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How to Treat Gallstones

Updated on June 18, 2013
Photo: TipsTimes
Photo: TipsTimes | Source

If you have a diagnosis of gallstones, chances are you've had enough pain and discomfort to warrant an emergency trip to the doctor. Gallstones that are large or irregularly shaped are no joke. Though we all may get gallstones from time to time, they generally pass without our knowing it. It's when they're larger and tougher to pass that we realize they're there -- boy, do we ever realize it.

Now that you know you have gallstones, what are your options? Here are the most common ways of treating gallstones, as well as natural ways you may reduce the discomfort.

COMMON MEDICAL THERAPIES

Surgery. Some 500,000 gallstone surgeries are performed each year in the U.S. Usually, the procedure is via Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. For this procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen. She then inserts a tiny camera so she can clearly view the surgery, then removes the gallbladder via one of the incisions.

Oral dissolution therapy. In plain terms, this means taking medications to help break up the gallstones into smaller pieces or dissolve them entirely. They can then pass more easily and with less pain. The most common drugs for this type of gallstone therapy include ursodiol (brand name Actigall) and chenodiol (brand name Chenix).

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL). Extracorporeal means "outside the body," and that's exactly how this therapy is performed. Shock waves are passed through the body via ultrasound with the intention of breaking the gallstones up into smaller particles.

Contact dissolution therapy. This procedure is relatively new and still in its experimental stages, but results so far look promising, according to researchers. The drug methyl tert butyl is injected directly into the gallbladder. This drug has its down sides, including being highly toxic if incorrectly used or overused.

NATURAL/HERBAL THERAPIES

Gallstone flush. Sometimes, a flush of toxins and fluids from the body can get things moving and make gallstones pass more easily. Choose a good alternative practitioner to oversee this process. It will involve periods of fasting followed by the ingestion of various herbs and/or clear fluids.

Preventive gallblader/liver cleanse. In both traditional and alternative medicine, prevention is usually easier than a cure. A good liver/gallbladder detoxification about once every six months can help prevent the overgrowth of gallstones. Again, consult your practitioner.

Herbal supplements. Some herbs have been known and used throughout history, in both the east and the west, to help the liver function better, to aid the flow of bile and to keep the liver and gallbladder cleaner of toxins. Common liver and gallbladder herbs include dandelion root, milk thistle, Oregon grape, rosemary, and mint.

Nutrition. Certain foods seem to have a negative effect on the functioning of the gallbladder. These include saturated fats (note: healthy fats, such as olive oil, should be fine in regulated quantities), dairy and caffeine. Many doctors advise their patients to stay away from or limit these foods in order to reduce future problems.

You may use more than one of the above to treat your gallstones. Sometimes combination therapy is best; sometimes one therapy is best. Ask your doctor or practitioner what course of action is best for you.


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