|SOUTH BAY TOTAL HEALTH
Dr. Arlan Cage, ND, LAc
Gallstones form when bile in the gallbladder condenses into solid, crystal structures. Gallstones can be made of bilirubin, a bile pigment, cholesterol, or both. In the U.S., 90% of gallstones are cholesterol stones. These stones can cause the walls of the gallbladder to become inflammed or can get stuck in the bile ducts, either of which can produce excruciating pain. In severe cases this can be life threatening, though such occurences are rare.Epidemiology: How Serious is the Problem?
More than one million new cases of gallstones are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Roughly 700,000 will undergo the conventional treatment of choice – Cholecystectomy – or surgical removal of the gallbladder. While this is generally recognized as a “safe” procedure at 99.0 to 99.5 percent effective, between 0.5 and 1.0 % of these surgeries result in death, about 3500 in 2003. These statistics on the safety of gallbladder surgery have changed little in the last 20 years. While the risks of surgery are believed to be declining slightly, which reduces the risks of fatality for any one individual undergoing surgery, the incidence of gallstone disease is rising, and total morbidity and mortality in the US population may be increasing.Symptoms of Gallstone Disease
Other symptoms may include fever, sweating, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes pain radiating to the right shoulder. Definitive diagnosis of gallstones is made with ultrasound imaging, as shown at the right.Ironically, after surgery up to 20% of patients still experience the pain of “Gallbladder Attacks”, even though their gallbladders are gone. This may be due to spasms in the bile duct, the liver or general inflammation in the digestive system, which is especially possible if part of the root cause includes food allergies, which can inflame all the body’s mucous membranes.The figure at the lower right shows a gallbladder containing stones after it was removed. Stones can range in size from a few millimeters to several inches across.Gallstone Formation
Abnormal bile composition. Gallstones form as the result of abnormal bile composition, specifically, more cholesterol than bile acids. Bile is produced in the liver. Normal bile contains roughly equal amounts of cholesterol and bile acids. If the bile composition is wrong, it is a sign of abnormal carbohydrate and lipid processing in the liver, which, in turn, means that carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the entire body has been altered in an abnormal way!! The factors that cause this are either excess cholesterol, or an inability of the liver to convert cholesterol into bile acids. Vitamin C, Vitamin B3 (niacin) and the amino acids Taurine and Glycine are all needed to form bile acids. The standard American diet is often deficient in vitamins which can contribute to the formation of gallstonesThicker and Stagnant Bile. One of the gallbladder’s normal functions is to slightly concentrate the bile, which it does by re-absorbing water. When first produced by the liver, normal bile is about 97% water; after a number of hours in the gallbladder, the percentage of water is down to 85%. When too much cholesterol is present, the bile gets thicker and harder to move. As the gallbladder tries to contract and force the bile into the duodenum, less bile leaves and more remains behind in the gallbladder. The longer bile remains in the gallbladder, the more concentrated it becomes as the gallbladder continues its job of reabsorbing water, making the bile left behind even thicker. Eventually a pool of thick, stagnant bile builds up in the gallbladder. When concentrated chemicals are allowed to sit a long period of time, chemical reactions can take place that normally wouldn’t occur. The bile becomes super saturated and the excess cholesterol begins to crystalize. In other words, gallstones are born.Risk Factors for Abnormal Bile
Long Term Naturopathic Treatment for Gallstones
1) Normalize bile composition leaving the liver
2) Dissolve existing gallstones in the gallbladder
3) Prevent the reabsorption of bile and cholesterol in the small intestine
Naturopathic treatment will start with a core, high-quality nutrition program designed to reduce your body’s tendency to produce excess cholesterol. It will also use a variety of nutritional supplements called lipotropic factors to break up fat deposits in the liver and thin the bile. Still other agents, both herbs and supplements, can dissolve existing gallstones. The exact details will vary from one individual to another depending on your medical history. As always in Naturopathic Medicine, the treatment program is customized to you and your individual situation. Dr. Cage will review your health history and any medications you are currently taking so he can ensure the natural treatment program he prescribes will be safe and effective.
Possible Contra-Indications for Natural Gallstone Treatment
The Take Home Message:
• Gallstones are NOT the result of problems in the Gallbladder!! • Instead, gallstones are the result of abnormal bile entering the gallbladder from the liver • Abnormal bile production in the liver results from improper diet and lifestyle,
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