Gallstones: An Alternative Treatment
The intense pain of a gallbladder inflamed with stones sears through the mid-torso with anger and vengeance. Over twenty million people live with potentially harmful gallstones, yet many do not even know they have them. Gallstones, and the associated inflammation of the gallbladder, lead to close to half a million surgeries for gallbladder removal annually. For many, however, the alternative of prevention and care takes its rightful place ahead of surgery.
A pear-shaped organ located under the liver, the gallbladder has many useful functions that are necessary in the life-giving digestive system. The liver produces bile for proper digestion of fats, but it is the gallbladder that holds the bile for future use. Once food enters the body, the gallbladder contracts to release bile through the ducts and into the small intestine. In the small intestine, the bile serves as an emulsifier, or cleanser, for fat, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins by breaking them down into globules for efficient digestion.
The liver creates approximately one quart of bile daily. Stored in concentrated form in the gallbladder, the single pint held there is enough to perform the necessary digestive action required of the gallbladder. Elimination of drugs and toxins are a function of the liver making the gallbladder an accessory organ to that function. Further, the bile released from the gallbladder helps to retain water in the colon as well as assist in the process of eliminating bilirubin. The concentrated form of bile in the gallbladder is better able to handle these processes than the less concentrated form released by the liver.
Gallbladder with Stones
As with all nutritional disorders, prevention is the key to ensuring health throughout the body. Prevention in the case of gallstones consists of several dietary elements that support both the liver and the gallbladder. Considering that many gallstones go unnoticed, prevention takes a major role in removing those that may exist while preventing any future gallstones. By following the prevention tips below, strengthening of the liver as well as efficiency of the gallbladder effects the creation of better health.
- Dietary changes: Vegetarian diets are the most effective diets in prevention of gallstones. Transitioning to a vegetarian diet requires proper care for optimum nutrition balance. However, a balanced diet with 25% of calories from fat and 10% of those calories from saturated fat will reduce the chances of gallstones. The lower fat content decreases the contraction and release of bile while the lowered saturated fat decreases cholesterol production. Increasing fiber to 35 mg per day reduces the amount of cholesterol, which results in lower cholesterol concentration in the bile. Reduction of sugar will decrease the blood sugar levels further reducing insulin presence in the blood. Insulin may increase the formation of gallstones.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 sources consumed on a regular basis serve to prevent gallstones. Three tablespoons of olive oil or two tablespoons of flax oil daily is essential in reducing cholesterol thereby reducing the likelihood of gallstones.
- Weight Reduction: Implications by various studies mark obesity as an indicator of increased prevalence of gallstones. While clinical studies have proven that yo-yo dieting and rapid weight loss (more than 2 pounds per week) increase the likelihood of gallstones, weight loss focusing on an increase of healthy habits prevents gallstones.
- Exercise: Research at the University of Illinois has shown that increased exercise is a major factor in the reduction of gallstones. In addition to circulating blood cholesterol back to the liver, exercise also increases the bile acids necessary to solubilize increased cholesterol. By increasing exercise to thirty minutes per day five days per week, gallstone prevalence decreases.
- Liver health: The gallbladder functions in direct correlation to the liver making liver health of utmost importance. By ensuring proper liver health, cholesterol reduction and proper production of bile acids occurs to enable efficient gallbladder function. In addition to maintaining a clean diet, liver function efficiency increases with the addition of herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion root. Both increase liver strength in broad strokes and serve as a centuries-old remedy for liver and gallbladder health. Daily use of milk thistle detoxifies the liver and improves the solubility of bile, while dandelion cleanses and increases the efficiency of the liver.
Milk Thistle seeds can be ground and eaten with honey. One tablespoon of this combination protects and strengthens the liver. When used in extract form, follow the label instructions.
Dandelion root used in dried form (right from the garden) or extract form does the best job. If using this herb from the garden, ensure harvesting far from areas close to roadways and areas where chemical pesticides are used.
According to Michael Tierra, well-known planetary herbologist, when using herbs, the cyclical recommendation of 7 days on with one day off will enhance the powers of the herbs.
- Additional: Supplementation of lecithin and vitamin C proves to be helpful in making cholesterol more soluble and increasing the enzymatic conversion of cholesterol to bile salts. Lecithin supplementation begins at a dose of 100 mg three times per day. Vitamin C supplementation range begins at 1-3 grams daily.
