Category Archives: Gallbladder

Pharmaceutical drugs and gallbladder issues

If you’re struggling with gallbladder sludge and stones you may also be struggling to find your triggers, and one of those triggers might just be drugs – drugs and gallbladder can be linked.  Certain foods, stress, times of day – lots of things can trigger an attack or give you twinges. Sadly, the effects of pharmaceutical drugs are often overlooked, even by your doctor so be sure to check your medicine cabinet, and use the tips below to write your own health timeline. This can give you the valuable information you need to find your own personal gallbladder triggers.

Pills! Have you checked to see if your drugs and gallbladder are linked? Photo by Slashme at English Language Wikipedia.

Pills! Have you checked to see if your drugs and gallbladder are linked? Photo by Slashme at English Language Wikipedia.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Gallbladder – What Drugs Can Cause Problems

See this research, from the Journal Drug Safety, for more details.

  • Birth Control Pills – Just like high levels of your natural estrogens are implicated in gallbladder trouble, so too are external estrogens.  Even more so because these synthetic estrogens can be difficult for your body to process and eliminate.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – Much the same as birth control pills.
  • Lipid Lowering Drugs – Especially Clofibrate, but other drugs haven’t been studied as widely so it’s best to have some caution with the whole group.
  • Thiazide diuretics – There is conflicting research about this group of drugs, but many studies suggest they do cause problems. This includes Chlorothiazide (Diuril), Chlorothalidone, Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), Indapamide, Metolazone.
  • Ceftriaxone – This antibiotic can cause gallbladder sludge and stones fairly quickly, but the problems should also resolve after the drug is discontinued.
  • Octreotide – Long term use of this injectable synthetic hormone (synthetic somatostatin) is linked to gallbladder stasis and gallstone formation.
  • Hepatic Artery Infusion Chemotherapy – This is linked to such severe problems your doctor will typically suggest that you remove your gallbladder before starting treatment.
  • Erythromycin and Ampicillin – Both of these antibiotics are linked with hypersensitivity-induced cholecystitis. That means that your body’s reaction to becoming sensitive to the drug includes inflammation of the gallbladder.
  • Cyclosporine – This immunosupressive drug, which is often used for psoriasis has had mixed reports of causing trouble for your gallbladder.
  • Dapsone – This antibiotic has also seen patchy reports of gallbladder issues.
  • Anticoagulant treatment – This link is unclear, but it seems that people with gallbladder inflammation are at increased risk of emergency gallbladder removal after starting anticoagulants.
  • Narcotics – These drugs are well known in slowing down the motion of your bowels, and that slowing can have a profound impact on your gallbladder function.
  • Anticholinergic medications – Specifically oxybutynin might be linked to an increased risk of gallbladder cancer, but actual research is needed.

Drugs and Gallbladder – What Drugs Actually Help?

  • CisaprideResearch has shown that in squirrels fed a high-cholesterol diet, Cisapride helped prevent the formation of crystals in the gallbladder, which are the precursors of gallstones. Sadly, this drug has been removed from the market due to side-effects.
  • Erythromycin – This drug can also be given to increase gastric motility (this is called a prokinetic, like Cisapride), and in spite of the fact that people with hypersensitivity reactions can have gallbladder issues from the drug, it can also solve gallbladder issues.

What About Drugs Not On This List? Write Your Health Timeline.

Every person can have a unique reaction to any drug or substance, which is part of what makes medicine so challenging.  It’s a good idea to do a timeline of your gallbladder symptoms.  What were the stressors in your life at the time symptoms started? Were there major emotional stressors? New drugs? Diet changes? Other conditions?  This will help you to pin point the factors that might be contributing to your own issues and may indeed reveal a link to a pharmaceutical drug.  Even if that drug is not known for causing gallbladder issues, it can be worth investigating.  Talk with your doctor to see if there is a different type of drug that might address the same issue or if there is a way you can discontinue for a while to see if your gallbladder issues change at all.  After all, your body is always unique.

Lifehack: Get rid of Gallbladder Sludge, with water.

