in fat, cholesterol while low in fiber.

Let’s see what foods you should include in your diet if you have gallstones and which you should limit or avoid:

Allowed foods

It is advisable to choose foods that are rich in fiber and antioxidants, since they favor the digestion of proteins and fats, promote the elimination of toxins, balance the intestinal flora and stimulate good digestion. You can use:

  • Meats with little or no fat, such as pork or beef chop, tenderloin, or sirloin, and chicken breasts.
  • Cereals, such as oatmeal or quinoa.
  • Fruits (in moderation), preferably ripe, compote or pureed.
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products and their derivatives, but skimmed.
  • White fish, such as cod, sea bass or hake.
  • Seeds, such as sesame, chia, sunflower, or flaxseed.
  • Vegetables and vegetables in general, as long as you prepare them cooked, since they are easier to digest.
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In addition to including this type of food in your diet, it is important to respect the three meals and two snacks between them, control the size of the portions and not go long without eating.

You should also hydrate properly, drinking between 2 and 2 ½ liters of water a day.

Harmful foods

You should avoid those foods or drinks that hinder the digestive process, while favoring the production of cholesterol and bilirubin that the bile cannot dissolve. Among them we find:

  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Coffee.
  • Fatty meat
  • Spicy or highly seasoned food.
  • Sweets and chocolates.
  • Sausages.
  • Pickles or preserves.
  • Fried foods.
  • Acidic fruits, such as citrus, dried and candied.
  • Fats in general.
  • Strong or acidic infusions.
  • Dairy products and their derivatives.
  • Baked goods.
  • Pasta.
  • Blue fish, such as anchovies, tuna, salmon or sardines.
  • Soft drinks and sodas.
  • Raw vegetables.

How to reduce fat in the diet

In addition to restricting or avoiding certain foods, you can follow these tips to reduce the presence of fat in your diet:

  • Try replacing frying as a cooking method, instead you can choose to broil, boil, bake or steam.
  • Read the labels of the products you consume, to know their fat content and to know if they have flavorings or preservatives that can be harmful.
  • Replace part of your meat servings with easy-to-digest options, such as cooked vegetables.
  • Skim excess oil from your dishes or replace it with cooking spray. You can also get in the habit of measuring the oil you are going to use (one tablespoon per person is recommended) instead of pouring it directly over the preparation.
  • If you don’t have lean meat, try to remove as much fat as possible.
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To remind:

The gallbladder is a small organ that is responsible for storing the bile secreted by the liver, to release it when we consume food and thus achieve proper digestion.

It is believed that when bilirubin or cholesterol levels are high, the bile is insufficient to dissolve them and tends to harden, forming crystals and eventually stones, which can be very painful.

In order not to run any risk under this condition, we must modify our diet and incorporate more foods rich in fiber and antioxidants, while eliminating fatty foods.

Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine .

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