While all chronic disorders have the potential for the necessity of emergency surgery, alternative options exist to not only treat the problem but also to strengthen the body. Standard surgical treatment promotes the argument that the body lives easily without the gallbladder. However, you can live without a stomach, a colon, one kidney, seventy percent of the liver, one lung, a spleen, a uterus, testes, and ovaries. This does not mean we should just chip away parts of the body we supposedly "can live without". Organ problems typically relate to other areas of the body. This means that with organ removal, other organs that were an accessory to the problems still exist with problems. Not only is the cause uncorrected with surgery, it creates further need for the body to "make up for" the removed part. The function of the body reflects the perfect balance of all of its parts. Natural treatment alternatives address all of these issues while strengthening the whole body.
All of the prevention tips above support treatment along with additional methods that perpetuate progression of a healthy gallbladder and gallstone elimination.
- Remove fats: Removal of excess fatty foods marks the first and foremost step in recovery. By following the guidelines of proper fat consumption, cholesterol production is decreased thereby decreasing further cholesterol concentration in the bile while reducing the need for excess gallbladder stimulation. Most gallbladder attacks occur after a fatty meal.
- Refine the diet: Avoidance of animal fat, dairy (other than yogurt and kefir), fried foods, spicy foods, soft drinks, and refined, processed foods cuts out the dietary excesses that cause such intense pain to begin with.
- Increase raw foods: An increase in raw foods to 75% of the diet seals the deal on the dietary changes needed to treat existing gallstones. This increase in raw foods increases fiber content in the diet, lowers cholesterol, and takes the place of dietary excesses.
- Add turmeric: Animal studies report that turmeric in the diet inhibits cholesterol formation of gallstones in the gallbladder. The curcumin properties of turmeric act as an anti-inflammatory improving bile while relaxing the bile ducts. While turmeric is an excellent addition, please avoid use if allergy exists with yellow food coloring, bleeding disorders, or with use of blood thinners.
- Add a good probiotic: A probiotic with 5 million microorganisms with FOS assists in metabolism of cholesterol and bile acids.
- Remove stones: Apple cider vinegar softens gallstones making it easier for them to pass through the ducts painlessly. Routine daily use of one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 4 ounces of apple juice daily and three tablespoons of olive oil with the juice of 1 lemon upon waking and in the evening will soften and eliminate stones.
- Test for HCl deficiency: At times low hydrochloric acid could be a contributing factor to gallstones. Have your physician test for HCl underproduction and treat accordingly with Betaine tablets under physician supervision.
- Fast: Many try to use a long term fast for removal of stones. While there is some evidence that this has helped, there is no evidence that the stones removed were in fact gallstones. Fast for longer than 14 hours when gallstones exist may perpetuate a worse problem.
- Castor oil packs: Castor oil has many uses including the ability to affect inflammation. A castor oil pack applied to gallbladder area will help to minimize and reduce the number of stones. Simply neat (not boil) castor oil in a pan, soak a cheesecloth with the heated oil, apply the cheesecloth over the gallbladder, and cover with plastic and a heating pad for thirty to sixty minutes.
- Other herbs: Many other herbs are reputed to be essential and effective in treating gallstones. They include gravel root, parsley root, marshmallow, licorice, and ginger root. According to Michael Tierra, CA, ND in his book Planetary Herbology, these herbs, when used together with turmeric and dandelion effect pain relief, detoxification, and dispersment. Purchased in dried or powdered form they work for use in a tea or tincture.
FOR FAST EFFECTIVE RELEASE OF PAIN AT THE ONSET OF AN ATTACK, DRINK ONE TABLESPOON OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR WITH WATER OF APPLE JUICE. IF PAIN DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY SUBSIDE, PROCEED TO A PHYSICIAN TO RULE OUT OTHER DISORDERS.
Nutritional disorders such as gallstones show up exponentially as the dietary requirements of individuals turn more toward convenience and refined foods. When a choice between health and illness exists, the balance shifts with a decision toward health rather than disease and disorder. Prevention and treatment of gallbladder disorders tops the list of the easiest alternatives to invasive treatment. Challenge yourself to shift the balance of health and wellness in your favor.