Every now and then I realize that for all my talk about gallbladder sludge, I haven’t emphasized the MOST IMPORTANT THING, which is water. In terms of getting rid of sludge of any kind in life, water is the key. Can I say this again? If you want to get rid of gallbladder sludge, water is absolutely vital. Let’s review.

Your gallbladder is a small little sac-shaped organ that is connected to both your liver and your intestines by thin tubes. Your liver makes bile, which helps your body to emulsify the fats from your diet in order to absorb them, and also helps you eliminate fat-soluble toxins including excess hormones. Bile is usually very fluid, but once it gets to the gallbladder your body starts to pull out the water and concentrate it, helping it to become more effective.  By pulling out this water you make the bile thicker and more goopy. If you pull out too much water or there isn’t enough in there to begin with, then goopy turns into sludgy. This one simple factor can lead to sludge pretty quickly.

Want to get rid of gallbladder sludge? WATER is the biggest key.

Want to get rid of gallbladder sludge? WATER is the biggest key.

Get Rid of Gallbladder Sludge Long-Term:

If you have gallbladder sludge, and the pain that goes with it, you know how important it becomes to eliminate it quickly.  Here are some of the quick things you can do to get rid of gallbladder sludge for good:

  1. Boost your water intake quickly and make it a life-habit.  The more fluid your bile is, and the more well-hydrated you are, the faster you will flush out that sludge and the less likely your bile will get too thick in the future.  Did you know that according to a New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center Survey, 75% of American Adults are chronically dehydrated? Wha????? If you have gallbladder sludge my guess would be that you’re one of the 75%.
  2. Boost Your Fiber, Just Like Your Grandmother Told You. Fiber helps to bind to the fat soluble toxins and bile salts that are eliminated and pull them out of your system so that your thrifty body doesn’t recycle them.
  3. Eat Sensibly For Your Gallbladder. This means ix-nay the fried foods, trans-fats and excess animal fats and add more fruits, veggies and lean proteins.
  4. Boost the Power of your Water With a Little Lemon. Lemon and other acids, like apple cider vinegar, help with both detox and hydration, both of which help with gallbladder sludge. Super!
  5. Consider a Gallbladder Cleanse: BUT the gallbladder cleanse has it’s own risks so it’s only safe if you know, because a doctor did the appropriate testing, that you don’t have stones.  If you only have sludge and you’re not pregnant, then this could be helpful.




Get Rid of Gallbladder Pain Short-Term:

So, if you’re having a gallbladder attack you’re probably not sitting down at the computer to read about it, but hopefully, you’ll google it later and remember it for next time.  As soon as you start to feel an attack coming on:

  1. Guzzle The Water: Again, the quickest way to clean out goop is to dilute it and thin it out.  Your body will thank me for it. This is especially important if you get nausea or vomiting with your attacks because the vomiting makes dehydration worse quickly, which just makes the sludge worse.  Even if you have stones that are causing the pain water will help them to pass if they’re going to.
  2. Add Lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar: Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice at the start of an attack (followed by a BUNCH of water) will help head the attack off before it gets into full swing. Also adding a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the vast quantities of water you’re drinking (ahem) will help it to be more effective.
  3. Slather on the Castor Oil: Castor oil is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving in it’s own right, but it is also especially “lubricating” to the lymphatic flow around the liver and gallbladder, which comes in handy when that whole area is jammed up with pain, inflammation, and sludge.
  4. Consider some Supplements: There are a few things that help in the short term.  Water and the acidic juices are the biggest things, but some others include digestive bitters and lecithin.




Doesn't this look awesome? Don't be one of the 75% of adults who are dehydrated. And Get rid of the gallbladder pain for good!

Doesn’t this look awesome? Don’t be one of the 75% of adults who are dehydrated. And Get rid of the gallbladder pain for good!

So – will water and proper hydration fix the problem permanently?  It could, but not if you’re still eating fast food or if you have a major hormone shift contributing (like pregnancy ladies, sorry.) But if your diet is reasonably good and your hormones close to normal, then yup. The water is the key. Simple, right?



Is gallbladder sludge linked to your gut bacteria?

