Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder Disease: Overview

Alternative names: Gallstones, Cholecystitis

Gallstones are by far the most common type of gallbladder disease, and the gallbladder operation is the most common operation performed in North America.  Every year, more than half a million people in the United States and more than 50,000 people in Canada undergo surgery to remove their gallbladders because of gallstones.  90% of people have gallstones; 80% of people do not know that they have gallstones.  50% of children have gallstones.  Approximately 80% of all gallstones show no symptoms and may remain "silent" for years.

Diagnose your symptoms now!
  • check your overall health status
  • understand what's happening to your body
  • identify any nutritional deficiencies

Gallstones are "pebbles" within the gallbladder – a pear-shaped sac located under the liver which concentrates and stores bile, which is a fluid made in the liver.  Bile helps digest fats as they pass through the small intestine.  Bile is either released from the liver directly through ducts into the small intestine, or is stored in the gallbladder for later release.

During a meal (especially one containing fat or protein), the gallbladder contracts, delivering the bile through the bile ducts into the intestines to help with digestion.  Abnormal composition of bile leads to formation of gallstonesGallstone disease is a common cause of abdominal pain, inflammation, and infection of the gallbladder and the pancreas.

Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) is another type of gallbladder disease.  It is normally caused by gallstones blocking the tube leading out of the gallbladder, leading to a buildup of bile that can cause inflammation.  Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems and tumors.

Incidence; Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

Gallstones affect about 10% of adults over 40.  They occur in nearly 25% of women in the U.S. by age 60 and in up to 50% by age 75.  About 20% of men have gallstones by the time they reach 75 years of age.  Because most cases are asymptomatic, however, these rates may underestimate the disease in elderly men.  Gallstone disease is relatively rare in children.  Women are probably at increased risk because the female hormone estrogen stimulates the liver to remove more cholesterol from blood and divert it into the bile.  Women of childbearing age may want to select an oral contraceptive with a low estrogen level to reduce their risk.

Native Americans are especially prone to developing gallstones; women in this population have an 80% chance of developing gallstones during their lives.

Pigment gallstones are more likely to affect the elderly, people with cirrhosis, and those with chronic hemolytic anemia, including sickle cell anemia.  People of Asian descent who develop gallstones are most likely to have the pigment type.

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in the gallbladderBile is a fluid composed mostly of water, bile salts, lecithin, and cholesterol.  It is first produced by the liver and then secreted through tiny channels within the liver into a duct.  From here, bile passes through a larger tube called the common duct, which leads to the small intestines.  Then, except for a small amount that drains directly into the small intestine, bile flows into the gallbladder through the cystic duct.

The gallbladder is a four-inch sac with a muscular wall that is located under the liver.  Here, most of the fluid (about two to five cups a day) is removed, leaving a few tablespoons of concentrated bile.  The gallbladder serves as a reservoir until bile is needed in the small intestine for digestion of fat.  When food enters the small intestine, a hormone called cholecystokinin is released, signaling the gallbladder to contract.  The force of the contraction propels the bile back through the common bile duct and then into the small intestine, where it emulsifies fatty molecules so that fat and the fat-absorbable vitamins A, D, E, and K can enter the blood stream through the intestinal lining.

About three-quarters of the gallstones found in the U.S. population are formed from cholesterol.  Cholesterol makes up only 5% of bile; it is not very soluble, however, so in order to remain suspended in fluid, it must be properly balanced with bile salts.  If the liver secretes too much cholesterol into the bile, if the bile becomes stagnant because of a defect in the mechanisms that cause the gallbladder to empty, or if other factors are present, supersaturation can occur.  Cholesterol may then precipitate out of the bile solution to form gallstones – a condition known as cholelithiasis.  The process is very slow and most often painless.  Gallstones can range from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter.

The other 25% of gallstones are known as pigment gallstones.  They are composed of calcium bilirubinate, or calcified bilirubin, the substance formed by the breakdown of hemoglobin in the blood.  These black stones often form in the gallbladders of people with hemolytic anemia or cirrhosis.

At any point, stones may obstruct the cystic duct, which leads from the gallbladder to the common bile duct, and cause pain (biliary colic), infection and inflammation (cholecystitis), or all of these.  About 15% of people with stones in the gallbladder also have stones in the common bile duct (choledocholithiasis), which sometimes pass into the small intestine but also may lodge in the duct and cause distention, infection, or pancreatitis.

