The gallbladder is a small, sac-like organ that stores bile, a digestive enzyme made in the liver. Small particles may crystallize inside the gallbladder, forming what are known as gallstones. These stones are often harmless and frequently do not even cause pain, but if a gallstone becomes large enough to block a bile duct, preventing bile to move from the gallbladder to the small intestine where it is needed to break down food, a patient may need to have his/her gallbladder surgically removed. Clearly, this is a situation that most people would prefer to avoid, leaving these people to wonder: can I prevent gallstones?
Unfortunately, there is not one specific cause of gallstones and there is no clear-cut, proven way to prevent them. However, there are steps one can take that may help:
Maintain a healthy weight – People who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing gallstones. Frustratingly, people who are quickly losing weight are at an even higher risk. If you are overweight, work on making sustainable changes and losing weight at a healthy pace. Not only will this slow, steady rate help reduce your risk of developing gallstones, it is also proven to be a more effective way of keeping weight off.
Eat balanced meals – One of the most confusing things about maintaining a balanced diet is that humans need to eat some fats. Eating fats helps empty out the gallbladder, meaning particles won’t have the opportunity to crystallize. Try to limit your amount of saturated fats, such as those that come from animal products, which also contain higher amounts of cholesterol. Talk to your doctor if you find yourself having difficulty striking a good balance.
Get plenty of exercise – Exercise is important for all aspects of health, and reducing your risk of developing gallstones is no exception.
If you are struggling with maintaining a healthy weight, talk with your doctor. He or she may recommend a specific weight-loss program or refer you to a nutritionist or dietician, who can help you make sustainable lifestyle changes.