Gallbladder sludge is an initial step in the development of gallstones. It causes many people pain but is arguably too early for surgery.  There are, of course, many natural ways to address this issue including a basic protocol, lecithin, and castor oil packs and research is indicating that probiotics might be helpful as well. While it stands to reason that a healthy digestive tract, i.e. one with a thriving colony of beneficial bacteria, will help protect against any digestive disease it is still nice to see the results on paper.

This study, published in the online journal PLoSOne, was actually conducted on different types of mice. These mice were from four groups of genetically related strains that were purchased from different vendors with a very different treatment of the mice in terms of their good bacteria. The researchers use genetically similar mice because genetics plays a role in gallbladder stone and sludge development so having similar genetics eliminates that variable and puts all the mice on an even playing field. The groups of mice differed mostly in their gut flora.  One vendor maintains the mice in a germ-free environment but doesn’t introduce any good bacteria. Another colonizes the mice with a healthy bacterial flora and then maintains a pathogen-free environment after that.

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

All of the mice were fed a “lithogenic diet”  meaning a diet that is known to induce gallstones. This diet was essentially similar to a high-fat human diet. Specifically 1% cholesterol, 15% triglycerides and 0.5% cholic acid (one of the components of bile – in humans we would produce this naturally). Results were based on gallbladder weight, the percentage of mucin (or mucus) in the bile, cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation, and presence or absence of true cholesterol stones.




The study found that the mice with the good flora were more resistant to gallbladder sludge than the mice without the good flora. The total gallbladder weight was lower which is important because it represents a measurable way to test inflammation. Inflamed gallbladders grow thicker walls that have a higher content of immune cells and inflammatory particles.  Also the mice without the good flora showed higher percentages of mucin and researchers were able to determine that the good bacteria actually influence the gene expression of those mice.  Healthy gut bacteria is able to down-regulate the action of mucin genes, which contribute to mucus formation in the digestive tract.

Actual cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation and cholesterol stones were also all significantly less in the mice with healthy gut flora.

What Does This Mean for Humans With Gallbladder Sludge?

Mice aren’t people, and although this is certainly something to think about, we can’t jump to the conclusion that gallbladder sludge can be prevented by good bacteria.  We can, however, use common sense to say that chances are having healthy digestive bacteria can help our bodies to maintain healthy digestion. That means that gut inflammation will probably be lower with good flora, there will probably be less mucus, and digestive processes will run more smoothly.  Logically it makes sense that this would lead to less gallbladder sludge formation.

How Do I Get Healthy Gut Flora?

Of course, there are a million probiotic formulas out there all claiming to be the “best” and as a consumer, it can be very difficult to wade through unless there is specific research on a specific product for the specific issue you’re having (which happens only in a handful of cases). There are not any products currently on the market which are researched for gallbladder sludge.  There are a number of ways to increase your good bacteria, many of which are from food.

Increasing Your Good Gut Flora

Your gut bacteria are 100 trillion friends you didn’t know you had. Take care of them!

  • Reduce Antibiotic Use. If at all possible, minimize or eliminate all antibiotics from your life.  Life-threatening illnesses are a different matter and some situations do require antibiotics but work with your doctor to minimize usage that is not absolutely necessary. Antibiotics kill off your good bacteria along with any bad bacteria and overuse is linked to obesity, serious digestive disease along with the more globally threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Moderate Processed Foods. Processed foods are typically filled with preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, colors and other chemicals that are foreign to your body and to your more fragile gut flora.  A whole food diet has been shown to foster a very different digestive environment than a processed food diet and so eating foods with fewer chemicals will help your host of tiny helpers.
  • Increase Dietary Fiber.  If you’ve read this blog before you probably know I’m a big fan of fiber. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to feed the good bacteria and provides material for fermentation in your gut.  All of those good bacteria really like fermentation and need the “prebiotics” or bacteria food that the fiber provides.
  • Get More Fermented Foods. Naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sourkraut and other fermented veggies like spicy kimchee are all rich sources of good bacteria and can help to reintroduce those good strains into your digestion.
  • Grow Some (Organic) Veggies. Many of our good bacteria are soil microorganisms that we are supposed to through contact with, well, soil.  We are supposed to have these good bacteria from the earth and historically we would have got plenty of them by gardening, harvesting, farming and eating vegetables that aren’t “sanitized” before being put on grocery store shelves or irradiated to prevent foreign plant diseases from entering the country with produce. So growing some of your own or buying from a good local organic grower.  Rinsing your veggies as you normally would won’t eliminate all of the healthy bacteria so as long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides they’re a great source of some of your most potent good flora.
  • Take a Supplement.  The supplements are always an option if that is easiest for you, but don’t forget to do some of the rest of it too. In terms of supplements, every digestive tract is different so it can be helpful to rotate through different types of products with different strains of beneficial bacteria because there isn’t a great way to predict which strains will colonize best in your system.

