Foods that Decrease the Risk of Gallstones
The human body has many organs. Each organ has specific functions and roles. These functions help in the orderly running of the body. The gallbladder is one such small yet important organ. It lives below our liver. The gallbladder stores the bile from the liver. This bile releases to our small intestine for digesting food.
The gallbladder has high sensitivity. Thus, maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet is essential. Research indicates that people with a healthy diet have lower chances of gallbladder diseases.
Gallbladder stones are a common condition requiring surgery. It is thus essential to maintain a good diet. There is a certain food that promotes a strong gallbladder. Yet, some foods increase the likelihood of gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder.
Gallbladder health usually depends on foods we eat as well as those we avoid. Especially for those with gallbladder problems such as gallstones or inflammation. To maintain a strong and healthy gallbladder, follow some simple health and lifestyle guidelines. Failure to do so often results in removal of the gallbladder.
Post-surgery Gallbladder diet
Believe it or not, developing gallstones is much easier if the diet is unhealthy. Gallbladder removal surgery is for problems in the gallbladder. These include inflammation of the gallbladder or cholesterol in your bile. This cholesterol hardens and becomes gallstones.
The gallbladder is usually removed to reduce the risk factors of gallstones. Post-surgery symptoms like loose stools and diarrhea are common. You will experience these as the bile released into the intestines.
Avoid these food items post gallbladder surgery to reduce the side effects:
- Foods with high-fat content
- Processed, fried, or greasy food items
- Gravies or cream sauce
- Full-fat dairy
Instead, doctors recommend a high-fiber diet with low fat. Yet, the fiber intake should increase. One can also start with smaller and more frequent meals.
Risks of Gallstones
Gallbladder problems are of two major types. The first is inflammation of the gallbladder. The second is cholesterol in your bile resulting in gallstones. Small gallstones are very small in size and do not create any issues. Yet, gallbladder issues can include the following symptoms:
- Upper-right abdominal pain. This pain increases post meals or after eating high-fat foods.
- Losing appetite
- Jaundice from blocking of the gallbladder duct
- Low-grade fever
- Tea-colored urine
- Light-colored stools
Gallstones are painful. Bigger-sized stones can cause blockage. Over time, the blockage can become dangerous. In these conditions, removing the gallbladder is the only option.
Women have higher chances of developing gallstones compared to men. Using birth control, pregnancy, or using hormone therapy can increase the risk of developing gallstones. Some major risk factors are:
- Gallbladder problems in the family, including personal and immediate family
- Rapid loss of weight
- Excess weight gain
- Heart diseases
- Diets with refined carbs and low fiber
- Food allergies
- Lactose intolerance
A healthy diet
A gallbladder diet aims to reduce the stress on the gallbladder. Many studies have tried to define a healthy diet for a healthy gallbladder. Yet, no one definition can suffice. In general, studies define healthy and unhealthy diets as follows:
Healthy Diet: High in vegetables, fresh fruits, fruit juices, whole grains, spices, nuts legumes, and low-fat dairy items
Unhealthy Diet: High in processed meat, refined grains, soft drinks. Also, high-fat dairy, red meat, sugar, tea, baked potato, solid fat, egg, salt, snacks, and picked food.
What Foods to Eat?
Plant-based Food: They provide a high source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They help remove toxins from the body. These toxins accumulate from processed foods and stress.
Lean Protein: It is important for the growth and repair of body tissues. Dairy products and red meat have high protein content. Yet, they are high in unhealthy fats. Low-fat protein options are an available and good option. These include:
- Seeds and nuts
- Soy & soy products
- Zero-fat dairy products
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Soy milk as dairy alternatives
Avoid processed dairy and meat products for their high added salt content. Choose fresh foods and organic products for a healthier diet.
Fiber: They help by supporting digestive health. Fiber protects us from gallbladder infections by increasing food movement throughout the gut. They also lower the production of bile acids. Top Fiber sources are:
- Seeds and nuts
- Whole grains
Healthy Fats: These are unsaturated fats like omega 3. They help in protecting the gallbladder. Sources of healthy fats can be:
- Nuts like walnuts
- Cold-water fish
- Fish oil or flaxseed oil
Fat or oil supplements are often used as an alternative. But it is important to check with your doctor first. Supplements can often lead to allergies or other issues.
Coffee: Moderate consumption of coffee is ok for gallbladder function. Coffee can provide several benefits. These can be stimulating bladder action and intestinal activity. It is also known to balance certain chemicals. Yet, moderation is the key. High coffee intake can reverse the good effects on the gallbladder.
Calcium: Calcium is critical for gallbladder health. It is also important for the health of the body. Calcium is present in the following sources:
- Dark & leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale
- Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Orange juice
- Dairy alternatives like flax or almond milk
People with a high risk of developing gallstones should opt for zero-fat dairy items
Vitamins C, magnesium & folate: They help in preventing gallbladder diseases. Major sources are:
- Green and red peppers
- Oranges, citrus foods
- Cashews and almonds
- Peanut & peanut butter
- Edamame, black beans
- Soy milk
- Fortified cereals
- Beef liver
Supplements are available, though it is good to get the nutrition from fresh sources. Take doctor recommendations before taking supplements.
What Foods to avoid?
Certain foods increase the risk of developing gallstones. If you have any concerns about your gallbladder health, avoid or limit the following food items:
- Added sweeteners and sugars
- White flour
- Pre-made baked items like cakes and cookies
- Refined grains
- Chocolate and candy
- Processed meats
- Red & fatty meats
- Processed and fried foods
- Full-fat dairy
- Fast foods
- Pre-made sauces and salad dressings
Staying true to your diet is often impossible. Our lives are dependent on external factors like environment, family, and friends. So, we must maintain a balanced diet. This includes maintaining a healthy diet along with lifestyle changes. These include:
- Weight Management: Keep the BMI within a satisfactory range. It helps in avoiding obesity and gallbladder problems
- Avoid rapid loss of weight: When planning weight loss, it is important to reduce risk. Select steady weight loss, reducing strain on the gallbladder and the liver.
- Avoid allergens: Allergies can trigger several gallbladder issues. Take allergy tests and opt for a suitable diet based on the test.
- Quit Smoking: Regular smoking creates gallbladder dysfunction, such as gallbladder cancer.
Gallbladder issues are difficult, sometimes painful, and even dangerous. Having the right diet is important to a healthy gallbladder. Recommendations from doctors and dieticians are essential for avoiding loopholes or amateur issues. A healthy diet is a key to a healthy gallbladder.