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No Gallstones Diet – Complete Guide 101

Knowledge Hub

10-20 mins readFact Checked
Author of post icon

Written By:

Atif Riaz

Medically Reviewed By:

Mr M. Usman

Gallstone diet - gallbladder filled with gallstones causing gallbladder symptoms
Gallbladder with many small gallstones (highlighted in green)

Gallstones Diet

Your liver produces bile, a liquid that helps to break down fat, which is stored in the gallbladder. Additionally, the gallbladder aids in the absorption of certain vitamins and nutrients that dissolve in fat. When there is a chemical imbalance in your bile, it can lead to the formation of gallstones, which are typically composed of hardened fatty substances but may also be formed from bile pigments or calcium. Gallstones can range in number and size, from one to many small or large lumps.

While gallstones usually do not cause symptoms, they may block the bile duct, leading to severe abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. If these symptoms occur frequently, gallbladder surgery may be necessary. One way to maintain a healthy gallbladder and reduce the risk of gallstones is by adopting a nutrient-rich, healthy diet. By following a gallstone diet, you can help promote gallbladder health and prevent inflammation or other issues from arising.

What are gallstones

photograph of gallstones of varying sizes and composition

Gallstones are small, hard, pebble-like formations that can develop in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder plays a critical role in digestion, storing and releasing bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps to digest fats in the small intestine.

Gallstones are typically composed of hardened cholesterol or bilirubin, a waste product produced by the liver as it breaks down old red blood cells. They can also contain other substances such as calcium salts or other proteins. When there is too much cholesterol or bilirubin in the bile, it can form into stones, ranging in size from small, grain-like formations to larger, golf ball-sized masses.

There are two main types of gallstones, cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are the most common, accounting for about 80% of all gallstones. They are yellow-green and are composed mainly of undissolved cholesterol. Pigment stones are smaller and darker, and made up of bilirubin and calcium salts.

Cholesterol stones form when there is an imbalance of cholesterol and bile salts in the bile. This can be caused by several factors, including a diet high in fat, obesity, rapid weight loss, certain medications, and medical conditions such as diabetes or liver disease. Pigment stones, on the other hand, are often associated with liver disease or blood disorders that cause an increase in bilirubin production.

Gallstones do not always cause symptoms, but they can lead to serious complications if left untreated. If a gallstone becomes lodged in a bile duct, it can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, and other symptoms. Additionally, chronic inflammation of the gallbladder can lead to scarring and impaired gallbladder function.

Where are gallstones found?

Gallstones are located in the gallbladder, a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps with the digestion of fats in the small intestine. Gallstones can form within the gallbladder when there is an imbalance in the components of bile, such as an excess of cholesterol or bilirubin. Gallstones can vary in size and number and can be located anywhere within the gallbladder. In some cases, gallstones can also travel out of the gallbladder and into the bile ducts, causing blockages and complications.

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. It is approximately 3-4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. The primary function of the gallbladder is to store and release bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps with the digestion of fats in the small intestine. When food containing fat enters the small intestine, a hormone called cholecystokinin is released, which signals the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the small intestine through a duct called the common bile duct.

Bile helps to break down the fat in the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. The gallbladder is not an essential organ, and it is possible to live without it. However, its removal can lead to changes in the way the body digests and absorbs fat, and in some cases, can cause digestive symptoms.

Where is the gallbladder located?

gallstone diet - gallbladder location and function of gallbladder in the human abdomen

The gallbladder is usually located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, just beneath the liver. It normally sits between the liver and the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Its position can vary slightly depending on a person’s body size and shape.

What does the gallbladder do?

The gallbladder’s primary function is to store and release bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps with the digestion of fats in the small intestine. When food containing fat enters the small intestine, a hormone called cholecystokinin is released, which signals the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the small intestine through a duct called the common bile duct. Bile helps to break down the fat in the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. In addition to aiding in fat digestion, bile also helps to eliminate waste products, including cholesterol and bilirubin, from the body.

Although the gallbladder is not an essential organ and can be removed without significant harm, its absence can affect the body’s ability to digest and absorb fats. People who have had their gallbladder removed may need to make dietary changes, such as avoiding high-fat foods, to prevent digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea and bloating.

Digestion and the gallbladder

The process of digestion involves the breakdown of food into smaller, more easily absorbed components that can be used by the body for energy and other functions. The gallbladder plays an important role in this process by storing and releasing bile, a fluid that helps to digest fats.

Digestion begins in the mouth, where food is broken down into smaller pieces by chewing and mixed with saliva, which contains enzymes that begin the process of breaking down carbohydrates. The food then travels through the oesophagus and into the stomach, where it is mixed with gastric juices that help to break down proteins.