Conditions that decrease the flow of bile and therefore increase the risk of gallstone formation include skipping meals, losing weight quickly, fasting, and intravenous feeding.  Those who have a family history of gallstones are also at increased risk.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of Gallbladder Disease and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be somewhat similar, including difficulty digesting fatty foods.  In IBS, however, pain usually occurs in the lower abdomen.  Acute appendicitis, pneumonia, stomach ulcers, hiatal hernia, pancreatitis, hepatitis, kidney infections, and even a heart attack may mimic a gallbladder attack, so it is important to see a physician immediately if symptoms occur.

In patients with abdominal pain, causes other than gallstones are often responsible if the pain lasts less than 15 minutes, is present most of the time, frequently comes and goes, or is not severe enough to limit activities.

Once diagnosed with gallstones, within the first five years 10% of patients develop symptoms, and within 20 years, 20% have symptoms.  This means someone with stones has an 80% chance of living without symptoms – that is, about 80% of people with gallstones never experience any symptoms.  They may be discovered by a routine chest X-ray or other diagnostic tests looking for problems unrelated to the gallbladder.

The risk of people with gallstones developing mild symptoms is 1% to 3% annually.  Most other people remain asymptomatic (without symptoms) for at least two years after stone formation begins.  If symptoms do occur, the chance of developing pain is about 2% per year for the first ten years after stone formation, after which the chance for developing symptoms decrease.  On average, symptoms take about eight years to develop.  The reason for the decline in incidence after ten years is not known, although some physicians suggest that "younger" (smaller) stones may cause more symptoms because they are more likely to lodge in the bile duct and block it.

Biliary Pain
Most people who develop symptomatic gallbladder disease have pain in the mid-upper or right-upper section of the abdomen and it often radiates to the right shoulder blade.  This pain is caused by obstruction of the bile-carrying duct, called the cystic duct, which leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine.  Large or fatty meals can precipitate the pain, but it usually occurs several hours after eating, often at night.

The pain is sometimes referred to as "colic," which would indicate mild, transient pain.  However, this is a misnomer because the pain is usually severe, steady, and lasts from 15 minutes to 6 hours.  The pain is often at night and not related to meals.  Once the first pain has occurred, the probability of a second attack is between 50% and 70% within 2 years (if no change in diet is made).  Nausea and vomiting are also common.  Between attacks everything is usually normal.

Changes in position, over-the-counter pain relievers, and passage of gas do not relieve the symptoms.  Biliary pain usually disappears after several hours.  Attacks of pain tend to be intermittent and infrequent; the chance of pain recurring within a year is less than 50%.  In one study, 30% of people who had already had one or two attacks experienced no further biliary pain over the next ten years.

Acute Cholecystitis
Acute gallbladder inflammation (acute cholecystitis) is a more serious problem than biliary colic.  It begins abruptly and subsides gradually.  Nausea, vomiting, and severe pain and tenderness in the upper right abdomen are the most common complaints; fever is usual but may be absent.  The discomfort is intense and steady and lasts until the condition is treated with medicine or surgery.  Patients with acute cholecystitis frequently complain of pain when drawing a breath.  The pain can radiate from the abdomen to the back.  Acute cholecystitis is usually caused by gallstones, but, in some cases, can occur without stones.  Anyone who experiences an attack of acute cholecystitis should seek medical attention; it can progress to gangrene or perforation of the gallbladder if left untreated.

Chronic Cholecystitis
Chronic gallbladder disease (chronic cholecystitis) occurs because of the prolonged presence of gallstones and low-grade inflammation.  Scarring causes the gallbladder to become stiff and thick.  Symptoms of this condition tend to be vague.  Complaints of gas, nausea, and abdominal discomfort after meals are common, just as they often are in people without gallbladder disease.

Common Bile Duct Stones (Choledocholithiasis)
Stones lodged in the common bile duct (choledocholithiasis) can block the flow of bile and cause jaundice.  Serious infection of the bile duct (cholangitis) may develop that causes fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, and severe pain in the upper-right quadrant of the abdomen.  If there is evidence for common bile duct stones, such as dark urine, jaundice, pancreatitis, or elevated liver function tests, then more extensive tests may be used.

