Gallstones are small, stone-like objects that form within the gallbladder. The stones are typically composed of hardened cholesterol and/ or bile salts. Once formed, gallstones can block bile ducts and cause complications such as pain, jaundice, serious infections, and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Gallstones are a common disorder of the digestive system, which affect around 15% of people aged over 50, mainly on those who are overweight. Gallstones can occur at any gender, but it is more common in women. Certain ethnic groups also tend to be more prone to develop gallstones, including American Indians and Mexican Americans.
Although certain risk factors such as age, race, and gender can’t be prevented, but there are some natural ways that you can take to reduce your chance of getting gallstones.
- Maintain a normal weight
Since being overweight is a major risk factors for gallstones so by losing some weight may help to reduce your risk of developing gallstones. However, you should avoid rapid weight-loss as it can disrupt your bile chemistry which can lead to the formation of gallstones.
- Eating a healthy diet
Diet low in fats and high in fiber may not only help you lose weight but it may also reduce your risk of gallstones. Eat plenty of foods that are high in fiber such as fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains, and avoid fatty foods such as red meat, sausages, beef, butter and lard. Diet which is low in fiber and high in fats prevents the absorption of bile acids by the liver, causing the formation of gallstones. People who are suffering from gallstones must also avoid fried foods and dairy products.
- Exercise regularly
Exercise regularly may help to reduce cholesterol levels and thus can help prevent gallstones. Exercise is also helpful in combating obesity and diabetes, two risk factors for gallstones. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day to keep your body fit and healthy.
- Avoid certain medications
There are certain drugs that put you at higher risk of developing gallstones, including cholesterol lowering drugs (such as gemfibrozil and fenofibrate) and oral estrogen pills. If you are taking one of these drugs, talk to your doctor about your risk of gallstones, and ask if there are other medications that may better for your condition.