The food then enters the small intestine, where the majority of nutrient absorption takes place. Here, the pancreas releases enzymes that further break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The liver also produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder until needed. When fat enters the small intestine, a hormone called cholecystokinin is released, which signals the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the small intestine through a duct called the common bile duct. The bile helps to break down the fat into smaller pieces, which can then be absorbed by the body.

The remaining nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and some fats, are absorbed by the small intestine and transported to the liver, where they are processed and either stored or released into the bloodstream for use by the body. The waste products, including undigested food and fibre, are passed into the large intestine and eliminated from the body as faeces.

What are gallstones made of?

There are two main types of gallstones: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Both types of stones are made up of different substances, and their formation can be caused by different factors.

Cholesterol Stones:

Cholesterol stones are the most common type of gallstone, accounting for about 80% of all cases. These stones are yellow-green and are made up of cholesterol, a fatty substance that is normally found in the bile. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile, it can form crystals, which eventually grow into larger stones.

Factors that can increase the risk of developing cholesterol stones include a diet high in fat and cholesterol, obesity, rapid weight loss, certain medications, and medical conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or liver disease. Women are also more likely than men to develop cholesterol stones.

Pigment Stones:

Pigment stones are smaller and darker than cholesterol stones, and are made up of bilirubin and calcium salts. Bilirubin is a waste product produced by the liver as it breaks down old red blood cells, and is normally excreted in the bile. However, if there is an excess of bilirubin, it can form crystals and eventually grow into stones.

Pigment stones are often associated with liver disease or blood disorders that cause an increase in bilirubin production, such as sickle cell anaemia or cirrhosis of the liver. They are also more common in people who have had their gallbladder removed.

Mixed Stones:

In some cases, gallstones may be a mixture of cholesterol and pigment stones, called mixed stones.

It is important to note that the composition of gallstones can vary from person to person, and in some cases, a gallstone may be composed of other substances such as calcium carbonate or protein. The formation of gallstones can also be influenced by other factors such as age, gender, and genetics.

What gallstones look like

gallstone diet - gallbladder ultrasound scan containing many gallstones
Gallbladder containing many gallstones (yellow arrows)

Gallstones can vary in size, shape, and colour depending on their composition. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.

In general, gallstones are usually hard and solid, with a smooth or irregular surface. They can be yellow, brown, green, or black, depending on their composition.

Cholesterol gallstones are the most common type and are typically yellowish in colour and round or oval. They are usually made up of cholesterol and other fatty substances.

Pigment gallstones, on the other hand, are typically smaller and darker in colour, ranging from brown to black. They are made up of bilirubin, a waste product from the breakdown of red blood cells.

Mixed gallstones are a combination of cholesterol and pigment stones and can have a variable appearance.

Common gallstones symptoms in females and males

Gallstones are often asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, if a gallstone becomes lodged in a duct or causes inflammation in the gallbladder, it can cause a range of symptoms. The symptoms of gallstones can vary in severity and duration, and may include:

Abdominal pain:

Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of gallstones. The pain is usually located in the upper right or middle of the abdomen and can range from mild to severe. The pain may come and go, or may be constant, and may be triggered by eating high-fat or greasy foods.

Nausea and vomiting:

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of gallstones and may be accompanied by abdominal pain. Vomiting may occur as a result of the body’s attempt to get rid of the gallstone.

Jaundice:

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when there is a buildup of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is a waste product that is normally excreted in the bile. If a gallstone blocks the bile duct, it can cause a buildup of bilirubin, leading to jaundice.

Fever and chills:

If a gallstone causes inflammation in the gallbladder or bile ducts, it can lead to an infection, which may cause fever and chills.

Clay-coloured stools:

Stools that are pale or clay-coloured may indicate a blockage in the bile duct, which can be caused by a gallstone. This occurs because the bile pigment cannot reach the intestines.

Dark urine:

Dark urine may indicate that there is a buildup of bilirubin in the body, which can occur if a gallstone is blocking the bile duct.

Indigestion and bloating:

Gallstones can also cause indigestion and bloating, especially after eating a high-fat or greasy meal.

Biliary colic

Biliary colic is a type of pain that occurs when a gallstone temporarily obstructs the cystic duct or common bile duct. The pain is usually sudden and intense and can be located in the upper right part of the abdomen or the middle of the abdomen. The pain may also be felt in the back, between the shoulder blades, or under the right shoulder.

Biliary colic is typically characterized by steady or intermittent pain that can last from 15 minutes to several hours. The pain may come and go and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain may be triggered by eating fatty or greasy foods, but can also occur at other times.

