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What is a Gallbladder Attack?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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A gallbladder attack is defined as an episode in which an improperly functioning gallbladder creates a great deal of pain, nausea, and dizziness. In many cases, a gallbladder attack will evidence symptoms that are very similar to those of a heart attack. Because of this similarity, it is very important to seek medical attention immediately, so a health professional can determine if the pain and discomfort is the result of an issue with the heart or points toward some type of gallbladder problem.

A gallbladder attack may be associated with the presence of gallstones. A gallstone may be composed of elements such as excess cholesterol, calcium, or other bile elements that pass through the gallbladder. The stones are not unlike kidney stones in that they are usually small, sharp and can cause a great deal of discomfort if not treated.

There are a number of symptoms associated with gallbladder problems. Attacks may be relatively mild or extremely painful. An attack often takes place after consuming a meal and can cause a great deal of pain in the abdomen. There may be pain or a sense of tenderness just under the rib cage, a pronounced sense of fullness accompanied by indigestion, and even a great deal of burping that does not seem to offer any relief.

In severe situations, the gallbladder attack may also involve regurgitation to the point of dry heaving, an overall feeling of pain moving along the right side of the body and up to the shoulder blades, and even trouble breathing. Depending on the circumstances, the attack may last for no more than fifteen minutes, although it is possible for an attack to last as long as several hours if left untreated.

There are some ways to minimize the potential for an attack when the individual has a history of gallbladder problems. Ridding the diet of foods with a high acid content, such as orange juice, will often help ease the abdominal pain and other symptoms associated with gallbladder disease. Choosing to consume less bread has been helpful for some people, while limiting portions at meals can also make a difference. Avoiding dairy products is sometimes helpful when seeking to prevent an attack.

Fortunately, there are ways to effectively treat a gallbladder attack. Prescription medication can help ease the pain quickly as well as minimize the symptoms. Practitioners of alternative medicines often point to the use of herbs such as alfalfa to help ease pain and discomfort. In situations where the attacks are severe, it may be necessary to surgically remove any gallstones and possibly the gallbladder itself. Removal of the gallbladder is normally only an option when other methods are no longer effective.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon975083 — On Oct 24, 2014

There has been one tried and true thing that helps me when I first feel the pinching coming on, or whenever I can get to it, or I used it as a preventative: 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp. real raw honey in 1 cup of warm water - relief! And it kept any more from coming! Magic!

Also, apple cider vinegar -- the real stuff, like Bragg's -- also helps, but I think not as well as the above does. Plus the lemon/honey/warm water tastes far better!

By anon187185 — On Jun 17, 2011

I, in fact, just had a gallbladder attack last night and I am only 16! It was very horrible, yet my mother (who has had her gallbladder removed) told me that it would go away, or help rather, if I drank a can of coke. Specifically, a can. I drank a can and a half which helped me belch a lot. After that, I no longer felt nauseated/ was vomiting and the pain in my back/rib cage subsided to the point where I could finally go to sleep. I don't know if the can of coke works for all people, but I know it worked for me.

By anon84686 — On May 17, 2010

Could the person who wrote about Liptons tea say if it is normal tea or is a special blend like lemon tea?

By anon37322 — On Jul 18, 2009

I had three gallbladder attacks that were most painful. I then read the Internet and found that Lipton's tea stopped gallbladder attacks. I began drinking one cup of hot Lipton's Tea each morning and it has now been two years since I had an attack.

Do not believe the quacks when they tell you to have your gallbladder removed and there will be no side effects. Those who have had their gallbladder removed complain of upset stomach, and diarrhea for months if not years following the surgery.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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