In general there’s no diet that can completely eliminate gallstones, as curing the condition usually requires surgery. Just the same, certain foods may alleviate the symptoms or make the stones more prone to dissolution and breakdown, and there's a lot of backing for diets that make it harder for the stones to form from the outset. Most medical practitioners recommend foods that are low in cholesterol, as well as those that can reduce and control cholesterol levels in the blood. The vast majority of gallstones are made of excess cholesterol deposits in the blood that are improperly filtered and lead to build-ups. While diets low in cholesterol won’t always help reduce existing deposits, they might, and in almost all cases they’ll help reduce future growths, too. Insoluble fiber can also be helpful on the prevention side.
Understanding Gallstones Generally
Understanding the primary function of the gallbladder how gallstones are formed is usually an important part of any care regimen, even one as simple as dietary changes. The gallbladder is a small organ connected, by way of ducts or tubes to the pancreas, liver, and small intestine. A healthy liver produces bile and passes it along to the gallbladder. The gallbladder holds the bile until digestion begins, and then passes it to the small intestine, and in turn, the small intestine uses the bile for digestion.
Gallstones are basically blockages formed by condensation or nutrient collection along these pathways. range in size from a grain of rice to a walnut. Two types of gallstones, cholesterol stones and pigment stones, can develop in the gallbladder. Cholesterol stones are the most prevalent type, and are usually the easiest to avoid through dietary changes.
Importance of Early Intervention
Scientific evidence shows, and most medical doctors agree, that no special diet or food exists that will dissolve gallstones. Stones that are big enough to cause discomfort and pain normally require surgery or laser techniques to remove. Some claim that homeopathic remedies incorporating lecithins and high doses of vitamin C into the diet can break down gallstones, but this hasn’t been proved on a large scale. Still, the theory is normally considered sound. Cholesterol, in the presence of high vitamin C concentrations, becomes a bile acid that may help to dissolve gallstones. Lecithins, found in tofu and lentils, help to disintegrate fat molecules and may also help to break down gallstones.
Just the same, most experts focus on prevention rather than direct treatment. Instead of trying to rid the body of gallstones after they've formed, the medical community usually promotes the prevention of gallstone formation through a healthy diet.
Focus on Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels contribute to the formation of cholesterol stones. Bile is like a soup composed of cholesterol, bilirubin, proteins and bile salts. When there is an excessive amount of cholesterol in the body, it will be incorporated into the bile, where it can precipitate or fall out of the bile and form crystals. The small crystals then coagulate to form cholesterol stones of various sizes. A diet for gallstones should decrease cholesterol levels in the blood to potentially help prevent stones from developing.
Foods Focused on Reduction
In general, a diet for gallstones should emphasize two areas: a reduction in cholesterol intake and increased intake of foods that help to control cholesterol levels in the blood. Reducing excess cholesterol in the blood will, ideally, lower cholesterol concentrations in the bile. It is unlikely to cure stones that have already formed, but will usually reduce the opportunity for new masses to develop.
Eating a low-cholesterol diet typically means avoiding saturated fats, which are found in red meats, poultry with the skin on, processed meats, egg yolks, butter, shortening and hydrogenated oil, to name a few. Instead, people should use lean meats that are not coated with a layer of fat, or else they should remove the fat or skin before cooking. Broiling meat or cooking it on a rack to allow the fat to drain away before eating can also be effective. When cooking stews and soups, experts usually recommend letting the fat coagulate and then skimming it off. When cooking oil is absolutely necessary, choosing one low in saturated fat but high in monounsaturated fat, like olive oil or canola oil, is usually the best bet.
Importance of Fiber
In addition to incorporating low-cholesterol foods, a diet for gallstones should also include things that help to control cholesterol levels in the blood. Fiber locks onto cholesterol and fat, bundles it together in a waste product, and eliminates it from the body. This results in lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. Foods rich in fibers include whole grains, beans, brown rice, and fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, pears, prunes, and figs.