Gallbladder disease is swelling of the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ under
the liver that secretes bile, a fluid that helps with digestion. Gallbladder
disease often occurs with gallstones. You can have gallstones and never have any
symptoms, although if the stones are large, they can be painful and require
Signs and Symptoms
Pain, mostly on the upper right side of the abdomen
Pain following meals, intolerance of fatty foods
Loss of appetite
What Causes It?
A gallbladder attack is caused by inflammation of the gallbladder. This
usually happens because a stone is blocking a passageway in the gallbladder.
Gallstones develop in the gallbladder when substances in bile form hard
particles. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are having a gallbladder attack, you will feel tenderness when the
upper right side of your abdomen is touched. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
occurs when the bile duct (a tube between the liver and gallbladder) is also
blocked. If your health care provider thinks you have a gallstone, you will
probably have an ultrasound. During an ultrasound, sound waves take pictures of
your gallbladder. This test is painless and can be performed quickly, which is
important if you are in a lot of pain.
Gallbladders that cause pain are usually removed. Most gallbladder surgery
today is performed with a laparoscope, an instrument that shows the surgeon
pictures of your gallbladder as it is being removed and allows for a smaller
incision and a shorter hospital stay than traditional surgery.
Some drugs can dissolve stones, avoiding the need for surgery. It can take
two years for a stone to dissolve.
Oral bile acids can dissolve cholesterol stones that are quite small
(less than 15mm in diameter). It works for 40 percent of people within two
years. There are two types of oral bile acids: chenodeoxycholic acid and
ursodeoxycholic acid. Chenodeoxycholic acid has more side effects.
Methyl tert-butyl ether—a strong solvent; 95
percent of the stone's mass dissolves in 12.5
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
It is important to see your provider for tests before you start any
alternative treatment, so that you will use the remedies that are right for the
size of your stone and your condition.
Decrease total fat intake, especially saturated fats (meat and dairy
Eliminate food allergens. Eggs, in particular, may irritate the
Eat more fiber. Consider fiber supplements such as flaxmeal (1 tsp.
one to three times per day). Combine 1 heaping tsp. of flaxmeal in 8 oz. of
apple juice for a drink high in fiber and pectin.
Lecithin (1,000 to 5,000 mg per day) for cholesterol
Choline (1,000 mg per day) and lipase (10,000 NF units with meals)
stimulate gallbladder function.
Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU/day) and vitamin C (1,000 mg two to three
times per day) promote bile production.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As
with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your
problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried
extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or
tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made
with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or
flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures
may be used singly or in combination as noted.
Choleretic herbs stimulate bile production and increase bile
solubility. Especially useful are milk thistle (Silybum marianum),
dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), greater celandine
(Chelidonium majus), globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), and
turmeric (Curcuma longa). Use these herbs singly or in combination as a
tea or tincture (15 to 20 drops), two to three times per day before
Enteric-coated peppermint oil (Mentha piperita) may help
dissolve stones (0.2 to 0.4 ml three times a day between
Some of the most common remedies are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to
5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get
Colocynthis for colicky abdominal pains that are lessened by
pressure or bending double
Chelidonium for abdominal pain that moves to right shoulder
Lycopodium for abdominal pain that is worse with deep
Castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to skin, cover with a clean soft cloth
(such as flannel) and plastic wrap. Place a heat source (hot water bottle or
heating pad) over the pack and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. For best results,
use for three consecutive days. Apply to abdomen, especially the gallbladder
area, to help reduce swelling.
Acupuncture may prove especially helpful in pain relief, reducing spasm, and
easing bile flow and proper liver and gallbladder
Early surgery usually ends symptoms and recurrence; stones may recur in the
bile duct, however.
If you have diabetes or are pregnant, there is a higher chance of
complications from gallbladder attacks. If you are pregnant, use choleretic
herbs with caution. Milk thistle and dandelion rootare safe in
pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider before you take any medication or
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Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Gary Guebert, DC, DACBR,
(Chiropractic section October 2001) Login Chiropractic College, Maryland
Heights, MO; Peter Hinderberger, MD, PhD, Ruscombe Mansion Community Health
Center, Baltimore, MD; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University,
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
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otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed