Why gallstones occur and how to prevent them

The gallbladder is a small organ that sits below the liver.

It is responsible for storing the bile secreted by the liver, 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, which 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 your diet to avoid taking any risk.

Why do gallstones appear?

In many cases gallstones or gallstones cause no 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 right upper or middle part of the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting.

This discomfort can last from a few minutes to several hours. You should see a doctor if the pain is so severe that you cannot get into a comfortable position, you have a fever with chills, or you have jaundice, that is, yellowing of the skin or 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. It can occur for different reasons, generally diseases associated with the liver, such as liver cirrhosis, although it can also be due to infections of the bile ducts.
  • too much cholesterol: bile is capable of dissolving cholesterol released by the liver (thanks to its chemical composition). However, when cholesterol is present in large amounts, bile cannot break it down, so cholesterol accumulates in the gallbladder, forming crystals and eventually stones.
  • Gallbladder emptying problems: When 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 old.
  • 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 taking medications with estrogen, 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 being low in fiber.

Let’s see what foods you should include in your diet if you have gallstones and which ones 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 resort to:

  • Meats with little or no fat, such as pork or beef chop, loin, or tenderloin, and chicken breasts.
  • Cereals, such as oatmeal or quinoa.
  • Fruits (in moderation), preferably ripe, in compote or puree.
  • 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, it is important to respect the three meals and two snacks between them, control the size of the portions and not go too 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 bile cannot dissolve. Among them we find:

  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Coffee.
  • fatty meat
  • Spicy or highly seasoned food.
  • Sweets and chocolates.
  • Sausages.
  • Pickles or preserves.
  • Fries.
  • Acid fruits, such as citrus, dried and candied.
  • Fats in general.
  • Strong or acid infusions.
  • Dairy products and their derivatives.
  • Baked.
  • 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 to replace frying as the cooking method, instead you can choose to grill, 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 the meat portions with easy-to-digest options, such as cooked vegetables.
    • Remove excess oil from your dishes or replace it with cooking spray. You can also incorporate the habit of measuring the oil you are going to use (a tablespoon per person is recommended) instead of pouring it directly on the preparation.
    • If you don’t have lean meat, try to remove as much fat as possible.
    • To remind:

      Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.

      Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

      Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

      Sources consulted: Natural Medicines Comprehensive 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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