Gallstones are pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder. These stones develop because cholesterol and pigments in bile sometimes form hard particles. Approximately 80 % of gallstones are cholesterol stones and usually have yellow-green color.
What Causes Gallstones?
Several factors may come together to create gallstones, including:
- Body weight
- Decreased motility (movement) of the gallbladder
Gallstones can form when there is an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. For instance, cholesterol stones may develop as a result of too much cholesterol in the bile. Another cause may be the inability of the gallbladder to empty properly.
Pigment stones are more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as cirrhosis (a liver disease in which scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue) or blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia.
What Are the Risk Factors for Gallstones?
Risk factors for getting gallstones include:
- Genetics. If other people in your family have had gallstones, you are at increased risk of developing gallstones.
- Obesity. This is one of the biggest risk factors. Obesity can cause a rise in cholesterol and can also keep the gallbladder from emptying completely.
- Estrogen. Estrogen can increase cholesterol and reduce gallbladder motility. Women who are pregnant or who take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy have higher levels of estrogen and may be more likely to develop gallstones.
- Ethnic background. Certain ethnic groups, including Native Americans and Mexican-Americans, are more likely to develop gallstones.
- Gender and age. Gallstones are more common among women and older people.
- Cholesterol drugs. Some cholesterol-lowering drugs increase the amount of cholesterol in bile, which may increase the chances of developing cholesterol stones.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes tend to have higher levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat), which is a risk factor for gallstones.
- Rapid weight loss. If a person loses weight too quickly, his or her liver secretes extra cholesterol, which may lead to gallstones. Also, fasting may cause the gallbladder to contract less.
What Are the Symptoms of Gallstones?
Gallstones often don’t cause symptoms. Those that don’t are called “silent stones.” A person usually learns he or she has gallstones while being examined for another illness.
When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen and upper back. The pain may last for several hours.
- Other gastrointestinal problems, including bloating, indigestion and heartburn, and gas
Natural Gallbladder Cleansing Remedy
Detoxifying the liver is an important way to help maintain the health of the body. Though there are several liver detoxes available, one that has become popular over the past several years is the olive oil and Epsom salts cleanse. The cleanse is easy to follow and takes three days of preparation and a day and a half to complete. It also contains simple ingredients easily found at home or the store.
To prepare for the cleanse, purchase enough apple juice or apple cider to drink a glass every 2 hours for 3 days. The detox ingredients include olive oil, Epsom salts and lemon or grapefruit juice.
For three days leading up to the cleanse, drink a glass of apple juice every two hours. The day of the cleanse, eat a light, low-fat breakfast and lunch. Eating high fat foods triggers the release of bile from the liver into the gallbladder, which helps in the digestion of fat. Eating low or no fat allows bile to build up in the liver and gallbladder throughout the day, which Moritz says forces a release of gallstones upon ingesting the olive oil in the evening.
What to expect?
According to Chang, this “traditional European folk remedy” should cause the body to expel pea-sized greenish-brown stones upon rising the next morning. The amount of stones can range from just a few to many. Clark says these stones are gallstones with “cholesterol crystals” that come from the liver and gallbladder. Critics, however, maintain they are simply a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Moritz, Chang and Clark assert the olive oil and Epsom salt liver cleanse will help to increase energy, clear skin and reduce food allergies.
Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting may occur during the flush. Those sick or menstruating should not do a liver cleanse. Children should not participate. Some experts believe those with gallstones should not do this liver cleanse because stones may become lodged in the bile duct. The American Cancer Society says “available scientific evidence does not support claims that liver flushes are useful for preventing or treating cancer or any other diseases.”