Gallbladder Symptoms Are On The Rise In North America
In the past, gallbladder symptoms were typically not a concern until a person was in their forties, fifties or sixties. Far more common for pregnant women or those taking hormone replacement medications, it is estimated that 20% of US women and 10% of men suffer with painful gallstones and gallbladder disease. These numbers are on the rise today and the age of patients is decreasing.
The gallbladder is a small, hollow organ located underneath the liver, on the right side of the abdomen. The liver secretes bile, used to digest the fat in our food, and the gallbladder stores it until signalled by a hormone known as CCK (cholecystokinin) to contract and release it. Fatty acids in your meals send the signals.
Bile is a liquid that consists of cholesterol, calcium salts and pigments that are by-products of hemoglobin, in carefully balanced proportions.
When cholesterol is not kept in check, crystals can form and sometimes lead to the formation of stones. These can be as small as a grain of sand or large, like marbles. The body has methods for breaking down the stones with natural acids and often small ones are passed out of our system unnoticed.
Though they often don’t cause gallbladder symptoms, when a gallstone becomes lodged in a bile duct, pain and inflammation begins. This is the source of biliary pain which is often referred to as a gallbladder attack.
If gallstones are asymptomatic, doctors will typically recommend that nothing be done. If they’re causing frequent gallbladder attacks, however, surgery will be proposed as the only solution in most cases.
Laparoscopic surgical techniques have made cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) safer than before with a shorter recovery time, but that’s not the only reason this procedure is on the rise. For many years, western medicine has taught that obesity and high fat diets are to blame for the formation of gallstones.
Ironically, nowadays more people than ever, especially women are following various fad diets that cause them to lose weight rapidly- often to gain it back. Rapid weight loss actually contributes to gallstone formation.
Without the dietary fat, which normally causes regular gallbladder contractions and emptying, bile is concentrated and stagnated to the point that it becomes a thick sludge. The gallbladder will hold onto cholesterol when none is supplied by the diet, leading to increased cholesterol-based gallstones. It is recommended that if you plan to lose excess wait, you should do so slowly and in a sustainable manner.
Another contributing factor for the increase in gallbladder symptoms today is the growing use of oral contraception medication. Increased levels of estrogen have been linked to the formation of gallstones because it increases cholesterol as well.
Women naturally have higher amounts of estrogen than men, but medications, supplements and now an increased amount of xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens in our food and products are likely contributing to higher levels.
There are safe, natural ways to improve gallbladder health by supporting adequate bile flow and overall liver health.
Reducing excess fat in the diet, increasing exercise and maintaining a healthy weight will help keep these organs in great shape.
Add fresh fruits, veggies herbs and supplements that have a liver and gallbladder tonic effect.
There is also a gallbladder treatment that will aid in the dissolution and eliminating of gallstones.