Whether you have had your gallbladder removed, have gallstones, or are just concerned about gallbladder health, there are some easy ways to make changes that can help keep your gallbladder and intestinal tract healthy. Of course, people who are actually dealing with acute gallstones will want to be more aggressive in their dietary changes, but dietary change is a great way to ease the symptoms of biliary colic and deal with problems associated with the gallbladder.
The good news is that there is a special diet to help pass your gallstones safely, and perhaps even save your gallbladder. Read more about it here.
The Cause of Gallbladder Issues
Although doctors are somewhat unclear about the specific causes of gallstones, there are certain lifestyles and conditions in which gallstones more commonly appear. Gallstones are either cholesterol based or pigment based (too much bilirubin in the bile). Risk factors for gallstones include:
- High fat/low fiber diets – because the gallbladder aids in the digestion of fats, many studies have shown that high fat diets with very little corresponding fiber may be a large contributor to the formation of stones.
- Obesity – gallstones appear much more frequently in individuals with higher body mass index (BMI). This is especially true of women, where there is twice the risk in women with a BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher compared to those with a BMI of 20kg/m2. This is most likely due to the fact that bile salts in obese persons are reduced, and results in reduced emptying of the gallbladder.
- Prescription drugs – including birth control pills, estrogen replacement, and ceftriaxone have been shown to produce higher incidents of gallstones.
Other causative factors may include gender, ethnicity and diabetes.
What not to Eat
Because of the high association of high fat, high cholesterol, and low fiber diets with gallstones, it is likely that a low fat, high fiber diet will greatly aid both in healing the gallbladder and avoiding gallbladder problems in the first place.
Foods to limit or avoid include:
- Saturated Fats – not all fat is bad, but you will want to be careful with saturated fats. These are the unhealthy fats that are found in palm oil, palm kernel oil, red meats, and processed dairy products.
- Sugar – too many sweets have also been linked to gallstones
- Carbohydrates – because these convert to sugar, carbohydrates, such as pasta, pastries, and white bread should also be limited.
- Unhealthy Meats and Fried food – anything fried, as well as luncheon meats, sausage, bacon, and heavily marbled meats are definite no-no’s for gallbladder conditions.
Gallbladder Diet – the Good Stuff
A person can still live well and eat delicious foods while caring for their gallbladder. Lean meats, poultry, and fish make great protein staples. In addition, the following are some great gallbladder diet tips:
- Fruits and Veggies – not only are these foods full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they are also excellent sources of healthy dietary fiber. Vitamin C may help the body metabolize cholesterol, reducing the tendency to form cholesterol-based gallstones.
- Plenty of Fiber – whole grains are great sources of fiber, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and instance of gallstones.
- Coffee – caffeine has been shown to increase bile flow, and may reduce the chance of gallstones forming.
- Healthy Fats – monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, flaxseed, and avocados have been shown to be very beneficial.
Obviously, it is possible to eat well and stay well while protecting your gallbladder, you just have to make smart choices. A sample menu for a day might look something like this:
|Low-fat yogurtWhole-grain granola
|Turkey-cheddar wrapVegetable soup
Handful of nuts
|Grilled chicken breastSteamed vegetables
Oven-baked potato fries
Whole-wheat dinner roll
Use the guidelines above to create your own healthy gallbladder menus. Not only will healthy choices protect your gallbladder, they may help maintain a healthy weight: an added bonus for your overall health.