Gallbladder Sludge - Treatment, Symptoms, Removal, Diet, Causes
What is Gallbladder Sludge?
This is a buildup of mucus and particles that can occur over time in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small organ that is pear-shaped and is located on the right side of your abdomen below the liver. The primary function of your gallbladder is to be a reservoir for bile, concentrated it, and empty it into your common bile duct. This common bile duct enters your small intestine and helps with digestion. When a person has gallbladder sludge many consider it a microscopic form of gallstones. It is also sometimes referred to as biliary sludge.
In this sludge you may find particles of cholesterol, sodium, and calcium crystals along with other particles. It can happen to anyone of any age, gender, or race but is seen more in people who take certain medications, people who experience rapid weight loss, or pregnant women. Also women are more prone than men to develop gallbladder sludge.
Many people do not have any health issues when they have gallbladder sludge but there are others who have gallbladder sludge that will block the bile ducts. If this happens they may have:
- In the upper right corner of their abdomen they may have severe pain
- Chills and fever
- Pain after eating spicy and fatty food
Overtime, these symptoms may become worse. There may be times that this gallbladder sludge can lead to inflammation of your gallbladder and pancreas. Having abdominal pain can be related to many different medical conditions so it may not be able to tell if the abdominal pain is related to gallbladder sludge so this is why it is necessary to see your doctor if you have abdomen pain. Some people may even develop gallstones.
In many cases of gallbladder sludge physicians and scientists have not been able to pinpoint any particular reason. The only thing that they do know is that for cholesterol, which is not very soluble, to remain suspended in fluids it needs to be transported in clumps of micelles, which are bile salts. If the balance tips between the cholesterol and bile salts it causes the bile fluid to turn to gallbladder sludge. There are also other factors that can trigger gallbladder sludge can include:
- Rapid weight loss - going on a crash diet because you eat less means that there is less excretion of the bile. This causes your gallbladder to need to store the bile which can result in gallbladder sludge
- Taking certain medications
- Cholesterol levels that are high because of eating a diet that is high in cholesterol.
- Alcohol damage because when you drink too much it forces your liver to work harder which in turn means that you are excreting more bile. The more bile excreted the higher your chances are of developing gallbladder sludge.
- Drug damage
- Pregnancy - this could be due to hormonal changes, changes in your diet, etc.
When you have any of the symptoms of gallbladder sludge or severe abdominal pain in the upper right part you need to see your physician. They will take your medical history and list of symptoms, and then do a physical exam. They may also do imaging tests such as a "transabdominal ultrasonograpy", which is a medical test that is used to examine the organs in your abdomen. During this test the physician can determine the consistency of the bile to see if there is any gallbladder sludge or gallstones.
In many people who have gallbladder sludge it will dissolve on its own and will need no treatment. If during the ultrasound the physician finds gallbladder sludge the physician may prescribe Ursodiol, which will help to break down any proteins that are present in the bile. If you have taken this medication and had no results or you are suffering from frequent gallstones your physician may recommend having your gallbladder taken out.
Before going to the physician, if you do not have severe pain, you could try these home remedies to help reduce your symptoms and cleanse your bladder. It is advisable that before using any of these home remedies you do see your physician so you do not exacerbate your condition. Some of these different home remedies include:
- Eat breakfast each morning to help prevent the bile from sitting and separating in your gallbladder.
- Eat several small meals during the day instead of two or three large meals will allow your gallbladder to work in small spurts and more frequently. This will prevent the proteins from settling at the bottom of your gallbladder.
- Eat fewer calories because people who eat diets that are high in calories are more prone to developing gallbladder sludge.
In order to remove the gallbladder sludge naturally you can:
- Drink plenty of water every day can help to dilute the sludge and helps to flush it away.
- Take flax seed oil
- Take vitamin C tablets daily or increase your intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C.
- Drink a mixture of fruit juice of your choice and castor oil.
- Cut back on how much chicken, fish, eggs, meat, and dairy products as these are the foods that can increase your cholesterol levels.
If you cannot get rid of the gallbladder sludge naturally you may need to have your gallbladder removed. This surgery is called a cholecystectomy. You can lead a normal life without your gallbladder.
One of the main things that you need to remember is that if you have gallbladder sludge is to avoid any foods that would be difficult to digest and that are high in fats, salt, and cholesterol. Eating these foods could add pressure in the gallbladder and make the digestion process more difficult, causing you unnecessary pain. The foods that you should eat if you have gallbladder sludge include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables - more than one half of your diet should be fresh vegetables and fruits. These types of food consist of high fibers that help in the digestion process, causing less discomfort and pain because of the gallbladder sludge. You should have four to five servings of vegetables and three to four servings of fruits each day. Some vegetables and fruits you should eat include fresh beans, carrots, celery, apples, berries, melons, etc.
- Omega 3-fatty acids - supplements or foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent gallbladder sludge. Two foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are salmon and tuna.
- Poultry meat that is lean - you need to avoid red meat and switch to lean poultry meat such as turkey and chicken.
- Whole grains and cereals - these are a source of low calories and high fiber. You should start each day with a bowl of whole grain cereal. It will help with your gallbladder sludge and will help you feel full throughout the entire day making you feel less hungry.
- Drink a lot of healthy juices and water - keep yourself well hydrated to help flush the toxins out of your body and help dilute the gallbladder sludge.
- Dairy products that are low fat - you can still have milk, yogurt, cheeses, etc but make sure they are low fat and eat them in limited amounts.