Most gallstones provoke no symptoms at all.  One study reported that the risk of developing symptoms was 10% at five years, 15% at ten years, and only 18% at fifteen years, with no deaths reported.  Asymptomatic gallstones seldom lead to problems.  Death from gallstones is very rare, accounting for only 0.2% of annual deaths in the United States.  Serious effects from gallstones are usually from stones in the bile duct or surgical complications.

Diagnosis and Tests

Diagnosis is by physical exam and by diagnostic testing.  A physical exam often reveals tenderness in the right upper area of the abdomen in acute cholecystitis and sometimes in biliary colic.  There is usually no tenderness in chronic cholecystitis.

Blood tests are usually normal in people with simple biliary pain or chronic cholecystitis.  In acute cholecystitis, and especially choledocholithiasis (stones in the bile duct), however, blood tests of the liver show elevations of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin.  Bilirubin is the orange-yellow pigment found in bile; high levels cause jaundice, which gives the skin a yellowish tone.  A high white blood cell count (leukocytosis) is another common finding but should not be relied on to establish a diagnosis of acute cholecystitis.

The diagnostic challenge posed by gallstones is to be sure that abdominal pain is caused by stones and not by some other condition.  Ultrasound or other imaging techniques easily find gallstones.  Nevertheless, because gallstones are common and most cause no symptoms, simply finding stones does not necessarily explain a patient's pain, which may be caused by numerous other conditions.

Treatment and Prevention

Gallstones almost never spontaneously disappear, except sometimes when they are formed under special circumstances, such as pregnancy or sudden weight loss.  Many natural doctors claim that some stones can be encouraged to pass, and that there are treatments to reduce or eliminate symptoms.  Apart from natural or other preventive treatments, the probability of eventually needing an operation for a 30-year-old is about 30%; for 50-year-olds it is 20%; and for 70-year-olds it is 15%.

Although removal of the gallbladder has not been known to cause any long-term effects aside from occasional diarrhea, some researchers have been concerned about its effects on the body's cholesterol levels.  One study found that within three days of the operation, levels of total cholesterol and LDL returned to their preoperative levels.  After three years, however, some types of cholesterol not ordinarily associated with coronary artery disease had risen significantly.  These results did not necessarily indicate any increased risk for coronary artery disease, but they did show that the metabolism of cholesterol by the liver had been altered.  People who have had their gallbladders removed should have their cholesterol levels checked periodically, as should every adult.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
ESWL has been used for over 15 years to break up kidney stones.  During this treatment, shock waves generated outside the body are focused on gallstones in order to fracture them into smaller particles, the size of sand granules.  The success rate with small stones (under 20mm) is 77%, larger stones is 60%, and multiple stones is 41% – success means complete disappearance in 6 months.  The addition of bile acids to dissolve the small fragments may improve upon the success rate.  This approach is of particular value for those patients who are poor surgical candidates and for those wanting to keep their gallbladders.

Bile Acid Treatment
In the normal gallbladder, bile acids keep the cholesterol in solution, preventing stone formation.  Two bile acids, chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), when given as medications have been found to dissolve gallstones.  CDCA has significant side-effects, such as diarrhea and abnormal liver tests.  UDCA has few side-effects.  Successful treatment is most commonly seen with noncalcified stones of less than 5mm.  The rate of dissolving is about 1mm per month.  A combination of CDCA with UDCA has about a 50% rate of complete dissolving of noncalcified stones with 6 months of therapy.

The addition of cholesterol-lowering medications, known as "statins", like lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor), improve the effectiveness of UDCA therapy.  These cholesterol-lowering agents reduce both serum and bile cholesterol in humans, and also inhibit cholesterol gallstone formation in animals.  With the same cholesterol-lowering benefits, a healthy diet helps dissolve gallstones when used in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is sold as Actigall.  A doctor's prescription is needed.

Treatment for cholecystitis usually involves gallbladder removal.

Prognosis; Complications

Simple pain, rather than serious complications, is the first symptom of gallbladder disease in over 90% of people with stones, therefore waiting has a low risk of serious consequences.  Most people with gallstones remain asymptomatic, and symptoms when they do occur are usually not life threatening, so some believe "you should be allowed to die with your gallstones."