Biliary colic is caused by a gallstone that becomes lodged in the cystic or common bile duct. As the gallbladder continues to contract, it causes pressure to build up behind the obstruction, leading to pain. Once the stone passes through the duct and into the small intestine, the pain usually subsides.

Biliary colic is not a serious condition, but it can be very painful and uncomfortable. Treatment may include pain relief medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, as well as changes to the diet to avoid foods that trigger the pain. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the gallbladder and prevent future episodes of biliary colic.

Acute cholecystitis

Acute cholecystitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the gallbladder, which is usually caused by a gallstone blocking the cystic duct, which is the tube that connects the gallbladder to the common bile duct. The gallstone causes bile to build up in the gallbladder, leading to swelling and inflammation.

The symptoms of acute cholecystitis include severe pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, tenderness in the same area, fever, nausea, and vomiting. The pain may be constant or intermittent and can last for several hours or days. The patient may also experience sweating, chills, and a rapid heartbeat.

Acute cholecystitis is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment. The goal of treatment is to relieve the pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent complications. Treatment may include pain relief medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, as well as antibiotics to treat any infections that may have developed.

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the gallbladder, which is called a cholecystectomy. This is a common and safe procedure that is usually performed laparoscopically. After the gallbladder is removed, bile will flow directly from the liver to the small intestine without being stored in the gallbladder.

Chronic Cholecystitis

Chronic cholecystitis is a condition characterized by long-term inflammation of the gallbladder. This inflammation is usually caused by repeated episodes of gallbladder inflammation, which may be due to the presence of gallstones.

The symptoms of chronic cholecystitis are generally milder and more long-lasting than those of acute cholecystitis. The most common symptoms of chronic cholecystitis include recurrent pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, discomfort after eating fatty or greasy foods, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, patients may also experience bloating, gas, and diarrhoea.

Chronic cholecystitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans, as well as blood tests to check for signs of inflammation. Treatment for chronic cholecystitis usually involves managing the symptoms through changes to diet and medications.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the gallbladder. This is called a cholecystectomy and is usually performed laparoscopically. After the gallbladder is removed, bile will flow directly from the liver to the small intestine without being stored in the gallbladder.

In summary, chronic cholecystitis is a long-term inflammation of the gallbladder that is usually caused by repeated episodes of gallbladder inflammation. The symptoms are generally milder and more long-lasting than those of acute cholecystitis. Treatment may involve managing the symptoms through changes to the diet and medications or surgical intervention to remove the gallbladder.

Gallstone pancreatitis

Gallstone pancreatitis is a condition that occurs when a gallstone blocks the opening of the pancreatic duct, which is the tube that connects the pancreas to the small intestine. This blockage can cause digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas to become trapped and build up inside the pancreas, leading to inflammation and injury.

The symptoms of gallstone pancreatitis can be severe and include sudden, intense pain in the upper abdomen, often radiating to the back, fever, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, the patient may also experience shock, which is a medical emergency.

Gallstone pancreatitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, and physical examination. Treatment for gallstone pancreatitis usually involves hospitalization, pain relief medications, and management of the underlying condition, which is typically the gallstones themselves.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallbladder and the gallstones. This is called a cholecystectomy and is usually performed laparoscopically. In some cases, endoscopic procedures may be used to remove the gallstones from the common bile duct.

Cholangitis

Cholangitis is a condition that occurs when the bile ducts become inflamed and infected. The bile ducts are the tubes that carry bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. Cholangitis is often caused by a blockage in the bile ducts, which can be due to several factors, including gallstones, tumours, or a stricture, which is a narrowing of the ducts.

The symptoms of cholangitis can be severe and include fever, chills, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, cholangitis can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s immune response to an infection causes widespread inflammation.

Cholangitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, and physical examination. Treatment for cholangitis usually involves hospitalization, antibiotics to treat the infection, and management of the underlying condition, which is typically the blockage in the bile ducts.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the blockage and relieve the pressure in the bile ducts. This is called a biliary drainage procedure, which may involve an endoscopic procedure or a surgical procedure, depending on the location and severity of the blockage.

Gallbladder polyps

Gallbladder polyps are growths that develop on the inside lining of the gallbladder, which is a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver. They are typically small, noncancerous growths that protrude from the surface of the gallbladder wall and can range in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres.

Most gallbladder polyps do not cause any symptoms and are discovered incidentally during an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. In some cases, however, gallbladder polyps may cause pain in the upper right abdomen, nausea, or vomiting.

