It appears that gallstones form when the gallbladder isn't used much - like when eating a low-fat diet. With "normal" use of the gallbladder (i.e. when fats are regularly consumed), bile is released from the gallbladder to help with fat digestion. When bile doesn't need to be released because fats are avoided, the bile becomes over saturated with cholesterol, then crystallizes into gallstones. Then, when someone actually eats fat, and the bile is released, the stones try to go with it, causing pain, and sometimes getting stuck.
Or at least that's the explanation that makes sense to me. If the above is correct, then there's a good chance that a lot of people starting the paleo / primal diet may experience gallbladder issues, since they are probably increasing their fat intake.
Most doctors are more than happy to help by removing the gallbladder altogether. (Hey, fat shouldn't be eaten anyway, so if you're eating "healthy" then what do you need bile for? ...)
Assuming most people would prefer to keep all their organs intact, has anyone been successful with natural methods of dealing with / passing / dissolving gallstones? What are some solutions that you or someone you know has tried? Did they work?
These are the methods I've come across so far:
coconut oil and animal fats may help lubricate the tube out from the gallbladder, making the passing of stones easier, and may actually help dissolve the stones (sorry, no source - just remember reading this somewhere - it'd be quite perfect for this diet, but don't know if it's true)
increasing water and Vitamin C intake - supposedly water helps flush things out, whereas vitamin C aids in converting cholesterol into bile
olive oil and lemon juice cleanse - I've come across many blog posts / comments about this
Oh man, I can't believe I missed this when it first came around. Have a look at http://www.fatfiction.co.uk/gallstones/ - I'm doing a live experiment to prove exactly this and I've written more than you could ever bore yourself with on the whats and why.
In short, you're dead right about paleo and gallstones (just ask Peter Andre). Here's my theory in short: You need two things for gallstones - bile stasis and inbalanced bile (lots of cholesterol or too little salts). The bile stasis comes from food allergies. However the multiple allergies have a primary cause - wheat. The inbalanced bile comes from lack of core minerals from not eating enough minerals and malabsorption issues in GI tract (wheat).
Terpene preps like Rowachol have been proven to dissolve cholesterol. In combination with mineral-heavy foods, absence of wheat, magnesium epsom salts you should be golden. I'm about 10 weeks in. Working well so far.
I have to answer some of these questions, I m a surgical intern so I m fairly well informed in this area. I ll be the first to admit I m not an expert. And yes I do paleo (well I try my best).
-if you have gallstones and you delay (surgical) treatment you are asking for trouble, there was a big trial done some years comparing non-surgical vs. surgical treatment for cholecystitis and something like 3 people died in the non-surgical arm of the trial. It was suspended immediately. THATS why your MD tells you to have it removed. It would be irresponsible of him not to.
-I understand people not wanting to have surgery, and besides you should never have surgery unless its absolutely necessary (because there are risks with every surgery). BUT considering you don't really need your Gallbladder (its a semi-vestigial organ like your appendix) and the potential risks and complications it makes sense to have it out if its causing you problems.
-Theres not a jot of evidence that natural/homeopathic methods are in the slightest bit effective for gallstone problems. None. In fact they can be dangerous because of what I ve said above. Its more likely the stone disimpacted by itself (attacks are on and off all by themselves). Then the naturopath takes the credit (and the cash) for it. I m not anti-alternative, there are TONS of western medicine treatments with their roots in herbal (aspirin = yew tree, artemisinin = artemsia herb from TCM) and other traditional medicine practices (i.e. Ponsetti method).
-The last thing I ll say is that I totally agree with the paleo idea and theres tons of scientific evidence to back it up. I d reckon about 80-90% of all the illnesses we see today (in the Western world) are because we are not living the way we evolved to live.
I hope this helped clearify the issue a bit!
My gallbladder was removed about a decade ago - I thought it was a genetic weak spot since my mother had hers out in her late twenties as well. She was always on a diet and never ate fat and got me to eat low fat also since I was always overweight. When it was removed the doctor told me it was from eating too much fat and going long periods of time without eating. It's sad how easy it is to convince people of things, it never dawned on me that the doctor could be wrong. Now I wish I would have not had it removed - there are some less than ideal side effects of not having the thing. My brother in law just had his removed a few weeks ago, I tried to get him to get a second opinion and to read up about it before he had it done but he let them do it anyways. I don't have anything to add - I just thought the question was great and I hope that some natural solutions do work so people will stop having this pointless surgery.
