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Gall Stones

You may have gall stones if you have belly pain or nausea, particularly after eating fatty foods. Gall stones increase your chances of suffering gall bladder cancer or pancreatic cancer. Having your gall bladder removed increases your chances of suffering colon cancer.

The best way to treat gall stones is to prevent them. The main nutritional risk factors for gall stones are being overweight and losing weight rapidly. Other causes include high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, taking in too much food, fasting for more than eight hours, very low calorie diets of less than 700 Kcal/day, staying on intravenous feeding for more than two weeks, or chronic constipation.

Don't start a diet to lose weight unless you feel that you can stay on the diet forever. Your liver removes breakdown products of metabolism from your blood-stream and converts them to bile which is stored in your gall bladder. Bile contains cholesterol which can form gall stones, and bile acids which keep the cholesterol soluble so it does not form stones. Bile acids are formed from the food that you eat. When you restrict food, your liver reduces its production of bile acids, causing cholesterol to form stones (7). To lose weight in a way that will not form gall stones, eat a high fiber diet based on whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables; avoid saturated fats and partially hydrogenated oils, and restrict refined carbohydrates (flour and other milled grains, and all added sugars.)

Should you have your gall bladder removed?
Doctors are less eager than previously to remove gall bladders because they can treat most gall bladder problems with aspirin and dietary change. Your liver removes breakdown products of metabolism from your bloodstream and concentrates them into a fluid called bile which is stored in a muscular balloon called the gall bladder. When you eat, the gall bladder contracts and squeezes bile from the gall bladder/ along a tube leading into the intestines. Bile enters the intestines to help break down food into basic building blocks so it can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Gall stones prevent bile from going from the gall bladder into the intestines. You need to have your gall bladder removed if you have frequent or severe pain or suspected cancer. Removing your gall bladder may increase your chances of getting colon cancer, but having gall stones also increases your chances of suffering gall bladder cancer. Normally, bile enters your intestines only when you eat, but after you have your gall bladder removed, bile drips into your intestines 24 hours a day. Bile causes cancer, so the increased exposure of your colon to bile may increase your chances of getting colon cancer.

Many people with gall stones do not need surgery. One adult aspirin a day can help the gall bladder to clear bile and prevent pain. A low-fat diet will also help to decrease your chances of forming gall stones.

1) WA Zatonski, AB Lowenfels, P Boyle, P Maisonneuve, HBB Demesquita, P Ghadirian, M Jain, K Przewozniak, P Baghurst, CJ Moerman, A Simard, GR Howe, AJ Mcmichael, CC Hsieh, AM Walker. Epidemiologic aspects of gallbladder cancer: A case-control study of the SEARCH Program of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 89: 15 (AUG 6 1997):1132-1138.

2) A Schattner, G Fenakel, SDH Malnick. Cholelithiasis and pancreatic cancer: A case-control study. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 25: 4 (DEC 1997):602-604.

3) International Journal of Cancer 1993;53:735-739.

4) F Novell, A Moral, S Pascual, M Trias. Is There a Relationship Between Cancer of the Colon and Gallstones? Revista Espanola de Enfermedades Digestivas 87: 4;APR 1995:294-297.

5) V Garcia, I Serra, R Palma. Nutritional risk factors for gallstones. Epidemiological analysis. Revista Medica de Chile 126: 10 (OCT 1998):1247-1254.

6) A Spathis, KW Heaton, PM Emmett, T Norboo, L Hunt. Gallstones in a community free of obesity but prone to slow intestinal transit. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9: 2(FEB 1997):201-206.

7) RL Gebhard, WF Prigge, HJ Ansel, L Schlasner, SR Ketover, D Sande, K Holtmeier, FJ Peterson. The role of gallbladder emptying in gallstone formation during diet-induced rapid weight loss. Hepatology 24: 3 (SEP 1996):544-548.

1) References for the second section of the report: "When to Have Your Gall Bladder Removed"

1) International Journal of Cancer 1993;53:735-739.

2) F Novell, A Moral, S Pascual, M Trias. Is There a Relationship Between Cancer of the Colon and Gallstones? Revista Espanola de Enfermedades Digestivas 87: 4;APR 1995:294-297.

3) WA Zatonski, AB Lowenfels, P Boyle, P Maisonneuve, HBB Demesquita, P Ghadirian, M Jain, K Przewozniak, P Baghurst, CJ Moerman, A Simard, GR Howe, AJ Mcmichael, CC Hsieh, AM Walker. Epidemiologic aspects of gallbladder cancer: A case-control study of the SEARCH Program of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 89: 15 (AUG 6 1997):1132-1138.

4) A Das, SS Baijal, VA Saraswat. Effect of aspirin on gallbladder motility in patients with gallstone disease: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of two dosage schedules. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 40: 8 (AUG 1995):1782-1785.

Checked 5/8/16

January 1st, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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