The exact cause of gallbladder polyps is not known, but they are thought to be associated with certain risk factors, including being female, being over 50 years old, and having a history of gallstones or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder.

While most gallbladder polyps are benign, meaning they are not cancerous, there is a small risk that they can develop into cancer over time. For this reason, it is important for individuals with gallbladder polyps to undergo regular monitoring, typically with imaging tests, to ensure that the polyps are not growing or changing in a concerning way.

In cases where the gallbladder polyps are causing symptoms or are at an increased risk for cancer, surgery may be recommended to remove the gallbladder. This is called a cholecystectomy and is usually performed laparoscopically, which is a minimally invasive surgical technique.

Biliary dyskinesia

Biliary dyskinesia is a condition in which the gallbladder is not able to contract and release bile properly due to a problem with the muscles or nerves that control it. The gallbladder is a small organ located underneath the liver that stores bile, a liquid produced by the liver that helps to digest fats.

When the gallbladder contracts, it releases bile into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of fats. In biliary dyskinesia, the gallbladder may not contract efficiently, causing a backup of bile and leading to a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of biliary dyskinesia may include pain in the upper right abdomen, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and indigestion. These symptoms may occur after eating, particularly meals that are high in fat.

The exact cause of biliary dyskinesia is not known, but it is thought to be related to a problem with the muscles or nerves that control the gallbladder. It can occur in people of all ages but is more common in women and those who are overweight.

Diagnosis of biliary dyskinesia involves imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, to assess the function of the gallbladder. A specialized test called a hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan may also be performed to measure the gallbladder’s ability to contract and release bile.

Treatment for biliary dyskinesia may involve dietary changes, such as reducing fat intake, and medications to help improve gallbladder function. In some cases, surgery to remove the gallbladder, called a cholecystectomy, may be recommended to alleviate symptoms.

Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction

The Sphincter of Oddi is a muscular valve located at the end of the common bile duct, which controls the flow of bile and pancreatic juices into the small intestine. Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD) is a condition in which the sphincter does not function correctly and can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort.

There are two types of SOD: Type I and Type II. Type I SOD, also called functional SOD, is a condition in which the sphincter of Oddi does not relax properly, leading to the backup of bile in the bile duct. Type II SOD also called structural SOD, is caused by a structural problem such as inflammation or scarring of the sphincter.

Symptoms of SOD can include severe upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and indigestion. The pain is usually located in the upper right side of the abdomen and can last from minutes to hours. It often occurs after eating, especially fatty foods.

Diagnosis of SOD involves a thorough medical history, physical examination, and various tests such as blood tests, imaging studies, and a specialized test called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) with manometry. ERCP with manometry is a procedure in which a small tube is inserted through the mouth and into the small intestine to measure the pressure in the sphincter of Oddi.

Treatment of SOD depends on the type and severity of the condition. Type I SOD is often treated with medications that help relax the sphincter of Oddi, such as nitroglycerin or calcium channel blockers. In some cases, endoscopic sphincterotomy, a procedure that cuts the muscle of the sphincter to allow better bile flow, may be recommended. Type II SOD may require surgical treatment to correct the structural problem.

It is important to note that not all people with gallstones will experience symptoms. In some cases, a gallstone may be discovered incidentally during imaging tests for other conditions. However, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment. If a gallstone is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as infection, inflammation, or even rupture of the gallbladder.

Causes of Gallstones

Gallstones are formed when there is an imbalance in the components of bile, a liquid produced by the liver to help digest fat. The exact cause of this imbalance is not well understood, but several factors may contribute to gallstone formation, including:

  • Genetics: A family history of gallstones increases the risk of developing them.
  • Age and gender: Gallstones are more common in women and people over the age of 40.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing gallstones.
  • Diet: A diet high in fat and cholesterol and low in fibre can increase the risk of gallstones.
  • Rapid weight loss: Losing weight too quickly, such as through crash dieting or bariatric surgery, can increase the risk of gallstones.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as estrogen therapy and cholesterol-lowering drugs, can increase the risk of gallstones.
  • Medical conditions: Medical conditions that affect the liver or bile ducts, such as cirrhosis or inflammatory bowel disease, can increase the risk of gallstones.
  • Prolonged fasting: Fasting or not eating for prolonged periods can increase the risk of gallstones.

Gallstones can be made up of different substances, such as cholesterol, bile pigments, and calcium salts. The most common type of gallstone is a cholesterol stone, which forms when there is too much cholesterol in the bile and it crystallizes into stones. Pigment stones are less common and are made up of bilirubin, a waste product from the breakdown of red blood cells, and other bile pigments. Calcium stones are rare and are made up of calcium salts.

