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The heart, liver and kidneys perform various functions that work towards the smooth functioning of the body. Another organ that goes unnoticed is the gallbladder, until and unless you suffer from gallstones. In this article, we will be writing about the natural remedies and foods to eat and avoid for gallstones.
What Is The Function Of The Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is located just under the liver and on the right side of the abdomen. It collects and stores bile produced by the liver. The gallbladder, after collecting and storing the bile, adds the bile to the food as it enters the small intestine. The bile then helps to break down the fats into fatty acids during digestion .
So, it's essential to keep the gallbladder healthy to maintain proper digestion and prevent conditions like cancer and gallstones with the help of a proper diet and natural remedies.
What Causes Gallstones?
Bile consists of dissolved cholesterol, but too much cholesterol leads to the formation of small, hard stones in the gallbladder known as cholesterol gallstones  . Also, stones in the gallbladder are formed by excess bilirubin or calcium salt build-up which is referred to as pigment stones  .
People who are obese or overweight tend to have a higher risk of developing gallstones  .
What Are The Symptoms Of Gallstones?
• Pain in the right shoulder
• Nausea and vomiting
• Back pain between your shoulder blades
• Sudden intense pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen
Natural Remedies For Gallstones
1. Castor oil
Castor oil is used as a gallbladder cleanse. It works by eliminating the cholesterol from the body  . Castor oil possesses healing and anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing the pain, a common symptom associated with gallstones  .
• Heat a cup of castor oil and soak a cheesecloth in it. Remove the excess oil from the cheesecloth and place it on the right side of your abdomen.
• Hold the cloth and wrap a plastic sheet around the stomach. Place a hot water compress bag over it for 30 minutes.
• Do this thrice a week.
2. Peppermint tea
Peppermint contains a natural compound called terpene that has the ability to dilute gallstones and aids in digestion by triggering the flow of bile and other digestive juices in the digestive tract  .
• Add a few peppermint leaves to a cup of boiled water.
• Allow it to steep for a few minutes and strain the water.
• Drink it daily between meals.
3. Turmeric and pepper
Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin which is known to have anti-inflammatory, healing, anticancer and antioxidant properties. This compound can reduce the incidence of gallstone formation. Piperine, an active compound in black pepper, when combined with curcumin, can significantly enhance the effect of curcumin, thus preventing the development of gallbladder stones  .
• Steam a glass of water, add a teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of black pepper.
• Stir it and drink it daily.
4. Wild-crafted Chanca Piedra
Many healthcare practitioners suggest their patients wild-crafted chanca piedra for the treatment of gallstones and maintaining gallbladder, kidney and liver health. Consumption of wild-crafted chanca piedra prevents the stone formation in its early stages  .
• Add the dried leaves to a cup of boiling water.
• Steep it for 10 minutes.
• Strain the drink and have it daily.
5. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps in dissolving gallbladder stones. It also aids in easing gallstone pain by increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins  .
• In a glass of warm water, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.
• Drink this in the morning on an empty stomach.
Individuals with gallstones may experience various gastrointestinal symptoms and are also at risk of developing acute or chronic cholecystitis. So, here are some foods to eat and avoid for the prevention and treatment of gallstones  .
Foods To Eat To Prevent Gallstones
1. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, etc., are packed with vitamin C. Studies have shown that vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant prevents the gallstones from occurring in the first place. The reason is vitamin C breaks down the stored cholesterol in the bile  . Consume vitamin C-rich fruits regularly.
2. Pectin-rich fruits and vegetables
Pectin is a water-soluble fibre found in fruits like apples, pears, berries, plums, guavas, etc., and vegetables like carrots, beetroot, parsnips, green beans, etc. This fibre binds with excess cholesterol in the gut and removes it from the body through stool  . Have pectin-rich fruits and vegetables every day.
3. Garlic and onion
According to a study, consumption of garlic and onion could reduce the incidence of cholesterol gallstone formation by 40 per cent. Researchers found that garlic and onion increased the activity of two enzymes in cholesterol metabolism - cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase and sterol 27-hydroxylase  .
4. Foods rich in magnesium
A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology revealed that an increase in magnesium consumption from foods may decrease a man's risk of developing gallstones. A high intake of magnesium reduced the risk of gallstones by 28 per cent . Consume magnesium-rich foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, green leafy veggies, etc.
5. Polyunsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, fish, soybean oil, sunflower oil, etc., are beneficial in preventing the formation of gallstones. This healthy fat removes high cholesterol from the bile and reduces the risk of gallstones  .
Psyllium is a type of soluble fibre found usually in the form of husk, granules or powder in breakfast cereals and baked goods. It has the ability to bind with excess fat in the bile duct which promotes their excretion from the body. This prevents the formation of gallstones  . Furthermore, psyllium increases good cholesterol levels and decreases bad cholesterol.
Lecithin is a fat found in foods like soybeans, egg yolks, oatmeal, cabbage, chocolate and peanuts. The study shows that lecithin may help prevent gallstone formation by keeping cholesterol from solidifying in the gallbladder  . Another study found that consuming soybean rich lecithin for 6 months reduced the stones in size  .
Caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee could significantly lower the risk of gallstone disease by stimulating gallbladder contraction and lower cholesterol concentrations in bile  . Many other studies have also shown the effectiveness of caffeine in preventing cholesterol gallstone formation ,  .
Foods To Avoid For Gallstones
1. Refined carbohydrates
Foods high in refined carbs like sugar, flour, refined grains, fried foods, soft drinks and starches increase the risk of gallbladder dysfunction by increasing bile cholesterol saturation and doubling the risk of cholesterol gallstone formation  .
2. Saturated fats
Saturated fats found in processed foods allows the cholesterol to accumulate in the bile. A study showed that dietary fats rich in saturated fatty acids enhanced gallstone formation  . Also, fatty red meat contains saturated fat. So, limit the consumption of saturated fats.
3. Whole-milk dairy products
Whole-milk dairy products have a high amount of fat which may increase the risk of gallstone formation. So, switch to skimmed milk or low-fat milk to ensure that your gallbladder is not affected.
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