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Gallstones

Metabolic disorder where small and larger stones of fat precipitate in the bile and accumulate in the biliary passages. This happens mainly in the gall bladder. Large stones will block the flow of bile through the bile duct and cause intense pain.

Gallstones can occur in all the biliary passages but are mostly formed in the gall bladder itself. They are caused by a disturbed balance between bile acids and cholesterol in which the amount of bile acids and lecithin is too small to maintain the pool of cholesterol in its liquid form. This causes the cholesterol to precipitate into smaller particles in the gall bladder resulting in the formation of stones.

90% of the stones consist of cholesterol while the rest are calcium salts and other minerals. Several hundred small stones and a few large stones the size of a golf ball can occur simultaneously.

A gallstone attack occurs about eight years after the stones have begun to form and the attacks can appear with an interval of several years. The attacks are not caused by the existence of stones in the gall bladder itself but by the fact that the gall bladder and bile duct contract in an attempt to push a large, jammed stone into the intestine causing violent pains - biliary colic - and cramps in the musculature.

The pains come in attacks of intensive, waving pains either in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen, in the right hip, or in the back; especially by the right shoulder-blade. The attack can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, defecations difficulties, oppression, and intestinal gas during the attack.

The pains can last for a few minutes, hours, or days and do not disappear until the stone triggering the attack has either been pushed out into the intestine and carried away with the intestinal contents or has fallen back into the gall bladder. An acute gallstone attack requires confinement to bed. Smaller stones, however, can pass without obstructing the flow of bile and this will normally not be noticed.

The bile is a greenish-brown, viscous fluid formed in the liver which is necessary to the digestion of fats. It flows through many fine canals into to the biliary ducts which end in the gall bladder. The bile is deposited in the gall bladder until it is needed, e.g. after having eaten a meal rich in fat. Then, the gall bladder will contract and push the bile further on through the bile duct ending in the duodenum in which the bile mix with the intestinal contents and promotes the digestive processes.

Constipation and liver problems often occur in the time before a gallstone attack just like digestive problems and intestinal gas often accompany heavy and fatty meals. Obesity causes an increase in the body's formation of cholesterol and in the amount of cholesterol excreted in the bile. The result will be an increase in cholesterol crystallization which causes gallstones.

Symptoms of (liver- and) bile strains can be:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Dislike for fatty, sweet, and fried food and citrus fruits.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache in the right-hand side.
  • Pain - especially under the right shoulder-blade.
  • Constipation, diarrhoea, and intestinal gas.
  • Tiredness after meals.
  • Blood sugar problems.
  • Greyish-white stools.
  • Disturbances in the solar plexus area.

Causes for bile- and liver strains can be:

  • Food intolerance.
  • Alcohol and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, coffee, black tea, and smoking.
  • Overweight caused by bad fats, fried food, sugar and dairy products, fruits and vegetables mixed together, paprika, pepper, cabbage, mycotoxins.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Environmental toxins from e.g. soft plastics, DDT, solvents, passive smoking, and heavy metals.
  • Anti-depressants and analgesics.
  • Worms, parasites, and vira.
  • Digestive problems, constipation.
  • Putrefactive bacteria in the intestine caused by animal foodstuffs, coffee, and lack of fibres.
  • Certain pathological changes in the teeth.
  • Hard water.
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Exaggerated fasting.
  • Exaggerated sunbathing.
  • Metabolic disturbances - e.g. in people who have dieted a lot.
  • Production of toxic metabolic waste products from the breakdown of bile acids.
  • Hormonal factors.
  • Differences in the composition of the bile.
  • Stress.
  • Mental factors.

Gallstones have been known for several thousand years and an estimated 10 - 20% of the Western population suffer from the disease. Elderly and pre-menopausal overweight women who have given birth are most exposed.

Pregnancy can in itself cause gallstones since the pressure from the distended uterus in the last phase of pregnancy can inhibit the bile flow. Three times as many women as men have gallstone attacks. A hereditary tendency has been established but nutritional factors seem to overshadow the genetic ones. The incidence of the disease is increasing.

In conventional gallstone treatment, the gallstone is normally removed through surgery in which the stones are removed through a small tube which is placed in the gall bladder. Alternatively, the whole gall bladder can be removed.

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