Gallstones are stone-like deposits that can develop in the gallbladder. They are usually made of either cholesterol or bilirubin and can grow to the size of a golf ball. They are most common in women over the age of forty with certain medical conditions. Gallstones may be symptomless for a time, but a gallstone attack may include severe pain in the upper abdomen and vomiting. Some people experience jaundice and fever during an attack. Gallstones are usually discovered by ultrasound, CT scan, or blood tests and treated by surgery or medication.
One surefire way to beat gallstones is to rear them off at the pass. Preventing gallstones is the single best method of attack. The best prevention technique is to control your weight. Obesity and rapid weight fluctuations can trigger gallstones. Monounsaturated fats from fatty fishes, avocados, olive oil, and flaxseeds may aid in preventing gallstones. A diet rich in fiber and low in sugar and carbohydrates will be your best eating regimen. It goes without saying that controlling your weight via regular exercise is imperative in gallstone prevention.
Certain health conditions make you more susceptible to developing gallstones. People with diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, or who have had bone marrow or organ transplants are at an increased risk. Certain conditions that affect the liver’s production of bilirubin such as hemolytic anemia will also make you more likely to develop gallstones.
The body develops gallstones to protect us from free-roaming toxins in our bodies. If the toxins did not solidify, they could be absorbed by intestinal walls and cause damage to our bodies. Despite these protective benefits, too many gallstones can clog your digestive system and cause considerable pain.
Women are twice as likely to develop gallstones, especially if they are pregnant, on hormone replacement therapy, or using birth control pills. Hispanic and American Indian women tend to be more often afflicted. Obesity increases the risk for developing gallstones significantly; however, rapid weight loss is not recommended because the liver will secrete more cholesterol into the bile and could actually cause gallstones. Certain medications (statins to control cholesterol production, for example) may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile.
While some risk factors are within your control, many more are not. Unfortunately you cannot control your age, race, or hormones. The most important way to prevent gallstones, particularly if you are in a high-risk category, is to control your weight. If you are obese, it is best not to allow your weight to fluctuate dramatically. If you are trying to lose weight, do so healthfully and slowly to avoid a sudden attack.
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