I’ve been a personal trainer in London for over 20 years, and I’ve had a few clients who have suffered from gallstones. If you want to avoid the pain of gallstones and avoid having your gallbladder removed, read on.
This small pouch-shaped organ sits immediately below your liver. The role of the gallbladder is to store bile produced by the liver, before the bile is released via the bile duct and into the duodenum.
Bile is a digestive fluid which enables you do digest dietary fats. As fat is not water-soluble, it needs this special fluid to digest it so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream via the small intestines.
Ranging in size from tiny grains to marble-size to golfball size in extreme cases, gallstones are hard deposits of cholesterol built up over time from small crystals of cholesterol. They become a problem when they block the bile duct, causing a backlog of bile to build up in the gallbladder and preventing bile entering your digestive system to do its job.
The classic symptom is pain in the upper right side of your abdomen, also back pain, nausea and vomiting. You may also develop jaundice, where your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
A transabdominal ultrasound will diagnose the presence of gallstones.
If gallstones are detected, the best treatment is the removal of your gallbladder, particularly if a gallstone is blocking your bile duct. This operation is not as extreme as it sounds, as you can function perfectly well without a gallbladder, it just means that bile is released directly from your liver into your digestive system. However, as bile can no longer be stored, it is harder to digest fats and a change of diet is required to reduce the burden on your digestive system.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to prevent gallstones. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, complex carbs (wholegrains, pulses, beans) and lean protein, together with a moderate amount of healthy fats (more omega 3 and omega 6 unsaturated fats and less saturated fats). Stay well-hydrated with water (not soft drinks or alcohol!).
Healthy snacks which can boost gallbladder health include nuts and seeds.
The foods to avoid are processed meats (particularly bacon, sausages, cured meats, pate, salami). Trans fats are to be avoided like the plague (found in some baked foods, cakes, biscuits, pastries, meat pies, factory-made dressings and sauces) as they are particularly hard to digest.
It is also recommended you cut down on red meat, no more than twice a week is ideal. More digestible forms of protein include fish and lean chicken.
Avoid Gallbladder Cleanses/Detox
Commercial cures such as “gallstone flushes” and various gallbladder cleanses and detox products are largely gimmicks and no substitute for healthy eating.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and online nutrition coach.