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Gallbladder disease is a condition in which there is a dysfunction in the bile ducts that can eventually lead to inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), development of hardened deposits or stones (cholelithiasis) or growths that protrude from the gallbladder's lining (gallbladder polyps) which may become malignant. Some people also experience low ejection fraction of the gallbladder. This means that not enough bile is leaving the gallbladder. The galIbladder is a tiny organ that stores bile which comes from the liver. Bile is used to help digestion. It assists in the breakdown of fats that are consumed. People with normal gallbladder ejection fractions have and EJ of 35% or more. I have had gallbladder disease for the better part of 2 decades and the number one question people ask me is "why don't you just have your gallbladder removed"? Well, my answer...I like it where it is. Besides, there are ways to prevent the attacks that cause the symptoms of this disease. I want to share with you what I've experienced over the years. I will tell you what I've done to greatly reduce my symptoms. I've also spent over 5 years interviewing many people who have had the disease. Of course, most of them opted for surgery. So, please know that none of the information I'm going to share with you about my personal experiences is meant to replace professional medical care. If you have advanced gallbladder disease then you must see a doctor.
In today's fast paced society, everyone is guilty of succumbing to a burger and fries occasionally. Or, maybe southern fried chicken and biscuits. No matter our vice, we put our bodies through hell sometimes. It's hard to keep in mind the old adage "everything in moderation". But, it really was said with good reason. Too much of anything can't possibly be good for anyone.
Therefore, if you want to do to reduce your chances of getting gallbladder disease or reduce the frequency of gallbladder attacks then you must reduce the fat content in the foods you eat. Processed foods are bad too. Foods such as cold cuts, hot dogs, boxed macaroni & cheese, even foods that one would consider healthy such as cauliflower, corn or nuts can trigger your gallbladder to react negatively. Foods high in cholesterol such as eggs can also affect your gallbladder. Read on for more information...
Signs of Gallbladder Disease
Below, I've listed some of the more common signs of gallstones or gallbladder disease. The ones that I'm all too familiar with. I've also listed those that I've never experienced personally, but that are documented through studies published in popular GI journals. These symptoms are:
- sudden onset of pain the the upper right portion of your abdomen (where your gallbladder and liver are located)
- nausea and vomiting especially after consuming fatty foods
- indigestion or gas
- jaundice or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- stool that is chalky colored
- dark urine
Almost 80% of people with gallstones don't even know they have them. This is known in the medical field as "silent gallstones". It's documented that gallbladder attacks in people with silent gallstones is about 1% a year. Not everyone with gallbladder disease requires surgery. Some experts agree that gallbladder disease in it's early stages can be managed through natural methods.
Are You a Likely Candidate for Gallstones?
It's always important to consider your overall health. Some people believe that gallstones or gallbladder disease affects just the poor eaters of the world, but against popular opinion, gallbladder disease can affect even the healthy. You know those people, the ones who exercise constantly, who watch what they eat, etc... You may be one of them. The prevelance of gallstones is much higher in females than in males. And, can develop in those that watch what they eat simply because they fall into a specific category. For example, you may be predisposed to developing gallstones if you are female and fertile. Or, if you have a family history of gallbladder disease. Even your ethnicity can determine whether or not you will develp gallstones. Some studies have connected gallbladder disease to hypothyroidism, people who consume lots of alcohol and those who have diabetes or those who have inflammatory bowel disease.
There are several tests that are used to determine if you have gallbladder disease. These tests include: abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, HIDA scan and even blood work. Blood work is done to look for infection, pancreatitis or jaundice. Another test is an ERCP to seek out and remove stones trapped in the bile ducts. Getting tested is important because the symptoms of gallbladder disease are so similar to many other conditions and a proper diagnosis is the key to proper treatment.
Risks vs. Benefits
Just keep in mind that with every surgery there are risks. You need to know the risks of gallbladder removal and whether or not they outweigh the benefits for your particular lifestyle. Ask your surgeon plenty of questions and most importantly you must change the way you've been doing things. If you don't then you will feel cheated somehow. Your surgeon can't go home with you after surgery so he/she can't follow your every move. Make the right decisions for yourself if you choose to have your gallbladder removed. And, if you think that you can manage without surgery at first then make changes immediately and see what happens. You just might surprise yourself.
Treating Your Gallbladder Disease
Not everyone requires surgery for the treatment of gallbladder disease. If you visit a surgeon who immediately suggests that you have your gallbladder removed, you should ask him/her if it's really necessary. Sure, we can live without our gallbladder, but don't think for a minute that it wouldn't come with it's own set of problems. Let's say that you have your gallbladder removed, but you continue your same sedentary lifestyle then you may experience some of the same symptoms you experienced before having your gallbladder removed. So, what was the point of having an organ removed?
Remember, the gallbladder stores bile from the liver so it's kind of like a warehouse (supply is ready to go) and if you remove the warehouse then your liver which is like the factory (making it from the beginning) can't produce bile fast enough to aid in the digestion of what you're consuming. If you are in the early stages of gallbladder disease then yes it's possible that you can treat it without surgery. Below, I will list what I've tried and what has worked for others. Some of these methods may seem a little bit out of left field, but they've proven to work for me. But, I have to mention again that I am not a medical doctor and if you feel that you should seek a doctor's advice then by all means make an appointment with one.
I always know when I'm about to have a gallbladder attack. That tiny pain that starts to develop in what feels like the pit of my stomach will slowly creep up on me. Then, BAM!...it hits like a brick. No relief in sight. Well, at least before I found ways to stop the pain in its tracks. Now, whenever I feel my symptoms coming on, I immediately begin walking around. Sure, some people may disagree with walking, but it works for me. I pace, pace, pace. Then, I drink some coke (the syrup in coke coats my stomach). I breathe deeply - again there are those who would disagree with breathing deeply. Within just a few minutes my symptoms are gone. No Kidding. I once tested my own theories by just lying still during a gallbladder attack. I told myself to stay on the couch and not move. Boy, the pain was so intense that it became almost intolerable! No way! Not for me! I got up immediately and tried one of my methods. It always works. When it's real bad I even take a shot of epsom salt and water. Instant fix too. At least for me.
I used to get at least 2 gallbladder attacks a week that lasted for up to an hour. But, now I might get 2 gallbladder attacks a year, if that. I also watch my diet. No more processed foods. I cook everything from scratch and I bake my meats instead of frying them. It has made such a difference because now I don't need to go through surgery. Other prevention methods include: high fiber intake, portion control during meals, drinking plenty of water and getting daily exercise which can be as simple as walking in place during my favorite sitcom. I feel so much better now that I have made these simple changes in my life. Not only have I lost over 50lbs, but I feel great about myself and no more pain.