How do I know if I have gallstones?

Some people with gallstones may not experience any symptoms and may not know they have them until they are detected during an imaging test for another reason. However, if gallstones cause a blockage or inflammation, they can cause symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the upper right or middle part of the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Dark urine
  • Bloating and gas
  • Indigestion
  • Fever and chills
  • Shoulder pain

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. Your healthcare provider may order tests such as an ultrasound or a blood test to confirm the presence of gallstones and determine the best course of treatment.

Gallstones Diagnosis:

What is the best way to diagnose gallstones?

Ultrasound is the most common imaging modality used to diagnose gallstones. It is a safe, non-invasive, painless, and relatively inexpensive procedure available at a private diagnostic clinic or via the NHS that uses sound waves to produce images of the gallbladder and surrounding structures. It is typically the first imaging test used to diagnose gallstones and is highly accurate in detecting the presence of gallstones, as well as their size, shape, and number. Other imaging modalities such as computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also be used to diagnose gallstones, but they are generally reserved for cases where ultrasound is inconclusive or when additional information is needed about the extent of the disease.

Other ways to diagnose gallstones

Gallstones can be diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, medical history, and imaging tests.

  • Physical examination: a doctor may press on the abdomen to check for tenderness or pain in the area of the gallbladder, which could be a sign of gallstones or other gallbladder issues.
  • Medical history: may be taken to assess risk factors for developing gallstones, such as family history, obesity, diabetes, or certain medications.
  • CT scan: This test uses X-rays to create detailed images of the gallbladder and surrounding structures. It may be used if the ultrasound is inconclusive or to assess for complications of gallstones, such as inflammation or infection.
  • MRI: This test uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the gallbladder and surrounding structures. It is typically used in cases where other imaging tests are inconclusive or to assess for complications of gallstones.
  • HIDA scan: This test involves injecting a radioactive tracer into the bloodstream and monitoring its uptake by the liver and gallbladder. It can be used to assess the function of the gallbladder and to determine if there is a blockage in the bile ducts.

If gallstones are diagnosed, further tests may be done to assess for complications, such as blood tests to check for signs of infection or inflammation, or an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) to look for blockages in the bile ducts. The appropriate course of treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms and any underlying complications.

What do gallstones look like on ultrasound? 

On ultrasound, gallstones typically appear as bright, white (highly reflective) areas within the gallbladder lumen (black). They may have a smooth or irregular contour and can vary in size and shape. Some gallstones are small and difficult to see, while others are large and can fill the entire gallbladder or a significant portion of it. The presence of gallstones may also cause other changes to the gallbladder, such as thickening of the gallbladder wall or dilation of the bile duct.

Do I need surgery for gallstones?

Not all gallstones require surgery. If you have gallstones but are not experiencing any symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend a “watch and wait” approach to see if symptoms develop over time. However, if you have recurrent or severe symptoms related to your gallstones, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder.

The most common surgical procedure for gallstones is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is minimally invasive and can often be performed on an outpatient basis. During the procedure, small incisions are made in the abdomen, and a small camera and surgical instruments are used to remove the gallbladder. Recovery time is generally short, and most people can return to normal activities within a week or two.

In some cases, open surgery may be necessary if laparoscopic surgery is not possible due to anatomical or other factors. Your healthcare provider will discuss the risks and benefits of each surgical approach and help you decide which is best for you.

It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your situation.

How is gallstone surgery performed?

The most common surgical procedure for gallstones is laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is a minimally invasive surgery that typically requires only a few small incisions in the abdomen.

During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera (laparoscope) and surgical instruments. The surgeon then uses the camera to view the inside of the abdomen on a video monitor and the instruments to carefully remove the gallbladder.

The surgeon will cut and clip the cystic duct and artery that lead to the gallbladder, and then gently remove the gallbladder from the liver bed. The incisions are then closed with stitches or surgical staples, and a dressing is placed over the wounds.

The surgery usually takes about 1-2 hours to complete and is performed under general anaesthesia, so you will be asleep and will not feel any pain during the procedure. Most people can go home the same day or the day after the surgery, and can usually return to their normal activities within a week or two.

While laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the most common surgical procedure for gallstones, open surgery may be necessary in certain cases where laparoscopic surgery is not possible or safe. Your surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits of each surgical approach and help you determine the best option for your situation.

What is the recovery time for gallbladder surgery?

The recovery time for gallbladder surgery can vary depending on the individual and the type of surgery performed. In general, recovery from a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (the most common type of gallbladder surgery) is quicker than from an open cholecystectomy.

