Gallstone risk can increase with a high body mass index (BMI) and with rapid weight loss. Gallstones form in the gallbladder, an organ that aids with digestion by storing bile and secreting it into the small intestine in order to break down food.
Gallstones, solid material found in the gallbladder, develop due to cholesterol and pigments found in bile. There are two types of gallstone: cholesterol and pigment gallstones. Cholesterol gallstones account for 80 percent of gallstones and are usually yellow-green in color. Pigment gallstones are small and dark and made up of bilirubin.
Previous research found a link between elevated BMI and an increased risk of gallstones in women. In order to reach their findings, the research team looked at 77,679 participants; 4,106 participants developed gallstones during the 34-year follow-up period.
Those who developed gallstones tended to be older, female, and less physically active. Gallstone patients were also more likely to be on hormone replacement therapy and consumed less alcohol in comparison to those without gallstones. Furthermore, a higher body mass index was shown to be a factor for gallstones as well.
“Obesity is a known risk factor for gallstone disease and our study suggests that elevated BMI likely contributes to the development of this disease. These data confirm that obesity adversely affects health, and lifestyle interventions that promote weight loss in overweight and obese individuals are warranted,” said research lead, Dr. Anne Tybjærg-Hansen.
Although a high body mass index has been associated with the development of gallstones, rapid weight loss, too, can contribute to gallstones. When we lose weight quickly it causes fat to be burned off quickly, which in turn allows for cholesterol to seep into bile and lead to cholesterol gallstones.
Some methods that make you lose weight rapidly and can lead to gallstones are weight loss surgery and consuming a very low calorie diet. Furthermore, weight cycling can also lead to gallstones as you dramatically lose and gain weight, which increases the risk of developing gallstones.
Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid crash diets or dramatic weight loss, especially if you want to avoid developing gallstones.
Although we understand what creates gallstones, it isn’t fully understood why they are caused. What is known is that higher rates of gallstones are seen among the following:
Other symptoms of gallstones may include jaundice, infections, pancreatitis, and biliary colic – a painful condition where a gallstone passes through a bile duct into the duodenum.
If gallstones are not causing any symptoms, treatment may not be necessary, but if symptoms and complications do arise, your doctor may send you to a gastroenterologist who specializes in digestive issues.
A typical treatment for gallstones is to remove the gallbladder as we can live without it. But if a person cannot undergo surgery for other reasons, non-surgical options are available. Nonsurgical treatment involves dissolving the gallstones through either oral dissolution therapy or shock wave lithotripsy.
Surgical options for gallstone removal include:
Diet can play a role in the development of gallstones. For example, a diet high in calories and refined carbohydrates and low in fiber can contribute to gallstones. Additionally, being obese or experiencing rapid weight loss can also contribute to gallstones.
Here are some home remedies and diet tips you can use to help treat gallstones.
By incorporating these home remedies, along with your doctor’s care, you can better treat gallstones and prevent future attacks.