Your Gallbladder


Hanging out just below the liver’s right lobe is your hollow, pear-shaped gallbladder. When it’s full of bile that’s waiting to help digest some food, the organ can grow as long as 8 to 10 centimeters (cm), and as wide as 4 cm.

Unless you’ve had a gallstone or your gallbladder has been surgically removed, you probably think little of it. And that’s fine. But if it’s causing you serious pain or other problems, you may need to ditch this little organ.

Your gallbladder serves as a storage pouch.

While the liver is hard at work making the dark green bile that helps with digestion, the gallbladder holds the bile until you actually need it.

Gallstones are formed mostly from hardened cholesterol.

Gallstones form when one of two substances — cholesterol or bilirubin — become supersaturated in the bile and crystallize, much the way sugar crystallizes when someone makes rock candy. Bilirubin is a brownish-yellow substance found in bile that results when old red blood cells in the liver break down. Your body normally eliminates bilirubin through your bowels (it’s the reason for the color of feces). Bilirubin-caused gallstones are rarer than those formed from hardened cholesterol, and are more common in those with blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia.

A low-cholesterol and low-fat diet is best for a healthy gallbladder.

A diet good for your heart is good for your gallbladder, too.

Any diet that would qualify as “heart-healthy” is “gallbladder-healthy,” too. That means a diet with some healthy monounsaturated fats, such as those in nuts, avocados, seeds, olives, peanut butter, and the oils from these products. Polyunsaturated fats should be part of that balanced diet, too, and are found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and vegetable oils. Avoiding foods that increase your cholesterol levels also reduces the risk of gallstones.

Almost as important as what you eat, however, is how frequently you eat. If you eat one large meal a day, it increases the likelihood of stones, because the bile sits in the gallbladder for a long period of time before it’s excreted.

The most common sign of gallstones is intense pain.

Up to 80 percent of people will never have symptoms for their gallstones, and nothing needs to be done about that. But if there is a problem, you’ll usually know it: the pain can be intense. The pain is generally described as sharp, stabbing, and very excruciating — a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. The pain most commonly comes after eating a fatty meal because fat is the strongest trigger for the gallbladder to empty.

The pain typically occurs on the right side where your gallbladder is, below your breastbone, and can radiate to your back, Dr. Khandelwal says. It can last several hours and may be accompanied by nausea, she adds.

But the pain can also be a dull ache on the right side, like an upset stomach or heartburn with bloating.

The best test for gallstone is an ultrasound.

The best test for gallstones is an ultrasound. It’s quick and safe and gives us a lot of information about how the gallbladder looks, and it has pretty high accuracy. The ultrasound tech will be able to see gallstones or gallbladder irritation, such as a thickened wall or fluid around the gallbladder.

Some patients may be referred for a second kind of test called an HIDA (hepatobiliary) scan, in which a radioactive chemical is injected into your arm and the tech watches what happens when it reaches your gallbladder. Generally, HIDA scans are only performed on patients who have other underlying conditions or who have gallbladder pain symptoms, but no stones on an ultrasound.

Escaped stones could lead to jaundice or pancreatitis and require surgery.

If it’s not causing symptoms, or if you pass it as a few lucky people do, nothing. But if they are causing trouble,the gallbladder may need to be removed. If the person is experiencing pain, called biliary colic, or develops a gallbladder infection, called cholecystitis, gallbladder surgery is probably needed.

If the stones get outside your gallbladder and travel down the duct, they can cause some pretty serious complications, so it’s important to have them taken care of if you’re having a problem.

Escaped stones can cause obstructions in the ducts that lead to jaundice or pancreatitis, Any of these symptoms would require gallbladder surgery, called cholecystectomy.

Gallbladder removal surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, with a short recovery time and for most people,no long-lasting effects.


From Everyday Health

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