 

 



Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy – What Now?

Go figure that pregnancy with all of it’s rapidly and vastly changing hormones is one of the most common triggers for gallbladder sludge, and it’s also one of the hardest times to do anything about it. Let’s look at why it happens and what you can do about it. If you’re unclear about what the gallbladder does, and what sludge is then read this post first.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy

Gallbladder can cause a wide range of issues ranging from mild to severe, but any issue is worth discussing with your doctor because untreated disease can lead to complications for the pregnancy. Symptoms include:

  • Itching – on belly, palms and soles or all over. This can happen with or without a rash. If it’s serious, go to your doctor.
  • Right sided digestive pain – at the bottom of your rib cage on the R side or radiating into the R shoulder blade, R shoulder or even L shoulder blade.
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Why is Gallbladder Sludge So Common in Pregnancy?

Gallbladder sludge essentially happens when your gallbladder is overwhelmed by too much cholesterol and not enough bile.  You’ll recall that the bile acts as kind of a “soap” to emulsify fats and make them more water soluble so that they can be both excreted and absorbed in the digestive tract. Just like with dish soap, if there is too much fat or grease and not enough soap you get a sludgy goo that tends to stick to everything and generally get in the way. Hence gallbladder sludge. But why does this happen in pregnancy? Many reasons:

  • Huge hormone shifts – Rapid changes in hormone levels mean that lots of hormones (fat soluble) are being excreted by the liver, and fat soluble toxins are excreted via bile. In fact, below are pictures of a cholesterol molecule and an estrogen molecule – no doubt you’ll notice the similarities (and estrogen along with the other sex hormones is made in your body from cholesterol).

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it's not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

    Estrogen and testosterone (progesterone as well, but it’s not pictured) are incredibly similar to cholesterol, which is why gallbladder sludge in pregnancy is such an issue.

  • High Water Use – Pregnancy uses a lot of water – your body is building a human and that’s no small task. It requires that you also create lots of extra blood, extra fluid to protect and support the baby and of course, all the water that goes into the baby.  Not only that but there are thousands of extra metabolic processes happening to make all of this go.  It’s just a big time for water, and so mild to moderate dehydration is incredibly common – especially in early pregnancy before mama’s intake has adjusted sufficiently to cover it all.  Dehydration is also a risk factor for gallbladder sludge just because all bodily fluids, including bile, get a little thicker and sludgier if there is less water to go around.
  • Estrogen – High estrogen is a risk factor for gallbladder sludge, or cholestasis, independent of pregnancy as well (at least it is in animal studies). In fact, the risk factors for gallstones are called the five F’s – Fair, Female, Fat Fertile and Forty. Lovely.
  • Genetics – There are some genetic conditions associated with gallbladder sludge (more specifically with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, or ICP). So chances are if your mother, aunties, sisters or grandmother had troubles, you may be at greater risk.

