An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gallstones.
Cholecystitis; Choledocholithiasis; Bile duct stones
Diet may play a role in gallstones. Specific dietary factors may include:
Fats. Although fats (particularly saturated fats found in meats, butter, and other animal products) have been associated with gallstone attacks, some studies have found a lower risk for gallstones in people who consume foods containing monounsaturated fats (found in olive and canola oils) or omega-3 fatty acids (found in canola, flaxseed, and fish oil). Fish oil may be particularly beneficial in patients with high triglyceride levels, because it improves the emptying actions of the gallbladder.
Fiber. High intake of fiber has been associated with a lower risk for gallstones.
Nuts. Studies suggest that people may be able to reduce their risk of gallstones by eating more nuts (peanuts and tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds).
Fruits and Vegetables. People who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk of developing symptomatic gallstones that require gallbladder removal.
Sugar. High intake of sugar has been associated with an increased risk for gallstones. Diets that are high in carbohydrates (such as pasta and bread) can also increase risk, because carbohydrates are converted to sugar in the body.
Alcohol. A few studies have reported a lower risk for gallstones with alcohol consumption. Even small amounts (1 ounce per day) have been found to reduce the risk of gallstones in women by 20%. Moderate intake (defined as 1 - 2 drinks a day) also appears to protect the heart. It should be noted, however, that even moderate alcohol intake increases the risk for breast cancer in women. Pregnant women, people who are unable to drink in moderation, and those with liver disease should not drink at all.
Coffee. Research suggests that drinking coffee every day can lower the risk of gallstones. The caffeine in coffee is thought to stimulate gallbladder contractions and lower the cholesterol concentrations in bile. However drinking other caffeinated beverages, such as soda and tea, does not seem to have the same benefit.
Maintaining a normal weight and avoiding rapid weight loss are the keys to reducing the risk of gallstones. Taking the medication ursodiol (also called ursodeoxycholic acid, or Actigall) during weight loss may reduce the risk for people who are very overweight and need to lose weight quickly. This medication is ordinarily used to dissolve existing gallstones. Orlistat (Xenical), a drug for treating obesity, may protect against gallstone formation during weight loss. The drug appears to reduce bile acids and other components involved in gallstone production.
Although it would be reasonable to believe that drugs used to lower cholesterol would protect against gallstones, most evidence has found no gallstone protection from these drugs. Reducing cholesterol itself does not seem to have any effect on cholesterol gallstones.
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