Cholecystitis, if left untreated, can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications such as a gallbladder rupture.

When obstruction of the bile-carrying duct is prolonged (more than 6 hours), then distention and inflammation can develop with secondary bacterial infection in about 50% of cases.  This is a serious complication that usually requires immediate medical attention.  Stones can also block the ducts draining the pancreas and cause pancreatitis.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Gallbladder Disease:

Symptoms - Abdomen

Upper abdomen pain after night/pain after large/fatty/night meal or upper abdomen pain after fatty/upper abdomen pain after large meals

The mildest and most common symptom of gallbladder disease is intermittent pain called biliary colic, which occurs either in the middle or right side of the upper abdomen.  Large or fatty meals can precipitate the pain (a 'gallbladder attack'), but it usually occurs several hours after eating, often at night when the gallbladder assumes a horizontal position that facilitates entry of gallstones into the cystic duct.

The pain is constant, can be quite severe, and may be accompanied by nausea.  Changes in position, over-the-counter pain relievers, and passage of gas do not relieve the symptoms.  Biliary colic usually disappears after several hours.  Attacks of pain tend to be intermittent and infrequent.

Acute gallbladder inflammation (acute cholecystitis) begins abruptly and subsides gradually.  Nausea, vomiting, and severe pain and tenderness in the upper right abdomen are the most common complaints; fever is usual but may be absent.  The discomfort is intense and steady and lasts until the condition is treated with medicine or surgery.  Patients with acute cholecystitis frequently complain of pain when drawing a breath.  The pain can radiate from the abdomen to the back.  Acute cholecystitis is usually caused by gallstones, but, in some cases, can occur without stones.

Meals worsen top-right abdomen pain

The gallbladder is located in the upper right abdomen, just beneath the liver.  Meal-induced pain in this region suggests that gallstones may be causing a blockage in the bile duct.  The gallbladder contracts rapidly but is unable to drain leading to pressure build-up and pain.

Moderate/severe/significant right hypochondriac pain or mild right hypochondriac discomfort

Biliary pain rapidly increases in intensity, then remains constant for 4 to 6 hours, occasionally radiating to the right shoulder blade area.  In cases of acute gallbladder inflammation, the pain can last longer than 6 hours and be accompanied by tenderness and fever.

Meals worsen epigastric pain

Inflammation or other dysfunction of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or biliary tract (angiocholitis) often causes pain in the abdomen, generally towards the right-hand side.  The pain is more likely to occur after large and/or fatty/oily/fried meals.

Moderate/significant/severe epigastric pain or mild epigastric discomfort

A large meal may trigger the pain, but studies have not shown any direct dietary connection; the pain can develop without any apparent cause.

Infrequent meal-induced pain or meal-induced pain for under a week or meal-induced pain for 1-4 weeks or meal-induced pain for over a month

Inflammation or other dysfunction of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or biliary tract (angiocholitis) often causes pain in the abdomen, generally towards the right-hand side.  The pain is more likely to occur after large and/or fatty/oily/fried meals.

Mild/moderate/severe/significant meal-induced pain

Meal-induced pain in the abdomen suggests the presence of gallstones in the gallbladder that are causing a blockage in the bile duct: The gallbladder contracts as part of the digestive process but the bile is unable to drain, leading to pressure and pain.

Burning/dull/stabbing epigastric pain after meals or epigastric pressure after meals

The pain can vary from a mild discomfort or dull throbbing, to a deep ache or cramp, to an excruciating sharp or stabbing pain.

Symptoms - Bowel Movements

(Slightly/very) pale stools

Pale stools are often due to some form of bile dysfunction.  Bile salts, which are made by the liver and excreted via the bile ducts, make feces the normal brown color.  An inflamed liver (hepatitis) or some kind of blockage in the bile ducts (like a gall stone) can turn stools pale.

Orange stool color

Gallstones block the bile ducts, which deliver bile from the gallbladder (where it is stored) to the intestines, where it helps to digest fat.  One effect of bile is to turn stool brown.

Symptoms - Food - General

Skipping/skipping most meals

Missing meals causes the gallbladder to contract less, leading to concentrated bile and possibly gallstones.

