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Gallstones: Why Women Get Them and What They Can Do About Them

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The normal function of the gallbladder is to store bile produced by the liver, and to aid in the digestion and absorption of fats in the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine).

Gallstones compose a solid formation of cholesterol and bile salts and 80-90% of this condition are cholesterol gallstones. It can be as small as a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball (though smaller gallstones are more common).

This is one of the most common and costly digestive diseases, and women are more likely to develop it than men due to multiple pregnancies, obesity and rapid weight loss. It is even seen in increasingly younger patients, perhaps due to the large amounts of fast foods being consumed.

Risk factors which can lead to increased incidence of gallstones are the four “Fs” :

Fat – Overweight and obese people are most likely to develop gallstones. What needs to be done is to find out what the body mass index (BMI) is, and begin a diet and exercise program to get the BMI into an acceptable range.

Forty- We have to realize that our bodies don’t work the way it used to. When in our forties, we should eat not like in our twenties. Since gallstones are normally caused by poor diet, eating properly is important as we get older.

Female – Because women tend to have higher body fat percentages and live less active lives than males, they are at greater risk for gallstones.

Fertile – Gallstones tend to form in women during pregnancy because of increased hormone levels.

People who develop gallstones generally don’t experience any symptoms for years, and many never develop any symptoms at all. These people are called asymptomatic and they have “silent stones” that do not interfere in gallbladder, liver or pancreas function and don’t require treatment.

When the symptoms of gallstones occur, they are often called an “attack” because they occur suddenly. One may experience steady, severe pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours, pain in the back between the shoulder blades, pain under the right shoulder and nausea or vomiting. Attacks may recur very frequently ( weeks or months ) or even years apart.

Although very painful, the attacks are usually not life threatening as long as the gallstones remain in the gallbladder and not migrate to other areas of the body. If they do migrate, a person may suffer from inflammation of the gallbladder or the pancreas. If there’s sweating, chills, low-grade fever, yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes and clay colored stools, a person should seek medical attention. If these complications develop, and are left untreated, they can be fatal.

Most sufferers do not require surgery to live gallstone-free. There are a lot of gallstone remedies like gallbladder and liver cleansing using natural ingredients like lemons, grapefruit or olive oil or clean food cleanse which is by eating fruits and vegetables in their natural state , and staying away from processed, or packaged foods . These simple cleanses can save thousands of dollars and allow us to keep our bladder.

In order to reduce risk of gallbladder disease it is best to drink 10-12 glasses of water a day because it flushes the body and keeps cholesterol flushed, avoid high fats and cholesterol and eat fiber rich foods. Consider also having Vitamin C supplement because it converts cholesterol to bile. Regular, vigorous exercise may likewise decrease the risk of gallstones.

People who are having abdominal bloating, recurring intolerance of fatty foods, colic, belching, gas and indigestion, should be on the look out because they might be developing gallstones already.

As women, we all run the risk of developing gallstones, but by living healthy lifestyles, we may be able to pass our stones if there are, and prevent future stones from returning. (Women’s Journal, April 2006)

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EmpowHER Guest

I'm a medical student with a biochemistry degree and I'd like to point out that while some of the advice contained within this article is helpful, some of the advice is wrong. For example a diet in unsaturated fat (such as olive oil) as opposed to a diet in saturated fat (such as animal fats) is beneficial to overall health, however if someone is suffering an acute attack of pain due to gall stones they must stay away from ALL FATS, as regardless of the source, all fats stimulate the gall bladder, resulting in peristalsis and the common pain felt due to gall stones. Similarly, it is good advice to drink plenty of water, however it does not 'flush out cholesterol'. Cholesterol is transported in the blood complexed with protein and will not simply be 'flushed out' by water, bodily excretion is far more complex than the article suggests.
Ignoring gall stones will not only lead to discomfort, but could lead to liver failure and pancreatitis, both of which can result in death. If anyone has gall stone pain, then they need to be seen by a doctor and the stones need to be removed.

November 5, 2010 - 1:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks, I'd like to hear from you again. One most valuable possesion anyone can have is health.

May 23, 2009 - 9:44am
(reply to Anonymous)

You are right there my friend. thats why we have to guard our health

June 8, 2009 - 12:36am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank's for posting this Article. This information will help not only women but a lot of people.Keep posting.


May 19, 2009 - 12:30am
(reply to Anonymous)

thanks for the comment

June 8, 2009 - 12:34am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.