From Mary Enig, M.D. (Eat Fat, Lose Fat):
"In our view, the presence of gallstones means your body has increased its reservoir of cholesterol. If you have low cholesterol, your body needs such a reservoir on hand because it cannot be assured of getting adequate cholesterol from the bloodstream. Thus it's actually counterproductive to reduce the fat in your diet, for this would only increase the body's tendency to store fat and hence form gallstones. Instead, the best way to eliminate gallstones is to give your gallbladder the cholesterol it needs by eating adequate amounts of animal fats."
I'm not saying I agree or don't with this explanation - I've just had gallstones found via ultrasound, not sure whether I've had any attacks (had a series of what I thought were GI symptoms - nausea, chills, rapid bowel evacuation but no pain - gallstones? bacteria? who knows?). I've been eating high-fat GAPS/Primal for six months as I thought I was dealing with a GI thing, and have had no episodes for a couple months. When I did have them, they were almost always after eating at a restaurant, and always at night (hence gallbladder suspicion). Anyway, I think my fat intake increased somewhat slowly (although I've always eaten plenty of dairy, avocado and nuts prior to this whole shenanigan) but I've had no adverse reactions from eating high-fat foods prepared at home, even with these stones that were found three weeks ago.
I have done about four olive oil/grapefruit/Epsom salt liver cleanses. Yes, they're kooky. No, there isn't any proof that they clear your bile ducts, or that the mixture of white and green balls that come out are calcified bile. BUT- did I feel amazing afterwards? Hell yes, and I don't think it was just the magnesium. I would give it a try.
I had/have gallstones. Two years ago I had eight attacks in 2 months. I was on a low fat diet at the time and I would get the attacks upon eating fat. I did two cleanses (found them on the Internet) with epsom salts, olive oil and apple juice. I have not had an attack since. Right afterward, I continued with the low fat diet, but was very very careful about eating those stray fat meals. The about a month ago I went paleo. I have had no problems. I have read a lot about gluten and gallstones. I do not eat any grains at all.
For those of you wondering, I did have an ultrasound which confirmed the stones and did see a surgeon who told me that I was flirting with death by not having my gallbladder removed.
The flushes are all BS. “Passing” gallstones is not a good thing. They will block the bile duct or end up in the pancreas – life threatening events. The “stones” these people see in their bowel movements are soap clods formed from the mixture of the ingredients and the digestive system.
A liver, kidney, gallblader cleanse I have seen is:
Grate a fresh beet...1/2 cup, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/2 juice of a lemon. Mix together and eat it twice a day for a week. Don't be alarmed by red BMs and slightly red urine.
Not recommended for diabetics or pre diabetics as the fresh beet is loaded with sugar.
I have done it, just because I could...not because of any problems.
There are dozens of theories about what causes gallstones. One of them, not surprisingly, is that high carb low fat diets are involved. If the stones build up, there is in fact some medication and vibration technology that can be used to try to dissolve and break them down, but most doctors would rather just yank out your gallbladder instead. You might have to fight to get access to options other than surgery.
Personally, I do not think that eating paleo would cause any new problems to show up. Most people even not on paleo will once in a while eat some fat and when they do, if their gallbladder if screwed up, they will probably have noticed at that time. Its the amount of fat in a short period of time that can show the problem, not so much if you nibble on fat all day long. The overall intake is not the issue. It's how much fat you pound down all at once. However, I do feel it is likely that eating fat regularly will help keep the gallbladder bile refreshed and less likely to become thickened with age.
Sadly, I think the confusion was in the fact that once you already have gallstones, then eating fat can cause pain as the gallbladder is called upon to actually do its job of providing bile. Perhaps it was just too easy to take the simple minded approach that since pain happened when fat was eaten, therefore fat must be bad. Ideas will often catch on if they are simple and easy to understand, even if they are actually wrong as well.
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