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General

(Occasional/frequent) rotten egg burps

If you suffer from sulfur burps and gas you may have a problem in the gallbladder or small intestine.  Rotten egg burps are caused by hydrogen sulfide gas which is produced by gut bacteria when certain types of food pass through the digestive system.  When gallstones block the bile duct and prevent bile from helping to digest fatty foods, gas may be produced due to incomplete digestion.

Occasional/regular/frequent meal-related burping

The gallbladder acts as a storage unit for the bile made by the liver, which is used to help digest fatty foods.  Burping or belching may suggest the presence of gallstones that block the bile duct, leading to digestive distress.  Frequent burps can occur when gas is created due to incomplete digestion.

Severe flatulence

Persistent and severe flatulence may be a symptom of gallbladder problems.

Symptoms - Liver / Gall Bladder

Symptoms - Metabolic

Moderate/major/very great recent weight loss

If rapid weight loss is due to skipping meals then the gallbladder will be contracting less often, leading to concentrated bile and possibly gallstones.

Symptoms - Skeletal

Pain between shoulder blades

The pain is usually felt in the upper abdomen but sometimes the pain may spread to the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades.  The pain often occurs following a heavy or fatty meal and is sometimes one of the main symptoms of a more advanced disease state.

Symptoms - Urinary

Having foamy urine

Most people get foamy urine now and again, typically because of muco-proteins in the fish, meat or chicken that they eat.  During digestion, the body doesn't break down these proteins completely, so they are expelled in the urine.  As muco-proteins shoot out of the body, they momentarily come in contact with air and then with water in the toilet bowl.  Foam appears because protein does not mix with air or water.

These bubbles occur most frequently in concentrated (dark) urine, like the urine that is passed right after waking up in the morning.  If the urine is extremely foamy and continues all the time, there may be a problem with bile salts or the gallbladder.

Dark urine color

Gallstones block the bile duct, causing an excess build-up of bile in the gallbladder, which then accumulates in the blood and is removed by the kidneys.  The presence of bile salts in the urine gives it a darker color.

Conditions that suggest Gallbladder Disease:




The gallbladder releases bile into the small intestines through a tube called the cystic duct, which connects to the bile duct.  When gallstones are obstructing these ducts, bile builds up in the gallbladder and increases the concentration of a yellowish substance called bilirubin in the blood, causing a yellowing of the skin known as jaundice.

Organ Health

Diabetes Type II

Factors that increase the risk of developing gallstones include diabetes, and being overweight, obese or pregnant.

Symptoms - Liver / Gall Bladder

Having non-problematic/having problematic gallstones (confirmed)

Gallstones in the gallbladder can block the bile ducts, causing a build-up of bile in the gallbladder that leads to painful gallbladder attacks.

Confirmed absence of gallstones

Gallstones in the gallbladder can block the bile ducts, causing a build-up of bile in the gallbladder that leads to painful gallbladder attacks.

Risk factors for Gallbladder Disease:


Inadequate Fiber Intake

People who eat high-fat, high-cholesterol or low-fiber diets are at increased risk of developing gallstones.


Pregnancy-Related Issues

Factors such as pregnancy that decrease the flow of bile increase the risk of developing gallstones.


Low Melatonin Level

There is evidence that a lack of melatonin could significantly increase the risk of developing gallbladder stones.  Melatonin inhibits cholesterol secretion from the gallbladder, helps convert cholesterol to bile, and as an antioxidant can reduce oxidative stress on the gallbladder. [Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2008;53(10):pp.2592-603]


Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

Bladder dysfunction is said to be a symptom.


Problems Caused By Being Overweight

Obesity in both men and women increases the risk for gallstones.  This may be a result of lower levels of bile salts relative to cholesterol in the bile causing a higher risk for cholesterol supersaturation and the formation of stones.

Organ Health

Cirrhosis of the Liver

If cirrhosis prevents bile from reaching the gallbladder, a person may develop gallstones as a result.

Personal Background

Caucasian/Latin / Hispanic ethnicity

As a general rule, gallbladder disease is most common in North and South Americans as well as those of European descent.  At highest risk are American Indians, followed by Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks.  Those of African or Asian descent are at lower risk.

Supplements, Medications, Drugs

(Discontinued) non-human estrogen use

Taking non-human estrogens after menopause doubles the risk of gallbladder disease.