After laparoscopic cholecystectomy, most people can go home the same day or the day after the surgery. They may experience some pain and discomfort in the incision sites and may need to take pain medication for a few days. Most people can return to work and normal activities within a week or two, but it can take several weeks for all the incisions to fully heal.

After an open cholecystectomy, the recovery time is usually longer. Patients may need to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and may experience more pain and discomfort in the incision site. It can take several weeks to fully recover from an open cholecystectomy, and patients may need to avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for several weeks.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions for your recovery, which may include restrictions on physical activity, dietary changes, and follow-up appointments to monitor your progress. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

Can you pass gallstones naturally?

Some people can pass gallstones naturally, but this is relatively rare and depends on the size and composition of the stones. In most cases, gallstones are too large to pass through the narrow bile ducts that connect the gallbladder to the small intestine. If a stone becomes lodged in the bile duct, it can cause a blockage and lead to serious complications.

Some natural remedies and lifestyle changes may help prevent the formation of gallstones or reduce symptoms. These include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fibre, and low in saturated and trans fats
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Avoiding rapid weight loss or crash diets
  • Limiting alcohol intake

However, if you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones or have been diagnosed with gallstones, it is important to seek medical treatment. If left untreated, gallstones can lead to complications such as biliary colic, cholecystitis, or pancreatitis. In most cases, the recommended treatment for gallstones is the surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy).

Foods that are OK to eat with gallstones

If you have gallstones, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s low in fat and high in fibre. Some foods that are generally considered safe and healthy to eat with gallstones include:

  • Fruits and vegetables: These are great sources of fibre, which can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Lean protein: Choose lean cuts of chicken, turkey, fish, and other low-fat sources of protein. Avoid fatty cuts of red meat and processed meats.
  • Whole grains: Whole-grain bread, cereals, and pasta are good sources of fibre and can help regulate digestion.
  • Low-fat dairy: Choose low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, yoghurt, and cheese.
  • Healthy fats: While you should generally avoid high-fat foods, it’s important to include some healthy fats in your diet. Try to include foods like avocado, nuts, and olive oil in moderation.

On the other hand, it’s best to avoid or limit foods that are high in fat or cholesterol, as these can trigger gallbladder symptoms. This includes foods like fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, high-fat dairy products, processed snacks and sweets, and anything with trans fats. Additionally, some people with gallstones may need to avoid certain foods that are known to trigger symptoms, such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. It’s always best to talk to a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine the best dietary plan for you.

Foods to avoid with gallstones

If you have gallstones, there are certain foods that you should avoid or limit in your diet as they can trigger symptoms. These foods include:

  • High-fat foods: Foods that are high in fat can cause the gallbladder to contract and cause pain. Avoid foods like fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, high-fat dairy products, and processed snacks and sweets.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, which can lead to gallbladder pain. Limit foods like hot peppers, chilli powder, and curry.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine can cause the gallbladder to contract and cause pain. Limit your intake of coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can cause inflammation in the gallbladder and liver, which can lead to pain. It’s best to avoid or limit your intake of alcohol.
  • Gas-producing foods: Some foods can produce gas in the digestive tract, which can cause discomfort. Limit foods like beans, lentils, cabbage, broccoli, onions, and carbonated drinks.

It’s important to remember that every person with gallstones may have different food triggers, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to your gallstones, it’s best to talk to a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine the best dietary plan for you.

Gallstone diet: FAQ

What do gallstones look like in the toilet?

gallstone diet - real gallstones from the gallbladder - in toilet

It is rare for gallstones to be passed in the stool, and if they are, they may not be easily identifiable. When passed, gallstones may appear as small, hard, pebble-like objects that are usually yellow or brown. However, since the appearance of gallstones can vary based on their composition, size, and shape, it is difficult to accurately identify them without a medical examination. It is important to note that passing gallstones does not mean the underlying problem has been resolved and seeking medical attention is recommended to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

How to flush out gallstones

healthy eating balanced diet with fruit and vegetables

No evidence supports the effectiveness of any specific natural remedy or home remedy for flushing out gallstones. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing new gallstones or complications associated with existing gallstones:

Eat a healthy diet: A low-fat diet can help reduce your risk of developing new gallstones and may also help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms in people with existing gallstones.

Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration, which can contribute to the formation of gallstones.

Exercise regularly: Exercise can help with weight loss, which may reduce the risk of developing new gallstones.

Avoid rapid weight loss: Losing weight too quickly can increase the risk of developing new gallstones, so it’s important to lose weight gradually and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Follow your doctor’s recommendations: If you have symptoms or complications associated with gallstones, your doctor may recommend medical or surgical interventions to treat your condition. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations to avoid further complications.

