The prevalence of gallstones and gallbladder disease is constantly on the rise, both in the U.S and generally around the world. About 15 percent of the American population, which is about 20 million people, has gallstones. Of these people, about 85 percent of their gallstones are cholesterol stones. Due to this, there are about 700,000 cholesystectomies, or gallbladder removal surgeries, done in America annually.
What are gallstones and why does the gallbladder need to be removed?
The gallbladder is a tiny organ situated under the liver which stores the bile needed for breaking down fats in the digestive system. When one eats a meal which contains fats, the gallbladder releases bile to break them down, depending on the amount you have eaten.
Gallstones develop when hard deposits of substances in the bile get stuck, causing symptoms like infections and abdominal pain accompanied with vomiting, nausea, gas, and bloating. The gallbladder has to be removed if this becomes chronic. Those of advancing age, meaning over the age of 65, are most likely to undergo a gallbladder removal.
Risk Factors for Gallstones and Surgery
Some of the risk factors for gallstones and surgery are controllable, and others are not.
Uncontrollable risk factors:
- Ethnicity ( Mexican Americans and Indigenous Americans)
- Family history
Controllable Risk Factors:
- Type II diabetes
- Decreased physical activity
- Metabolic Syndrome (obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance)
- Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Dyslipidemia (low HDL-cholesterol and high serum triglyceride levels)
- Typical “Western” Diet
Do Gallstones Always Mean Surgery?
Gallstones don’t always require surgery. If they are small, surgery is not necessary. In that case they can be treated with medicines, contact dissolution therapy, percutaneous cholecystostomy, or shock wave lithotripsy.
Some practitioners also recommended the use of certain herbs, such as dandelion root, dandelion leaf, chicory root, turmeric, peppermint leaf, milk thistle seed, yellow dock root, chanca piedra, and celandine.
Foods to Avoid after Gallbladder Surgery
The foods below should be avoided up to a month post-surgery.
1. Deep-fried foods
Fatty, deep fried foods are not recommended even for those who are healthy and with a fully functioning digestive system. Some of those foods include onion rings, French fries, fried fish, fried chicken, donuts, and tempura anything.
2. Greasy foods
Any food which leaves too much grease on the hands after touching it contains excess fat for the digestive system to deal with. This applies to foods like pizza, burgers, most cheeses, heavy sauces and gravies, bacon, sausages, and other fatty cuts of meat.
3. Vegetable oils
Given that they are packed with omega-6 fats, vegetable oils are detrimental to the human body. They include corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil.
4. Convenience foods
Convenience foods like cookies, potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, and cakes and cake mixes are packed with omega-6 fats as most of them are made with soybean oil.
5. Large meals
Eating large meals at Christmas, Thanksgiving and similar occasions is bad for the digestive system as it causes contractions of the intestinal and digestive muscles, leading to symptoms like diarrhea and pain.
6. Water before and during meals
The habit of drinking water prior and during meals negatively affects the digestive system and is something you wouldn’t like to experiment with.