January 02, 2008
Kurt Pourbaix writes: I have looked through your website and have found a couple of interesting articles on gallstones. I see that sugar, fats, and grains aggravate gallstones. If a person has gallstones, the symptoms can be reduced by exercise, and by taking taurine and whole beet concentrate. My wife has been experiencing pain for years, and a recent ultrasound revealed that she has multiple small gallstones. In fact, her gall bladder is about half full of small stones. The doctor is concerned that with so many stones, there are some risks that the pain can become more frequent and more severe, and that a serious blockage in one of the ducts could occur. He is recommending surgery. Although not essential to do immediately, with that many stones, a serious condition could develop suddenly at any time.
My wife is 45, and she walks for exercise regularly. She is not overweight, but she does eat an average amount of fatty food, and at least an average amount of sugar. You recommend against surgery, but I didn't find any explanation about what is so bad about having surgery. The doctor makes it seem like a very common, low risk surgery that is very effective with essentially no side effects. Considering that she already has such a large number of stones, we are thinking that trying to treat the stones with taurine and beet concentrate might not be that effective for the number of stones that she has. It might be too late for that.
What exactly are the considerations of having the gall bladder removed? What are the possible side effects, and how often can they occur? What effect does not having a gall bladder have on the body? The doctor is telling us that the body adapts to not having a gall bladder and learns to function normally again, and only a very small percent of people have any negative effects at all from the surgery. What do you think about that? Thanks for your help.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
Normally I do not address individual health complaints, so readers please do not send those in as there is no way that it can effectively be addressed in this format. However, this question represents a very common problem I believe it needs an answer at it will serve to help many individuals who read this.
First of all, I believe it is nearly criminal what traditional medicine is doing to our public when it comes to managing this problem. It is RARELY ever indicated to remove someone’s gallbladder. If one ignores warning symptoms and does not address the reasons why their gallbladder is not functioning properly, than the disease can progress to the point where the pancreas is inflamed or the gallbladder is seriously infected and may have to be removed to save a person’s life. However, it is important to have a proper perspective here. Nearly ONE MILLION gallbladders are removed every year in this country and it is my estimate that only several thousand need to come out.
So, not only are surgeons removing these organs unnecessarily, but in their nutritional ignorance they are telling patients that their gallbladders do not serve any purpose and they can live perfectly well without them. This is a lie. The gallbladder serves an important digestive function. It is required to emulsify fats. What is emulsification? One can easily understand this concept when washing greasy dishes. It is nearly impossible to properly clean greasy dishes without soap as the soap emulsifies the fat so it can be removed. Similarly, the gallbladder stores bile and bile acids, which emulsify the fat one eats so it can be properly transported through the intestine into the blood stream. Anyone who has had their gallbladder removed will need to take some form of bile salts with every meal for the rest of their life, if they wish to prevent a good percentage of the good fats they eat from being flushed down the toilet. If one does not have enough fats in the diet, their entire physiology will be disrupted, especially the ability to make hormones and prostaglandins.
So, let’s get back to the original question. If one has gallbladder disease it can be evidenced by:
1) Pain when pressing on the gallbladder, which is directly under the last rib on the right on the same plane as one’s nipple. This is usually due to gallbladder "sludge" (thick bile).
2) Stone on a gallbladder ultrasound.
3) Greasy stools that are loose and tend to float to the top of the toilet bowl. This indicates improper fat absorption.
Then what is the proper course of action?
Long time readers of this newsletter will be very familiar with the essential first step. It is imperative to clean up the diet.
One has to stop the sugars, and reduce the grains and eliminate all fluids but water. The gallbladder is frequently infected when it is diseased so large amounts of good bacteria will also be helpful in correcting the problem.