Current birth control pill use

Increased risk of gallstone formation has been observed in women who take oral contraceptives.  Women of childbearing age using oral contraceptives may want to select one with a low estrogen level to reduce their risk, or use other methods of birth control.

History of birth control pill use

According to National Institutes of Health, the progestins used in birth control pills in general increase the risk of gallstone formation by raising cholesterol levels in the bile and reducing gallbladder movement.

Symptoms - Food - Intake

(Low/high) egg consumption

Gallstones are caused by changes in bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver to help digest food.  When changes in bile occur, such as high level of cholesterol, it can cause bile to crystallize and form gallstones.  Eggs are naturally high in fats and cholesterol and higher intake can increase risk of Gallbladder disease.

Symptoms - Glandular

Under 4/4-6/7-9/Over 9 years at 120-180 blood sugar

Gallstones may progress more rapidly in patients with diabetes, who tend to suffer worse infections.

Symptoms - Liver / Gall Bladder

Past non-surgical gallstone removal

Gallstones can recur: If an environment favorable to gallstone formation existed previously, it may exist again in future.

Having had gallbladder removed (confirmed)

Bile is stored in the gallbladderGallstones are formed when more cholesterol is excreted by the liver than the bile can dissolve, causing it to crystallize.  Gallbladder surgery removes the gallbladder and gallstones, preventing further creation of gallstones.  In rare cases, however, gallstones can form in the common bile duct years after the gallbladder is removed.

Symptoms - Muscular

Having excess body fat

Being thin helps you to avoid getting kidney stones or gall stones.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
Symptom Entry
Symptom Entry
Full Explanations
Optional Doctor Review
Review (optional)

Gallbladder Disease suggests the following may be present:


Excess Animal Fat Consumption

People who eat high-fat, high-cholesterol or low-fiber diets are at increased risk of developing gallstones.

Lab Values

LDL/HDL Ratio, High

Gallstone formation does not correlate with blood cholesterol levels, but persons with low HDL cholesterol (the so-called good cholesterol) levels or high triglyceride levels are at increased risk.

Gallbladder Disease can lead to:

Lab Values

High White Blood Cell Count

Acute cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) often causes increased numbers of white cells in the blood.

Elevated Bilirubin Levels

Certain health conditions, such as gallstones or an infected gallbladder, can block the bile ducts and lead to an accumulation of bile in the body.

High Levels Of Triglycerides

Gallstone formation does not correlate with blood cholesterol levels, but persons with low HDL cholesterol (the so-called good cholesterol) levels or high triglyceride levels are at increased risk.

Recommendations for Gallbladder Disease:

Amino Acid / Protein


Taurine and beet concentrate are very effective at thinning the bile in the gallbladder.

Botanical / Herbal

Chanca Piedra (Break-Stone)

This South American herb is developing a reputation as a potent treatment for both kidney stones and gallstones.  Testimonies indicate they just break up and come out.


Hydrangea is considered an anti-lithic herb, which prevents stones or gravel from forming in the kidneys and bladder.  Anti-lithic herbs can also assist the body in removing stones and gravel from these organs.

Not recommended
Ginger Root

Avoid medicinal amounts of ginger (e.g. large doses of dried ginger extract) if you have gallstones because it increases bile flow.



Coconut has been reported to help normalize gall bladder function over time.

Invasive / Surgery


Gallbladder removal for stones and disease is called a cholecystectomy.  The first such operation for symptomatic gallbladder disease was performed in 1882.  It is preformed by cutting a 4 to 8 inch hole in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.  The gallbladder is directly visualized and removed by the surgeon.

Laparoscopy cholecystectomy was introduced in 1987.  This technique involves using a small scope through which the gallbladder is removed.  Small incisions, leaving barely visible scars, are made and the patient has a much quicker recovery than with open surgery: most non-emergency cases leave the hospital the same day.

Laboratory Testing

Test for Food Allergies

See relationship between Gallbladder Disease and Allergies.

Ultrasound Imaging

Ultrasound, the diagnostic method most frequently used to detect gallstones, is a simple, rapid, and noninvasive imaging technique.  Ultrasound detects gallstones as small as two millimeters in diameter with an accuracy of 90% to 95%.  The patient must not eat for six or more hours before the test, which takes only about 15 minutes.  During the same procedure, the physician can check the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas and quickly scan the gallbladder wall for thickening (characteristic of cholecystitis).  There are many other, more sophisticated tests, that may be suggested for further evaluation of the problem.



Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

In one study, 16 patients with gallstones who were scheduled for surgery received 500mg of Vitamin C four times per day for two weeks prior to surgery.  Another 16 similar patients (the control group) did not receive Vitamin C. During surgery, bile was taken from the gallbladder of each patient.  Vitamin C treatment resulted in a significant increase in the concentration of phospholipids in bile; phospholipids such as lecithin have been shown to prevent stone formation.  More importantly, it took seven days for the bile from Vitamin C-treated patients to form cholesterol crystals (the first step in stone formation), compared with just two days in the control group. [Eur J Clin Invest 1997;27: pp.387-391]

Another study found that, among postmenopausal women who drink alcohol, supplementing with vitamin C was associated with a 50% decrease in the prevalence of clinical gallbladder disease, but there was no similar benefit from vitamin C in nondrinkers. [J Clin Epid, 1998;51(3): pp.257-265]  This suggests that women over 50 who drink should consider taking vitamin C.

Vitamin C also could help dissolve gallstones, although that probably would require several years of continuous treatment, combined with a strict diet.  It is noteworthy that birth-control pills have been shown both to reduce blood levels of Vitamin C and to increase the risk of gallstones.

Preventive measures against Gallbladder Disease:


Liver/Gall Bladder Flush

Flushing the gallbladder can help pass stones that would likely have remained and enlarged over time.  The regular use of this flush will help prevent the development of gallstones, and helps to remove thickened bile by mobilizing it.


Sugar Avoidance / Reduction

In research published in 1983 from the University Department of Medicine, scientists stated, "Bile is significantly more saturated with cholesterol after 6 weeks on a refined carbohydrate diet (white flour and sugar) than after a similar period on an unrefined carbohydrate diet (whole wheat and grains)."

Plant-Based Nutrition

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, it was shown that vegetarian women had a much lower incidence of gallstones than non-vegetarian women.  Of the 632 non-vegetarians, overall occurrence of gallstones was 25%.  Vegetarians had only half as many gallstone problems, with 12% being found to have gallstones.

Monounsaturated Oils

Studies have shown oils high in monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola, peanut, avocado and almond oil to be beneficial for the prevention of gallstones.

High/Increased Fiber Diet

Dietary fiber from cellulose (soluble fiber) clearly reduces the risk of gallstone formation.


Consuming beets, or beet extracts, and taurine has been shown to thin bile and cause it to flow more freely.  This should reduce the tendency toward stagnation which can contribute to gallstone formation.


Aerobic Exercise

Studies have shown that the more physically active one is, the lower one's risk of gallstone formation.  One study indicated that men who performed endurance-type exercise (such as jogging and running, racquet sports, and brisk walking) for thirty minutes five times per week reduced their risk for gallbladder disease by up to 34%.  The benefit depended more on the intensity of activity than the type of exercise.  Some researchers guess that in addition to controlling weight, exercise helps normalize blood sugar levels and insulin levels, which, if abnormal, may contribute to gallstones.

Report by The Analyst™
Click to see sample report
Health problems rarely occur in isolation or for obvious reasons

Your body is a highly complex, interconnected system.  Instead of guessing at what might be wrong, let us help you discover what is really going on inside your body based on the many clues it is giving.

Our multiple symptom checker provides in-depth health analysis by The Analyst™ with full explanations, recommendations and (optionally) doctors available for case review and answering your specific questions.


Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Definite or direct link: strongly suggests; usually leads to
Definite or direct link:
strongly suggests; usually leads to
Weakly counter-indicative: may contraindicate; may decrease risk of
Weakly counter-indicative:
may contraindicate; may decrease risk of
Strong counter-indication: often contraindicates
Strong counter-indication:
often contraindicates
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates: decreases risk of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates:
decreases risk of
May be useful: may help with; may help prevent
May be useful:
may help with; may help prevent
Moderately useful: often helps with; often prevents
Moderately useful:
often helps with; often prevents
Very useful: is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Very useful:
is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Caution: is sometimes not recommended for
is sometimes not recommended for
We use cookies for traffic analysis, advertising, and to provide the best user experience