Gall (bladder) stones – myths and facts
Gall bladder is small pouch that lies under the liver. Liver produces bile juice that is necessary for digestion. Bile juice is stored in the gall bladder. When the digestion begins, the gall bladder gets squeezed to release the bile juice which is sent into the smaller intestines through the bile duct. Bile duct is a pipe shared by gall bladder and the liver to store and release bile.
Gall bladder stones or gall stones are hard crystalline deposits formed inside the gall bladder. These are usually formed from the bile juice produced by the liver. In most cases, gall stones show no symptoms or problems unless they are really large. Common symptoms of gall stones (if shown) are pain, nausea or inflammation.
“Many patients come to me after several hours of Googling and tell me that they suspect the presence of gall stones and are in need of surgery or treatment” says Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran, one of Chennai’s top gastroenterologists at The Laser Gastroenterology Clinic. “My typical response would be to tell them to relax and stop diagnosing the problems themselves and that is the job of a specialist to diagnose and decide on the treatment” adds Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran.
For the benefit of our readers, here are some common myths and facts about gall stones.
Gall stones often produce abdominal pain
As said earlier, the fact is, presence of gall stones do not produce any kind of symptoms in most of the cases. Only about 3% of patients see some symptoms of gall stones. The abdominal pain can be due to acid reflux or other medical condition that might be present.
Drinking more liquids, especially milk will remove gall stones from the body
You should note that gall stones are different from kidney stones. Drinking more water or liquids to flush out small kidney stones definitely works. But with gall stones, the condition is different. There is no medical evidence that says that consuming more liquids or milk can get rid of gall stones or dissolve them away. Similarly, apple juice vinegar is also not a proven home remedy to get rid of gall stones.
Turning to vegetarian diet or a vegan diet can avoid formation of gall stones
If you want to stop eating meat, well, it’s up to you and many vegetarians and some dieticians will be with you and encourage you to stay a vegetarian or a vegan. However, there is no research or study done on vegetarians that concludes that not consuming any kind of meat helps in avoiding gall stone formation.
Medicines are available to dissolve gall stones
Well, this is partly true. There are medicines that can help in removing smaller gall stones but there no sure shot way to dissolve gall stones of any size. We recommend not to believe in any such claims. You may be doing more harm to your body than good by resorting to such medication.
You must be under medication or undergo surgery if your doctor detects gall stones
Not really. You can live a comfortable and healthy life even with gall stones as long as they don’t trouble you. A good gastroenterologist will never put you under medication or advise you to go for a surgery just because he/she detected gall stones while diagnosing other conditions (unless they are large and showing symptoms). If your doctor said that you are fine without any medication, just go home happily.
Once removed, gall stones are not going to come back
If the gall stones get into the bile duct obstructing the flow of bile juice, an endoscope is used to remove them. This doesn’t mean that the stones are gone forever and are not going to come back. The stones may start forming again just like the kidney stones that recur. Unless otherwise necessary, your gastroenterologist wouldn’t suggest a surgical excision of gall stones.
If shown, what are the symptoms of gall bladder stones?
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Symptoms like jaundice (yellowish eyes, yellowish urine, skin colour changing to light yellow)
- Pain under the liver
- Bloating of stomach and other stomach related ailments.
When you have any physical ailment, the first thing that you should NOT do is to go online and look for possible medical conditions. The most likely output of that would be added stress and anxiety which may worsen your symptoms. Just look for a good gastroenterologist near you or in your area and take an appointment. If you are not satisfied with one doctor’s consultation, go for a second opinion with another good specialist to confirm first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment for gall stones. That’s all you need to do when you are not healthy!