Attempting to flush out gallstones with natural remedies or home remedies without medical supervision can be dangerous and may cause serious complications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before attempting any home remedies for gallstones.” – M. Usman

Can certain foods flush out gallstones?

fibre rich food sources for balanced healthy diet

While there’s no specific food that can remove gallstones, certain dietary habits can help prevent their formation and relieve symptoms. Here are some foods that may be beneficial for people with gallstones:

Fibre-rich foods: Foods that are high in fibre can help prevent the formation of gallstones by binding to bile acids and preventing them from crystallizing. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.

Lean protein: Choose lean sources of protein such as skinless chicken, fish, and legumes. These are less likely to trigger gallbladder pain than high-fat sources of protein.

Healthy fats: Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds in moderation can be beneficial as they may improve digestion and aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Low-fat dairy: Low-fat dairy products like skim milk, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yoghurt are good sources of calcium and protein, which are important for bone health.

Plenty of water: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can help prevent the buildup of gallstones and flush out the digestive system.

Remember that diet alone may not be enough to remove gallstones, and medical treatment may be necessary. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to your gallstones, it’s best to talk to a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine the best dietary plan for you.” M. Usman

Can I eat eggs with gallstones?

healthy egg for gallstone diet

Great question! If you have gallstones, you may be wondering if it is safe to eat eggs. In general, eggs are considered safe to eat for most people with gallstones, but it may depend on the individual.
Eggs are a good source of protein and other essential nutrients, and they are low in fat. However, if you experience symptoms after eating eggs or other high-fat foods, it may be a good idea to limit your intake of these foods. This is because high-fat foods can trigger the gallbladder to release bile, which can cause pain and discomfort if a stone is blocking a duct.

“If you have been diagnosed with gallstones, it is important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about your specific dietary needs. They can help you come up with a healthy and balanced meal plan that is tailored to your individual needs and can help you manage your symptoms.” – M. Usman

What’s the best fruit for someone with gallstones

Fruits are generally considered a healthy addition to any diet, including a diet for someone with gallstones. In particular, fruits that are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals are beneficial for promoting overall digestive health.
Some of the best fruits to include in a gallstone-friendly diet include:

Apples: Apples are a good source of fibre and vitamin C, and they may help to promote healthy digestion.

Berries: Berries are packed with antioxidants and other important nutrients, and they are also low in calories and high in fibre.

Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are rich in vitamin C, which is an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Kiwi: Kiwis are a good source of fibre and vitamin C, and they may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Pears: Pears are rich in fibre and antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation and promote digestive health.

“While these fruits may be beneficial for some people with gallstones, it is still important to talk to a doctor or registered dietitian about your individual dietary needs and restrictions. They can help you create a balanced and healthy meal plan that is tailored to your specific needs.” – M. Usman

What can I drink with gallstones?

healthy lifestyle woman drinking water for gallstone deit

If you have gallstones, it is generally recommended to drink plenty of water and other fluids to help flush out the gallbladder and prevent dehydration. You may also consider drinking herbal teas, such as ginger or peppermint tea, which may help to soothe digestive symptoms associated with gallstones. Additionally, some studies suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee or caffeinated tea may help reduce the risk of developing gallstones. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for individualized dietary recommendations and to ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs while managing your condition.

Is yoghurt OK to eat with gallstones?

yogurt in a bowel

In general, yoghurt or kefir is considered a good food for people with gallstones. It is low in fat and can be a good source of calcium and protein. However, it is important to choose low-fat or fat-free yoghurt, as high-fat dairy products can increase the risk of gallstone formation and trigger symptoms in people with existing gallstones.
Additionally, some people with gallstones may experience digestive issues with dairy products, including yoghurt. If you notice that eating yoghurt worsens your symptoms, it may be best to avoid it.

What takeaway can I eat with gallstones?

takeaway food lifestyle diet healthy poor nutrition

It is generally recommended that people with gallstones avoid high-fat and greasy foods, which are commonly found in takeout food. These types of foods can trigger symptoms and lead to gallbladder attacks. However, if you are going to eat takeout food, some options are healthier and less likely to cause symptoms.
For example, you could opt for grilled or baked chicken or fish, and choose a side of steamed vegetables or a salad instead of French fries or onion rings. You could also try a vegetarian dish that includes legumes, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables. It’s important to keep in mind that portion size also matters, as overeating can also trigger symptoms

Do I need to cut down on fat with gallstones?

Yes, cutting down on fatty foods can be helpful if you have gallstones. When you eat fatty foods, your gallbladder contracts to release bile, which can cause pain and discomfort if you have gallstones. Therefore, reducing your intake of fatty foods can help decrease the frequency and severity of your symptoms. It’s also important to note that a low-fat diet can help with weight loss, which may reduce the risk of developing gallstones in the future. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the best diet plan for you based on your specific needs and medical history.

What is the diet after gallbladder surgery?

healthy eating balanced diet with fruit and vegetables

After gallbladder surgery, it is important to follow a diet that allows your body to heal while minimizing digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea or bloating. Typically, the diet is advanced gradually over a few weeks, starting with clear liquids and then progressing to more solid foods. Here are some general dietary recommendations after gallbladder surgery:

Clear liquids: In the immediate aftermath of surgery, you may be limited to clear liquids such as broth, water, and juice.

Low-fat foods: After you can tolerate clear liquids, you can move on to low-fat foods such as lean proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu, as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid high-fat and greasy foods as they can be difficult to digest without a gallbladder.

Avoid spicy and acidic foods: Spicy and acidic foods can irritate the digestive system and should be avoided.

Eat small, frequent meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can be easier on the digestive system than large meals.

Drink plenty of water: Staying well-hydrated is important for digestion and overall health.

How to keep your gallbladder healthy?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the key to keeping your gallbladder healthy. Here are some tips to keep your gallbladder healthy:

Maintain a healthy diet: Avoid high-fat and processed foods, and instead eat a diet that is rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help regulate bile production and promote healthy digestion.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and fluids to help flush toxins from your body and promote good health.

Exercise regularly: Exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of developing gallstones.

Manage your weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help reduce the risk of developing gallstones.

Avoid rapid weight loss: Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of developing gallstones. Gradual weight loss is a healthier and safer option.

Control underlying conditions: If you have any underlying conditions, such as diabetes or high cholesterol, manage them appropriately as they can increase the risk of developing gallstones.

Limit alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing gallstones, so it’s important to limit alcohol intake.

Don’t smoke: Smoking is a known risk factor for gallstones, and quitting smoking can help keep your gallbladder healthy.

By following these tips, you can help keep your gallbladder healthy and reduce the risk of developing gallstones.

Can you get gallstones without a gallbladder?

Gallstones form in the gallbladder, so technically, it’s not possible to get gallstones without a gallbladder. If the gallbladder has been removed, the risk of developing new gallstones is eliminated. However, it is still possible for small stones to form in the bile ducts, which can cause discomfort and other symptoms. This is known as post-cholecystectomy syndrome, and it may occur in some people after gallbladder removal. In this condition, the bile ducts may become irritated or inflamed, leading to symptoms similar to those of gallstones, such as pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, bloating, and nausea.

Can gallstones kill you?

In general terms no. While gallstones can cause significant discomfort and pain, they are generally not life-threatening. However, in rare cases, complications related to gallstones, such as acute cholecystitis, pancreatitis, or cholangitis, can lead to life-threatening conditions. For example, acute cholecystitis can cause the gallbladder to become inflamed and infected, which can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition. Pancreatitis can cause damage to the pancreas and other organs, and cholangitis can cause infections that spread throughout the body.
It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms related to gallstones or other related conditions to prevent complications and ensure proper treatment.

Can gallstones cause high ALT and AST levels?

Gallstones themselves do not typically cause high levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) in the blood. However, if the gallstones lead to complications such as acute cholecystitis or gallstone pancreatitis, then the inflammation or damage to the liver and pancreas can cause elevated levels of ALT and AST.
ALT and AST are enzymes that are normally present in liver cells, and elevated levels in the blood can indicate liver damage or disease. However, it’s important to note that elevated ALT and AST levels can also be caused by many other factors such as alcohol consumption, medications, and viral hepatitis, among others.

Can gallstones make you tired and dizzy?

In general, gallstones themselves may not cause fatigue or dizziness. However, the symptoms associated with gallstones, such as biliary colic, cholecystitis, or pancreatitis, can cause pain, nausea, and other discomforts that may lead to fatigue and dizziness. In addition, some of the underlying conditions that increase the risk of developing gallstones, such as obesity or diabetes, can also cause fatigue and other symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue or dizziness, it is important to discuss them with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Can gallstones cause diarrhoea?

Gallstones can cause diarrhoea in some cases. When gallstones block the common bile duct, it can lead to a backup of bile, causing inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea. In addition, people with gallbladder disease or who have had their gallbladder removed may experience diarrhoea after eating fatty foods because the body may have difficulty digesting fats without the help of the gallbladder. However, not all people with gallstones will experience diarrhoea, and there can be other causes for this symptom.

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