Gallstones are deposits that are formed within the gallbladder. They are hard clumps that can range in size from minuscule to as large as a golf ball. The most common cause of gallstones is stones that are made out of cholesterol. The gallbladder is a sac that is located under the liver. It stores and concentrates bile produced in the liver. This bile aids in the digestion of fat and is released from the gallbladder into the upper small intestine in response to food, especially fats. An estimated 20 million people in America currently have gallbladder disease.
Factors that contribute to the disease include heredity, age, gender, diet and obesity. Symptoms of gallbladder disease and/or gallstones can include steady, severe pain in the upper abdomen that increases quickly and can last for several hours, pain in the area of the back between the shoulder blades or under the right shoulder, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, gas, belching, indigestion and recurring intolerance of fatty foods.
Those with gallbladder disease should eat a diet that is low in fat, cholesterol and sugar and is high in fiber.
Fats to Avoid
If you suffer from gallbladder disease, keep the following fats out of your diet:
- Hydrogenated and Partially-Hydrogenated Oils – Animal fats, Crisco, margarine, and mayonnaise should all be avoided by people with gallbladder disease.
- High-Fat Dairy – Avoid fatty dairy products such as ice cream, butter, sour cream, whole milk, eggs and rich cheeses.
- Fatty Meats – Avoid fatty meats such as red meat. Be sure to remove fat before cooking.
- Saturated Fats – Fried foods should be particularly avoided by those suffering from gallbladder disease. Also, avoid fast food. Fast food tends to be fried and high in fat content. Many pack in hidden, unwanted saturated fats. Highly processed foods should be also avoided by those with gallstones. This includes many sweet snacks such as doughnuts, cookies, cakes and pies.
Fats to Include
The goods news is, you can include the following fats in your diet:
- Omega-3 Oils – Take fish oil capsules. They contain omega-3 oils which are known to block cholesterol formation in bile. People with a tendency toward gallstones may take a higher dose, four to six 1000 mg capsules of fish oil daily. Other sources of omega-3 oils are flax and hemp.
- Low-Fat Dairy – Choose skim or low-fat milk, reduced fat cheeses and low-fat yogurt.
- Low-Fat Meats – Choose leaner meats such as chicken, turkey or even fish.
- Nuts – Eating nuts, such as almonds, peanuts and walnuts, is fine in moderation.
- Monosaturated Fats – In small amounts, such as 1 teaspoon, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil are the best oils to include in a gallstone diet.
If trying to lose weight, since being overweight is a contributing factor to gallbladder disease, do so gradually. Avoid very low-calorie diets. Aim for a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. There is a link between quick weight loss and gallstone formation. Crash or “yo-yo” dieting can cause the liver to release more cholesterol into the bile. This consequently disrupts the normal balance of cholesterol and bile salts. The extra cholesterol can then form into crystals, or gallstones. Stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet and a regular exercise program. Remember to always diet under a doctor’s supervision.