Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Greetings Journal Reader! As the leaves begin to turn, and the cooler weather sets in, we think about coming together with friends, & family. Despite the trials we’ve faced collectively during the past few months, every one of us is still blessed. This month, take the opportunity to be kind, help others, and recognize value in every one you meet. Even that person you don’t particularly like is here to help you grow & learn. Something as simple as saying “hello” to a stranger can change someone’s life. This month’s Ask Dr. P answers some very important questions about your gallbladder and preventing gallbladder disease. Enjoy!
Dr. P, I’ve seen my doctor for stomach pain, and she says I need my gallbladder out because of stones. Is there an alternative? Cheryl
Cheryl, your gallbladder is an organ that concentrates bile, then secretes it into the intestines to help you digest fats. Sometimes, stones form in the gallbladder, and they become problematic if they get lodged in the tube leading from your gallbladder to your intestines. If you have right upper quadrant (abdominal) pain, usually while lying down, nausea, vomiting, or fat intolerance, you may have gallstones. This can be confirmed by an ultrasound of the abdomen. If stones are found, your options are to either use medicines to dissolve them, (if they are not lodged in the tube); change your diet, (which can prevent stones from getting bigger, and may prevent new ones from forming); or get your gallbladder removed surgically. If the stones are small, they can sometimes pass through if you use antispasm drugs or natural medicines. An investigational alternative is using soundwaves (lithotripsy) to break up the stones into smaller pieces so they can pass through. The key is to prevent the condition from getting worse through dietary changes, and medicines (natural & conventional). You want to prevent the need for emergency gallbladder surgery, as 1/20 people die from it, and once your gallbladder is removed, you must replace the bile it secreted, by taking a digestive aid with meals for the rest of your life. If you need to have the surgery because of regular pain, or the stone is lodged, then you should still change your diet to prevent stones from forming in the tubes, which are left intact. Clearly prevention is best.
Dr. P, I have gallbladder stones in my family, and would like to prevent them from happening to me. How? Eileen
Eileen, gallstones are not inherited. They are moreso a product of your lifestyle. Some risk factors for getting gallstones (except for being female,) are being overweight, having had more than one child, having inadequate fiber, a high animal fat, and taking estrogen. Inactivity probably plays a role, but this is less certain. If you have gallstones that are not causing symptoms, avoid crash diets & fasting, as each can sometimes cause gallstones to become lodged in the tube. The best way to prevent gallstones from forming is to have adequate fiber in your diet. My rule of thumb to calculate your ideal amount of fiber is to divide your weight in pounds by 5 or 6 and use the quotient as the number of grams of dietary fiber you should have each day. Doing so reduces your risk for gallstones, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a multitude of other conditions.
Dr. P, I have symptoms of gallbladder disease, but the tests show that there are no stones. What do I do? Annie
Annie, you may have what is called cholecystitis (an inflammation/ irritation of the gallbladder). Bacteria, or stones can cause cholecystitis, but sometimes no cause is found. Treatment varies from fasting and using intravenous fluids to surgical removal of the gallbladder. Natural alternatives consist of antispasm nutrients, or plant medicines. Always see your natural medicine specialist to find out if you need to be on a prevention or treatment plan for gallbladder issues. With most health concerns prevention really is best. Have a great month!
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