In the past few decades human kind has progressed like anything which in turn has given rise to a number of other related factors as well, some apparently good while others essentially telling. A very easy example of that is the rise in diseases and other health complaints that have become a constant source of concern and anxiety for us all. These health issues may be as simple and irritating as a common cold or a fever, or as pressing and intimidating as cholesterol or a back pain.
However, one of the most common and rather painful complain among people in today’s times, is the gallstone pain. Deceiving as these substances are, they can be lurking inside our gallbladder for months while we apparently have not the slightest idea of it until they start throwing tantrums like the menacing boys and show their true colors.
What are gallstones? Their source
Gallstones are basically nothing but hard and solid deposits that form inside our gallbladder, the small organ just below the liver. This gallbladder is a very important organ of our body and takes an active part in our digestion process as this very organ is the store house of bile, the digestive fluid that is made up of a number of substances like
• Cholesterol and
• Bile salts
all produced by the liver. The gallbladder is responsible not only for storing the bile but also for secreting this fluid into our small intestine once the food particles enter it. Thus the gallstones are the extras or the by-products of the bile stored in the gallbladder and are formed due to the hardening or crystallization of the three afore mentioned components. Naturally these gallstones are of varying sizes, from the smallest being similar to the size of a grain of sand to the largest being that of an apricot.
Types of gallstones. What causes gallstones?
Commonly these gallstones come under two categories according to the components they are formed of and are named accordingly:
• Cholesterol stones: Just as the name suggests, these are formed from the cholesterol in the bile, normally when the bile secreted by the liver contains an excessive amount of cholesterol that the bile is unable to dissolve or break down. These stones are generally yellowish green in color and according to recent studies, they form about eighty percent of the gallstones.
• Pigment stones: These consist of the rest of the twenty percent and are primarily formed from the bilirubin and concentrated bile, all stored in the gallbladder. They are relatively smaller and a bit darker in shade.
When the production of bilirubin, a chemical responsible for the destruction of the old red blood cells, from the liver, exceeds the normal amount and the gallbladder is unable to break it down, it hardens to form stones. Such excessive secretion of bilirubin occurs during certain blood related disorders like anaemia, medical conditions like liver cirrhosis etc.
Again, when the concentrated bile in the gallbladder, that needs to be emptied from time to time for a healthy and proper functioning of the body, is not flushed out and the bile content fails to be emptied properly, it solidifies into stones inside the gallbladder.
What are the factors responsible for gallstone?
While the biological causes of gallstones have been explained, there are a few external factors, of course, that initiate the biological process and then aggravates the whole thing leading to severe stone formation and gallstone pain. Below are the different factors that are the root causes of gallstones:
• Genetics: One of the foremost and helpless factors of gallstones is the hereditary or the genetics aspect of it.
• Body weight: As is rightly said, weight is the root evil of a number of problems and it is true in this case too.
• Diet: It hardly requires a mention since it is interconnected with the body weight.
• Immobility of the gall bladder: The more a person leads a sedentary and immobile life, the higher are the chances and the more it will contribute to stone formation in the gallbladder.
Do I run the risk?
While it is no doubt true that such common and random medical problems like gallstones can attack anyone and at anytime, there, however, are indeed certain factors that help determine as to who run the risk of procuring them sooner than the rest or are prone to be an easy victim to it as compared to the others. Most of these are diet related issues and are therefore applicable for those who fall under these eating disorders or habits. They can be listed as:
• A diet with a high fiber content
• A diet with a high cholesterol or fat in it
• Those with obesity or weight problems
• Those having complains of diabetes mellitus
• Those who have undergone a rapid weight loss within a very short span of time
• Women, especially those who are pregnant
• Women who take birth control pills on a regular level
• Genetics or those with already a family history of gallstone issues
• Those with complains of liver cirrhosis
• Those who are of American Indian or American Mexican descent
• Those taking any kind of medication for lowering the cholesterol level
• Those who are taking medicines, pills or therapies that are high in their oestrogen content, like the hormone replacement therapy
• Anyone above 60 years of age
While there is no such hard and fast rule that those who come under these categories would result in gallbladder troubles and the others would not, the opposite is equally true and applicable as well. Therefore, it would be really a bad idea to suddenly stop whatever medication you are on, in fear of contracting the ailment, without first consulting your concerned physician or to start panicking just because you happen to tick some of the boxes.
The silent stones: symptoms or not?
However, one of the worst aspects of gallstones is that they rarely show any symptoms and, therefore, you would hardly have the chances to come across a proper set of gallstone symptoms listed anywhere. That is why they have earned the reputation of being the ‘silent stones’. Since they show no apparent symptoms, more often than not, the person who has contracted it, remains oblivious of this medical condition inside his or her own system. Normally, people with gallstones come to know of it only when they go for some other medical treatment and the doctor operates an x ray on the abdomen. According to latest reports, above eighty percent of people with gallstones experience no pain at all, or any kind of physical discomfort, for that matter. Yet, there are cases of gallstone symptoms too that have been reported and when these symptoms do appear, they commonly include the following:
• Severe pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen that may last for quite a few hours
• Extreme pain in the upper back area spreading to the shoulders and the shoulder blades
• Tremendous nauseating feeling
• Various kinds of gastro intestinal problems that may include bloating, heartburn, indigestion and also gas
• High fever that normally accompanies the muscular pains and cramps
• A slightly yellowish tint in the skin and also in the eyes that may apparently suggest and indicate a case of jaundice
• Clay shaded stools
What is the way out?
As discussed earlier, gallstones are normally diagnosed while undergoing treatment for some other ailments. However, the standard procedures of diagnosis generally include an Ultrasound test, an endoscopy or a CT scan of the abdomen along with a radionuclide scan of the gallbladder and a series of blood tests. Now, for a proper gallbladder treatment the best and fastest possible solution is the gallbladder stone removal, which is both hassle free and convenient, both for the doctor and the patient.
The most common and the easiest method of this gallstone treatment and subsequent gallstone removal is the surgery that includes a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a surgical removal of the gallbladder. Other treatments include drugs and medications like ursodiol that help to dissolve the gallstones. However, a major drawback of this method, although it eliminates the pain and surgery factor, is that it is hugely time consuming , so much so that it may take years for the gallstones to be completely dissolved and for the doctor to declare you fit.
Also there are chances for the stones to relapse after the drug intake is stopped for a considerable amount of time. One crucial thing that needs to be mentioned in this regard is that though, just like the appendix, the gallbladder is not essential for a healthy living with proper bodily functions, removal of it may however result in some adverse effects like diarrhoea.
How do I keep myself safe?
Naturally, a person with gallbladder stone problems or those prone to this medical complain have to stick to a set rule of eating habit or the gallstone diet that might not only minimize the risk factor but also be rather effective for those already suffering for it or are recovering from the post surgical stage. The best ways for these are:
• Stick to a balanced diet
• Reduce or rather avoid the intake of food with high cholesterol or fat content like fried and junk foods
• Keep yourself hydrated all the time
• Never go for any crash course of becoming slim
• Add lots of fiber in your diet
• Go for small meals at regular intervals
Thus, although there can be no guarantee for such diseases, following these simple steps will surely keep you from it and lower your chances. Also, apart from the medication, these steps can be considered the natural remedies for gallstones.
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