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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mental factors.
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.
RecommendationsGeneral advice on disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be found in the library article "General Advice - for healthy as well as for ill ones" in the VitaHealth section under Focus Articles. You can also test your health by taking our "Health Check".
Make sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day since exercising has an important preventative effect and not just in the effect of its beneficial influence on overweight.
Be examined for food intolerance. Experience shows that especially foods like eggs, meat, and onion - but in principle all kinds of foods - can be involved in the development of gallstones.
Have your teeth examined for amalgam strain or periodontitis. Clinical experience has shown a possible connection between straining fillings or periodontitis in the posterior teeth in the upper part of the mouth and a tendency to forming gallstones.
Analgesics for acute biliary colic:
- A coffee enema made from a cup of strong coffee in ½ litre of lukewarm water will ease some of the pain and have a relaxing effect on the gall bladder area.
- Warm and humid treatments, e.g. taking a shower for 5 - 10 minutes.
- Warm and humid herbal compresses have beneficial effects and can be made from chamomile, thyme, and knotgrass. Boil the herbs, put them in a cloth and place it on the right-hand side of your stomach (as warm as possible).
- Identify and exclude foodstuffs that cause intolerance.
- Eat a preventative diet consisting of more fiber and magnesium rich fruit and vegetables as well as fish and plant oils.
- Avoid animal- and deep fat etc. If you want, you can exclusively use olive oil for frying.
- Totally avoid sugar, white bread, coffee, and alcohol.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Drink plenty of pure water - between 1½ and 2 litres a day.
- Avoid tobacco smoke; both your own and that of others. See "Smoking".
- Make sure to exercise daily - and at least 2 - 3 times a week, and make sure to get fresh air.
- Be careful about losing weight too suddenly as this can promote the formation of gallstones.
- Cleanse your kidneys, liver, and biliary passages.
If you get too few fibres in your diet, more cholesterol is absorbed. If you often suffer from constipation and liver problems, this can be a warning of gallstones. It is therefore a good idea to eat more fruit, drink vegetable juices, and maybe take a juice- or fruit cure and cleanse out the liver- and bile area through a cleansing cure.
Juices of lemon, grapes, grapefruit, pear, and beet tops have a good effect on gallstones and soaked fruits like apricots, plums, figs, prunes, and flaxseed have a cleansing effect. A chamomile enema also might help the cleansing process before a cure.
Oil cures, with lemon juice added to taste, in which you drink 3 - 5 dl. of oil all at once are quite effective. The oil stimulates the secretion of bile making small and medium-sized stones being flushed out of the bile duct. Both olive-, sunflower-, and walnut oil can be used.
If you have large accumulations of toxins in your body, however, you might feel acutely ill from all the cleansing cures when suddenly these toxins are liberated. For this reason, it is recommended to cleanse your kidneys and intestines of toxins, parasites etc. before such an oil cure in order not to get ill.
Hulda Clark's cure for cleansing the liver and biliary passages in which you use Epsom salt, red grapefruit, and just 1 dl. of olive oil is more humane. It takes about 24 hours, is very effective, and can be repeated many times to prevent gallstones and cleanse out the liver and biliary passages.
Lecithin can contribute to keeping the cholesterol in its liquid form and to preventing the formation of gallstones. The B vitamins choline and biotin (B8) can moreover be found in fenugreek seeds which can be soaked in a little boiling water overnight.
1 tsp. of freshly grated horseradish a day has a dissolving effect on gallstones. Devil's claw root (as tablets) and artichoke, birch leaves, chicory salad, dandelion, endive, grape fruit, green tea, marigold, parsley, radishes, walnuts, wheat grass, and wormwood have a stimulating effect on the liver. Tea of blue gum, chamomile, Lady's bedstraw, madder, and thyme will be able to support the dissolving of gallstones. Tea of milk thistle cleanses and regnerates the liver.
The Spanish nature remedie Resium which is a herbal extract of 11 different wild plants has beneficial effects - both as a preventative-, acute-, and cleansing remedy.
Whey regulates the digestion and has a beneficial effect on biliary- and liver sufferings.
The amino acid taurine combines with the bile salts, thereby keeping the fatty acids and cholesterol in their liquid forms and counteracting the formation of gallstones.
Glauber's salt, sodium sulphate, causes an increased secretion of bile in the duodenum and thereby enhances the metabolism of fat in particular and the digestion in general. (Should not be used by nursing mothers since it inhibits the production of milk.)
Potassium iodide (also as a homeopathic remedy) has a diluting effect on bile, thereby making it flow more easily.
Chelation treatment with EDTA has shown to be very effective in the treatment of gallstones.
Quite a few homeopathic treatments - e.g. the cholagogic greater celandine, Chelidonium majus - have beneficial effects; both if used preventatively as well as acutely.
Other relevant herbs:
- Artichoke, Cynara
- Barberry, Berberis vulgaris
- Chamomile, Chamomilla recutita - good as a tea with lemon juice
- Devil's claw, Radix harpagophyti
- Horseradish tincture, Armoracia rusticana
- Knotgrass, Polygonum aviculare
- Lady's bedstraw, Galium verum
- Madder, Rubia tinctorum
- Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, has a generally stone dissolving effect
- Radish, Raphanus sativus, stimulates the liver and bile production, promotes emptying of the gall bladder and has a dissolving effect on gallstones.
WarningsThis disease should be attended to by a doctor before starting self-treatment.
Coffee can have a constrictive effect on the gall bladder and provoke a gallstone attack.
Be careful with exaggerated sunbathing.
Be aware that a fast weight loss caused by fasting and dieting can cause gallstones.
If fever or long-lasting vomiting occur, hospitalization and operation might be necessary. The bile duct and the pancreatic outlet can be blocked by stones leading to cholangitis, cholecystitis, cystitis, jaundice, and pancreatitis.
Be aware that some (conventional) medicine should not be used if suffering from biliary problems.
The consumption of analgesic medicin should as far as possible be kept to a minimum on account of the danger of dependence and side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation.