Getting gallstones is often an uncomfortable and painful experience. If gallbladder disease is the cause, then more serious treatment may be required, such as the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, gallstones and gallbladder disease are two conditions that can often be prevented by making certain lifestyle choices.
Gallstones And Gallbladder Disease
Gallstones are a type of gallbladder disease. The gallstones are deposits made of bile that can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. These deposits may be small enough that they do not cause any complications or pain and will go away on their own.
However, larger gallstones can cause blockages in the ducts connected to the gallbladder, causing inflammation, damage or infection in this area of the body. In addition, the condition may cause pain in the abdominal area, in the right shoulder and in the back between a person’s shoulder blades. In more serious cases of larger gallstones that occur chronically, removal of the gallbladder is usually the prescribed treatment.
In addition to gallstones, there are a two other types of gallbladder diseases:
- The first is acute acalculous cholecystitis, which is an inflammatory disease of the gallbladder that does not produce gallstones. According to The Cleveland Clinic, only about 10 percent of gallbladder removals which take place in the U.S. each year are due to acute acalculous cholecystitis.
- The other gallbladder disease not related to gallstones is gallbladder tumors. These tumors may be malignant or benign and, in most cases, gallbladder removal is the preferred treatment.
Preventing Gallstones And Gallbladder Disease
The good news about gallstone and gallbladder disease prevention is that some of the main risk factors for the disease are avoidable, including obesity, being overweight, having diabetes and having a poor diet. The following are some tips to prevent these risk factors from developing, which will reduce the risk of getting gallstones:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for gallstones, especially among women. Those who are overweight or obese should focus on losing weight until they reach a healthy body mass index (BMI). For most people, a healthy BMI to aim for is somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important for everyone to eat a healthy diet that is balanced in nutrients. However, it’s important to avoid a diet high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber if you want to prevent gallstones and maintain a healthy weight. Foods that fall into these categories will increase the likelihood of someone becoming overweight or obese. They also can increase the level of cholesterol in your body, which increases the risk of gallstones forming. Furthermore, the poor nutrition may make it more difficult for your body to handle gallbladder disease or to recover from a potential gallbladder removal. (For tips on lowering cholesterol, read What Food To Eat To Lower Cholesterol.)
- Exercise regularly. Another way to maintain a healthy weight and prevent gallstones is to exercise regularly. Getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on most days of the week is a great way to lose weight effectively and then maintain a healthy weight. (To help you get started, read Essential Home Gym Exercise Equipment.)
- Lose weight gradually. While those who are overweight or obese should focus on getting to a healthy weight, it’s important to lose weight gradually if you want to prevent gallstones. Rapid weight loss has been linked to an increase in the risk for gallstones due to the way in which it increases cholesterol levels in the body. According to The Mayo Clinic, 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy rate of weight loss.
- Stick to a regular meal schedule. Even if you eat a healthy diet, the times at which you eat each day could affect your risk for gallstones and gallbladder disease. Try to eat at approximately the same times each day. Skipping meals, fasting or going for long periods without food could increase the risk of developing gallstones.
Recognizing The Signs
Those who are unable to prevent gallstones and gallbladder disease by taking the steps described above may be able to prevent the condition from worsening by recognizing the symptoms when they occur. The key sign to watch out for with gallstones is pain. The pain is often felt most intensely in the abdominal area, particularly in the center and upper right portion of the abdomen. This type of pain often comes on suddenly and gets worse very quickly.
In addition, some people with gallstones and gallbladder disease experience pain in their back in between their shoulder blades along with pain in their right shoulder. Whatever the case, the pain could last anywhere from several minutes to a few hours. Make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as you experience these feelings. Getting treatment early could prevent further damage to the gallbladder and give you better chances for avoiding this condition.