Common Gallbladder Symptoms That Gallstones Cause
Gallstones, also known as cholelithiasis, are a very common problem, especially in western cultures. However, the groups of individuals with the highest prevalence of gallbladder symptoms are those among women, those older than 40, and Native Americans.
Gallstones develop when substances that make up bile, such a cholesterol or bilirubin, become too concentrated and crystalize into a stone. These stones may be as small as a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball. Some people may develop only one or two while others have many. Not everyone experiences pain or health problems related to gallstones, but for those who do, gallbladder symptoms can be very painful.
Most often, gallstones do not cause problems. In situations where they obstruct an exit from the gallbladder such as the common bile duct, trouble ensues. This is because this type of obstruction blocks normal bile flow and causes the gallbladder to go into spasms and become inflamed, a condition known as a cholecystitis.
The most common gallbladder symptoms caused by gallstones are:
- Abdominal pain – Dull, or sharp pains in the upper right part of the abdomen which come and go or may be persistent. This type of pain most commonly occurs after consuming a fried or high-fat meal. Pain that is severe and persists for more than 5 hours may require medical attention.
- Back and shoulder pain – Pain caused by gallstones may also radiate to the back and shoulders, particularly between the shoulder blades, or under the right shoulder blade.
- Vomiting and nausea – although any gallbladder problem may cause nausea or vomiting, long-term diseases and disorders may cause frequent nausea and long-term digestive issues.
- Jaundice – If the bile ducts are blocked, bilirubin can build up in the blood resulting in a yellowing of the skin and eyes known as jaundice.
- Change in bowel movements – Gallstones can often cause pale or chalky colored stool due to issues with the drainage of bile. Urine may also darken in color.
- Acid reflux along with general indigestion, bloating, and gas – These symptoms are usually more noticeable following meal times.
- Fever with chills – Rarely, the gallbladder can become very inflamed or infected under chronic pressure, and if it bursts, the infected material spreads through the abdomen causing a serious health emergency. When this happens, infection can leak into other parts of the body, causing fever and chills.
In cases where pain is severe and persistent, medical intervention may be required to treat the problem. However, for those who experience mild, occasional pain that resolves on its own, making healthy lifestyle changes and taking safe, effective supplements can help reduce gallbladder symptoms and get digestion back on track.
Replacing highly processed, fatty, greasy foods containing unhealthy fats with lots of fiber, fresh foods, vegetables fruits and lean meats is one way to relieve gallstone symptoms and promote digestive health. Avoiding excessive alcohol and spicy foods is also recommended to avoid irritation of the liver and gallbladder. However, a diet that is too low in fat can actually be counterproductive as it promotes the development of gallstones. Rather, it is recommended that healthy adults consume fats such as fish oil, olive oil and coconut oil to boost gallbladder health.
In addition to making dietary changes, maintaining an active lifestyle with regular physical activity and exercise helps to keep digestive functions running smoothly.