The Most Ideal Treatment Options for Gallstones


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  • Gallstones that don’t cause symptoms usually do not need medical treatment. In the event that medical attention is needed, it’ll depend on the size and location of the stone
  • Your physician will determine the ideal treatment method for gallstones based on symptoms and results of diagnostic testing

According to the Better Health Channel, gallstones that don’t cause symptoms usually do not need medical treatment. In the event that medical attention is needed, it’ll depend on the size and location of the stone, and the treatment protocol may include:1

Dietary modifications: These include limiting or eliminating fatty foods and dairy products.

Lithotripsy: This is a special machine that generates soundwaves to shatter the stones. This treatment method is utilized in certain centers, and is only advisable for people with small and soft stones.

Medications: Some medications may dissolve gallstones. However, these are rarely given because of a variable success rate — sometimes the gallstones will recur or the medication won’t work at all — and certain side effects such as dermatological problems and a general feeling of illness.

Surgeries: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy, single-incision laparoscopic cholecystectomy and open cholecystectomy are surgical procedures that can remove the entire gallbladder.2 Today, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the most common surgical treatment for gallstones.3

Your physician will determine the ideal treatment method for gallstones based on symptoms and results of diagnostic testing. Treatment/s can be suggested if gallstone symptoms occur in the future.4

Your physician may also recommend gallstone treatment if you have a condition that increases your risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or portal hypertension (high blood pressure inside the liver that is usually a complication of alcohol-related liver disease).5

If no gallstone symptoms appear, “active monitoring” may be recommended. What this means is that you won’t receive immediate treatment, although you should let your doctor know if you experience pain or other symptoms. The rule of thumb is, the longer you go without symptoms, the lower the possibility of your condition getting worse.

Learn How to Get Rid of Gallstones Naturally

Before considering conventional treatment options, you may want to  check out these natural remedies for gallstones first. They’re relatively inexpensive, safe and potentially effective:6,7,8

Apple cider vinegar (ACV): The vinegar's acidic nature may stop the liver from producing cholesterol that's responsible for gallstones.

ACV is also known to play a role in alleviating pain and dissolving gallstones.

Lemon juice: Just like ACV, lemon juice can stop the liver from producing cholesterol and can be helpful in keeping gallstone attacks at bay.

Plus, the pectin in this juice is believed to relieve gallbladder pain linked to these stones, while the vitamin C prompts the cholesterol to become more water-soluble, thereby promoting faster elimination of waste products.

Peppermint: This spice can assist with digestion by stimulating the flow of bile and other digestive juices, and help relax spasms and potentially alleviate acute gallbladder pain.

A compound called terpene in peppermint was also proven to help effectively dissolve gallstones.

Organic psyllium husk: This can serve as a gallstone treatment since the fiber in psyllium is known to bind to the cholesterol in bile and assist in preventing gallstone formation.

Even better, because psyllium is known to promote normal bowel movements, it can lower the risk of gallbladder system congestion and prevent constipation, a condition that can prompt gallstone formation.

Just make sure to use organic and 100 percent pure psyllium husk, as it is a heavily sprayed crop, with many sources often being contaminated with harmful pesticides.

Milk thistle: A bitter substance called silymarin in milk thistle can stimulate bile production, which can decrease its concentration and assist with flushing out gallstones.

Pears: These fruits are known to be effective in relieving gallstone pain and other symptoms.

The compound pectin is also present in pears, and it assists with softening cholesterol-filled gallstones and allows them to be flushed out of the body easily.

Common Treatment Protocols for Passing Gallstones

If none of the home remedies mentioned above work, you can consult your physician on conventional treatment methods that may help ease your condition. However, be aware that conventional treatments can have drawbacks for your health:9

Oral Bile Acids: Certain chemicals or substances like ursodiol or chenodiol are available as oral bile acid pills that may have the ability to dissolve stones. These pills work by thinning the bile, allowing the stones to dissolve.

Not everyone can take oral bile acids for gallstones, even if they may seem effective and generally well-tolerated. Oral bile acids are limited to patients with gallstones that are small and made of cholesterol. Plus, major side effects were linked to two types of oral bile acids in ursodiol (sold under brand names Actigall and Urso) and chenodiol:10,11

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Upset stomach, indigestion or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Back, muscle or joint pain
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin or skin rash
  • Headache
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Cough with fever
  • Pain or frequent urination
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, rash, itching, chest tightness or swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • Acid or sour stomach
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Difficulty having bowel movement
  • Excess air or gas in the stomach or intestines
  • Full feeling
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the chest below the breastbone
  • Pain or discomfort in chest, upper stomach or throat
  • Passing gas
  • Weight loss

Contact Dissolution Therapy: This involves injecting a solvent called methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) into the gallbladder to dissolve gallstones. While initial studies have highlighted MTBE's potential to rapidly dissolve the stones, this can also trigger severe side effects like a burning pain sensation.

If you're thinking about undergoing contact dissolution therapy, inquire about your doctor's level of experience in performing this procedure. Better yet, look for safer and other alternatives for gallstone treatment.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): The goal of ESWL is to break up the gallstones into smaller fragments by sending shock waves through the body’s soft tissues. Unfortunately, it is eligible for only less than 15 percent of gallstone patients, since it’s only most effective on solitary gallstones that are less than 2 centimeters in diameter.

Percutaneous Cholecystostomy: This nonsurgical treatment may be most effective if it is followed by a gallbladder removal. Percutaneous cholecystostomy is often given to severely ill patients who aren’t able to tolerate surgery right away.

A needle withdraws fluid from the gallbladder, and a catheter is then inserted through the skin to drain fluid. This catheter is left in place for a couple of weeks. Afterward, gallbladder removal surgery is performed to prevent recurrence.

It's highly advisable to have a thorough discussion with a physician or health expert before opting for any of these conventional methods to treat gallstones. This will allow you to know the protocol that is ideal for your condition so you can avoid complications.


Gallstones: Introduction

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones Symptoms

Gallstones Causes

Gallstones Treatment

Gallstones Surgery

Gallstones Prevention

Gallstones Diet

Gallstones FAQ

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[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 “Treatment for Gallstones,” Better Health Channel
  • 2, 5 “Gallstones — Treatment,” NHS Choices, November 6, 2015
  • 3 “Understanding Gallstones — Diagnosis and Treatment,” WebMD
  • 4 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Gallstones Treatment,” Mayo Clinic, August 18, 2016
  • 6 “Home Remedies for Gallstones,” p. 1, Top 10 Home Remedies
  • 7 “Home Remedies for Gallstones,” p. 2, Top 10 Home Remedies
  • 8 “Home Remedies for Gallstones,” p. 3, Top 10 Home Remedies
  • 9 Calabro and Bass, “Non-Surgical Treatments for Gallstones,” Everyday Health, January 26, 2010
  • 10  “What Is Ursodiol (Actigall and Urso)?” Everyday Health
  • 11 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Chenodiol (Oral Route) Side Effects,” Mayo Clinic, March 1, 2017