Are There Natural Ways to Help Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

Yes and no. Pregnancy is a risky time to use any natural or medical treatment and many drugs and supplements are off limits because they may cause harm to the baby. If you’re not pregnant, then here’s a whole post about gallbladder sludge and stones. If you are, then here are the things you can do:

  • Diet – Pregnancy is a great time for a healthy diet anyway, so might as well do a healthy gallbladder-friendly diet. This means:
    • No fried foods
    • Lots of fruits
    • Limited red meat, butter, shellfish and eggs
    • LOTS of veggies – especially dark green leafy veg
    • Good lean meat, poultry and fish
    • High fiber foods – aim for 30 – 50 g per day – some examples below
      • Split peas – 16.3 g per cup cooked (split pea soup. Yummy.)
      • Lentils – 15.6 g per cup cooked
      • Black beans – 15 g per cup cooked
      • Artichokes – 10.3 g each and also gently boost liver function
      • Broccoli – 5.3 g per cup boiled
      • Raspberries – the yummiest 8 g per cup ever
      • Bran flakes – 7 g per cup
      • Avocado – 12 g each



  • Water – Bump the water WAY up. Aim for 12 eight ounce cups with 8 eight ounce cups being the absolute minimum. This will suck because pregnancy makes you pee all the time anyway and drinking this much water will have you running to the bathroom constantly. Sorry! It’s better than a gallbladder attack, believe me.
  • Lecithin – Lecithin is safe in both pregnancy and nursing because as it turns out, one of it’s major ingredients, choline, is great for baby. Typically midwives and doctors suggest 1200 mg 3-4 times per day with lots of water, but here’s more information about lecithin and it’s use in gallbladder issues. It’s also great for blocked ducts when you’re nursing and gallbladder sludge even when you’re not preggers.
  • Gentle Exercise Regularly – Exercise is good for everything in the human body, including the gallbladder. For many women this will actually eliminate mild symptoms.
  • Castor Oil – Topical (NOT INTERNAL) castor oil over the right side of your abdomen and back can help your body to deal with some of the sludge in a gentle way. Here’s a whole post on it with more detailed information. And Here’s info on a great lazy method of doing a castor oil pack. This is both anti-inflammatory and also good for the functioning of the liver and gallbladder.
  • Lukewarm Epsom Salts Baths – The magnesium in the Epsom salts will help to relax the bile duct and allow sludge to pass more easily, and the lukewarm bath can help to relieve the itching.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn't easy! Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

    Doing all of this in 9 months isn’t easy! Gallbladder is one of the places that fallout can happen. Great picture from free image.com/Jose Torres.

What About Not-Natural Ways to Relieve Gallbladder Sludge in Pregnancy?

If you’re having gallbladder attacks on top of the already uncomfortable state of being pregnant, then sometimes you want a faster option. Also severe gallbladder attacks with protracted vomiting, inflammation or infection can be a serious risk to your baby, so there’s that too.

  • Ursodiol – this prescription drug may be suggested by your doctor to help manage symptoms and increase bile flow.
  • Surgery – It is possible to have your gallbladder removed during pregnancy and sometimes it’s necessary. The second trimester is considered the safest time for both mother and baby to undergo this procedure. Depending on your doctor they  may suggest laparoscopic removal or open gallbladder surgery.

Remember pregnancy is a rough time anyway because your body is doing so much, changing so fast and generally working so hard. Be gentle with yourself, talk with your doctor, and don’t judge – sometimes you can use the natural methods for working with gallbladder sludge in pregnancy and sometimes you really do need something more intense, like surgery.



Lecithin for Blocked Ducts and Gallbladder Sludge

If you’ve had gallbladder sludge, blocked ducts in your gallbladder or blocked ducts in your breast you know just how painful and horrible this can truly be. In good news there is a reasonably simple food supplement that can make a huge difference while you’re working on clearing things out, called lecithin.

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin is naturally occurring in such common foods as soy, egg and sunflower seeds. It’s a compound called a phospholipid, which is a phosphate head bound to long lipid tails. The phosphate head is water soluble, and the lipid tails are fat soluble so lecithin is a great natural emulsifier, meaning it helps to blend fat and water. Lecithin  is used as a food additive frequently for this very reason – it helps to keep fats suspended in a water solution. As a supplement it is sold in both a granule form that you can add to cereal, oatmeal, soups or just about any other food as well as a capsule.  The granules have a nice, nutty sort of flavor that adds well to things and the capsules are , well, just capsules.

