Gallstones are an important cause of disease and a common reason for surgery. Women, particularly those who have had multiple pregnancies or have certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Native American or U.S. southwestern Hispanic, are at particular risk. Obesity is an important risk factor for gallstone disease that can be modified, as are frequent changes in weight. Rapid weight loss leads to the rapid growth of gallstones and a high risk of symptomatic disease. A gallstone can develop when bile, cholesterol, calcium salts and other substances come together to form a mass in the gallbladder, the organ that stores bile. Gallstones often exist without causing symptoms, but surgery is sometimes necessary when the stones cause severe pain.
Being physically active may help a woman avoid gallstone surgery. Women who exercised the most were 31% less likely to have gallstone surgery than the least active women. Even a moderate amount of exercise was linked to a significant decline in the risk of gallbladder surgery. An average of 2 to 3 hours of recreational exercise per week appeared to reduce the risk by approximately 20%. Compared to the least sedentary women, who spent less than 6 hours per week sitting at work or driving, women who spent 41 to 60 hours a week sitting were 42% more likely to undergo gallbladder surgery.
There are a number of potential pathways that may explain the beneficial effects of exercise besides weight control. Physical activity has been shown to make the gut move more rapidly, which may prevent gallstones from forming. In addition, it may reduce levels of fatty substances called triglycerides, which play a role in the development of gallstones.
The New England Journal of Medicine September 9,1999;341:777-784, 836-837.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
Another reason to exercise regularly! However, if one does have gallbladder disease, whole beets are an excellent way to thin the bile and limit the risk of gall stones. Whole beets will thin bile the way paint thinner thins paint. It is quite consistent. There are some supplements on the market that do this.
I believe that one of the biggest crimes in modern American medicine that nearly one million people each year undergo is having gallbladders sacrificed on the altar of the surgical table. Nearly every one of these patients did not need their gallbladders removed. They just needed to thin out their bile and clean up their diet and the body would have self-regulated and eliminated the problem.
However, if you, or anyone you know has their gallbladder removed, bile acid replacement is required for the rest of your life, unless you obtain a gallbladder transplant. Trying to digest fat without bile is like trying to wash greasy dishes without soap, it doesn?t work very well. One needs bile to emulsify fats so they can be absorbed and used by the body for their many important functions.