Lecithin helps emulsify gallbladder sludge and open blocked ducts in the gallbladder or breast. It's commonly found in soy, sunflower and egg. Photo by John Sullivan

Lecithin helps emulsify gallbladder sludge and open blocked ducts in the gallbladder or breast. It’s commonly found in soy, sunflower and egg. Photo by John Sullivan

Why Does Lecithin Work for Blocked Ducts And Gallbladder Sludge?

Gallbladder sludge is a thick waxy build up of cholesterol and other sterol-type fats bound to bile salts.  Under normal circumstances this is a fluid mixture, but when it gets too thick it becomes waxy and semi-solid.  Blocked breast ducts are also filled with a condensed form of breast milk that is very fat-rich.  Therapeutically , we are looking for this same emulsifying action – we want to allow water to easily add into the mixture to loosen things up and get them moving. Quite literally we want to emulsify the gallbladder sludge or thickened breast milk with water so that it can pass.Lecithen, as a potent emulsifier, does a great job.

How To Take Lecithin For Gallbladder Sludge

If you’re having mild trouble with gallbladder sludge that gives you low-grade symptoms or frequent mini-attacks then 4000 – 5000 mg per day in divided doses will help to prevent further attacks and keep the sludge moving.




If you’re having a strong acute attack that isn’t serious enough for the hospital then 4000-5000 mg every 4 hours with lots of water until it resolves (not more than 24 hours without talking to your doctor or knowing for sure that it truly is gallbladder sludge and not a gallstone emergency). If the lecithin isn’t producing any changes or the symptoms get worse please do seek medical attention because if gallstones get stuck in a duct and block bile flow completely it can be a medical emergency.

How to Take Lecithin for Blocked Milk Ducts

If you’re having recurrent blocked ducts or always feel like you’re hovering on the cusp of a blocked duct then 1200 mg four times daily will help to prevent further issues.

If you’ve already got a blocked duct that you’re trying to loosen up then 4000 – 5000 mg every 4 hours with lots of water until it resolves.

How to Make The Lecithin Work it’s Best

There are a few things you can do to support the action of lecithin so that you’re getting the most benefit from it:

  1. Water – obviously we’ve got the fat, but we need the water to make the emulsifier work.  Aim for 10 8 oz glasses per day if you’re having issues with blocked ducts or gallbladder sludge. **Lecithin will not work without water**
  2. Heat – physically warming up the area can help to relax and open ducts, as well as “melt” the fatty plug. A hot compress such as a hot water bottle, infrared heating pad or wash cloth soaked in hot water over the breast area or gallbladder area (on your right side just under your rib cage straight below the nipple from the front to the back at the same area) will help to loosen things up and get them moving.
  3. Castor Oil – if you’ve read my blog before you know how much I love castor oil. *Love* castor oil. It can be rubbed on the breast tissue (be sure to wipe off completely before your baby nurses) or over the entire liver/gallbladder area to reduce inflammation and help to get things moving as well.  Even better is the combo of castor oil + heat.  Just be sure to put on an old T-shirt because the oil is heavy and will stain clothes. Here’s more information about castor oil in general and castor oil for gallbladder health.
  4. Rest – blocked ducts and gallbladder sludge are both reasonably difficult for your body.  They produce a lot of inflammation and can lead to infection and other problems if left untreated so you will need more rest, more support and generally a little more TLC while this is going on.

Other Uses for Lecithin

Lecithin, as it turns out is great for lots of things:

  • Natural source of choline
  • Improves brain heath, cognitive function and memory, possibly even ADHD
  • Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and increases HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • Used in the formation of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine
  • Supportive in pregnancy, as a source of choline, to help prevent neural tube defects and help healthy brain development
  • Mildly anti-inflammatory
  • Helps to gently improve anxiety
  • Helps to supplement nutritional deficiencies created by alcohol consumption.

Lecithin is a simple, safe, low-cost, beneficial supplement for blocked ducts, gallbladder sludge, and blocked bile ducts but don’t forget the water!



Help! I Still Have Gallbladder Pain After Removal.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this – “I got my gallbladder removed, even though I didn’t want to, but I’m still having gallbladder pain after removal.” “They told me the surgery would fix it, but…” Yup.  Sometimes the surgery doesn’t actually make the pain disappear, so now what?  Good news, there is a lot you can do about this, but it helps to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

How Could I still Have Gallbladder Pain After Removal?

There can be many causes for this, but the simple version is that typically when the gallbladder is removed, all or part of the duct work stays behind. Therein lies the typical culprit.

All those skinny little tubes are ripe for problems that can lead to gallbladder pain after removal. GallbladderAnatomy.png by LukesAnatomy (talk); conversion to SVG by Angelito7 (talk) - GallbladderAnatomy.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29818837

All those skinny little tubes are ripe for problems that can lead to gallbladder pain after removal. GallbladderAnatomy.png by LukesAnatomy (talk); conversion to SVG by Angelito7 (talk) – GallbladderAnatomy.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29818837




Here are the four “S’s” of gallbladder pain after removal:

  1. Stones – Sometimes there are still gallstones, or small calcified spots left in the remaining ducts or even in the ducts from the liver that head towards the (now missing) gallbladder. These hurt just as much as the stones in the gallbladder itself.
  2. Sludge – There can be sludge still in the remaining ducts, even if the stones are gone.
  3. Steatosis – If there have been gallbladder issues for a long time sometimes the liver becomes fatty. Fatty liver, also called “hepatic steatosis” can have no symptoms, or it can feel a whole lot like gallbladder pain – especially the low-grade, chronic type that doesn’t flare up strongly but doesn’t go away either.
  4. Something else – Remember you can have fleas and ticks on the same dog.  Remember gallbladder, and your other internal organs, don’t have sensory nerves the way your fingertips do because you’re not supposed to be reaching out and touching anything with your gallbladder. This is part of why people can feel gallbladder pain so differently – for some it’s classically under the right rib cage, for some it’s between the shoulder-blades, for some it’s on the left side, for some it’s just nausea and for some it mimics a heart attack. It can happen that you have “gallbladder pain,” the doctor finds gallstones, you remove the gallbladder and there’s still something else that was actually causing the pain to begin with.

Now it feels like we’re back at square one, right? You did the surgery, but the problem is the same.  So now what?

Stopping Gallbladder Pain After Surgery

  1. Talk to Your Doctor. Step 1 really should be a follow up ultrasound to see if there are any stones remaining. This will give you a good idea of what you’re working with.
  2. Work on Gallbladder Sludge. This is the most common cause of ongoing pain and working on cleaning out your remaining sludge will help clear those ducts and also helps with a gentle liver detox. Really working on this should bring improvement within a month. If it doesn’t, or if your symptoms get worse then skip straight to step 4. There’s a whole post on supporting your gallbladder as well as one on liver health below.
  3. Give your Liver Some LoveThis can be done at the same time as step 3 – each one helps the other so that you get the best results if you’re supporting your liver and clearing out sludge at the same time.
  4. Get Your Doctor on Board. You have lots of vital organs in your abdomen and we don’t really want to see any of them in trouble.  If your symptoms are not getting better, if they’re getting worse, or if your gut is telling you that there’s more going on then talk with your doctor. There can be hernias, pancreatitis, infections, tumors and other problems that your body can only tell you about in so many ways so don’t ignore symptoms just because you got your gallbladder removed.

It can be easy to get discouraged, but you’re still on the right track. The surgery sometimes isn’t an instant fix, but you’re still moving forward – just follow the steps and trust your gut. If you feel like there’s something bigger going on then talk to your doctor. Otherwise give your liver and ducts a little pampering and you’ll be good as new in no time.



Benefits of Lemon Water for Liver, Gallbladder and Energy

We’ve discussed lemons for skin health and beauty, but what about the awesome benefits of lemon water for your liver, your gallbladder and even your energy? Not to mention the zesty taste! Lemon water has this sort of ambiguously detox-y reputation on the interwebs.  Seems like a lot of people like the way it makes them feel, most people seem to feel it does something related to detox but isn’t sure quite what, and some people claim it’s the cure-all. I’m not going to ever call anything a cure-all because every person’s physiology is unique, but there are some things that are pretty universally good, and as it turns out having a nice, hot lemon water in the morning is one of those.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.




The Actual Benefits of Lemon Water

Detoxify

  • The acidity of lemon juice makes it a much-used cholagogue for herbalists and even the doctors of yore (yore has to be one of my favorite words – I couldn’t resist a chance to sneak it in there). Cholagogues promote the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.  In plain English, that means that when you eat or drink lemon or lemon juice it stimulates your body to release bile into your intestinal tract to pass through into the stool. Bile helps you to digest fats that you eat, and it also helps eliminate cholesterol and fat soluble toxins.  This makes lemon water a gentle detoxifier.
  • Just as a fun factoid, if you’re not sure if something is a good cholagogue (the new word of the day), just taste it.  Cholagogues are usually strongly sour or bitter and you can feel that little salivary gland at the back of your jaw start to freak out.  Lemons are all over this!
  • Your liver does much of it’s heavy lifting overnight while you sleep. In the morning there can be a back-log of toxins from the night before that your body would love to eliminate. To do that it honestly benefits pretty greatly from both the water – especially warm water, and the lemon juice itself.
  • Lemon juice may even stimulate healthy production of both bile and stomach acid and it was used historically to do just that, although there isn’t research out there to support this use.

Hydrate

  • In addition to the lemon, there’s the water and the water is actually key to this whole thing.  Detoxification, which is essentially cleaning, requires water just like every other washing job you’ve ever done.  Have you ever tried cleaning the dishes without water? Washing the car? Yup. All hinges on water.
  • Let’s face it – we all struggle for that 8-10 glasses of water we’re supposed to get every day. With lemon water at least one of them tastes good!

Think More Clearly

  • There is a strongly established link between getting enough water and using your brain effectively. The mountain of research on this link for adults is huge and there’s even research showing clearly this link in kiddos.
  • Essential oil of lemon, which is the lemon smell released by the lemon water, is also shown to improve mood and cognitive performance in adults, so double whammy.
  • Triple whammy! The bioflavenoids in citrus fruit are also shown to boost cognitive performance including nobilitin and hesperidin.

Lose Weight and Boost Heart Health

  • A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking more water boosts metabolism by about 30% for both men and women.  That is incredibly helpful! The study went on to say that people who drank 1.5 liters of water per day burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year just through this one simple step. That’s a weight loss of 5 pounds, just by drinking water.
  • An additional study on the lemon detox diet showed that adding lemon detox drink to a low calorie diet actually improves the cardiovascular benefits of that diet.  They compared three groups, one eating a normal diet, one eating a calorie restricted diet and one eating a calorie restricted diet plus lemon water sweetened with maple syrup. Both low calorie groups lost weight, lowered their insulin and reduced their waist-hip ratios but only the lemon water group showed improvements in cardiovascular inflammation.

Get Your Antioxidants

  • Lemon water from the recipe below has about 22 mg of vitamin C, or 36% of your daily value. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Citrus bioflavenoids are an incredibly diverse group of compounds that are high-powered antioxidants and every day there is new research emerging for compounds such as hesperidin, quercitin, rutin, nobilitin and there are literally hundreds of others that have yet to be researched.

Boost Your Happy

  • Lemon essential oil is one of the scents most associated with elevated mood.  It is stimulating to the energy but not agitating – it remains calming to the nerves. In short, it gives you the happy.

Not only that but one of the best benefits of lemon water is that you can drink this, and also your coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine and so won’t conflict at all with that beloved morning ritual. Now – if you want to enjoy the health benefits of lemon water, here’s a fantastic recipe:

Lemon Water Recipe

Juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
Zest from the peel – just a few swipes will do
12-16 oz hot water (I prefer 16 to soften the tartness)
If you can’t tolerate the tartness then a little bit of raw honey

Mix it all together in your favorite mug and enjoy the lovely fresh smell, the tart wake-me-up taste and all those health benefits of lemon water. And no worries – you can still have a coffee or tea if you want without worrying about being over-caffeinated.