This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.
STONES IN THE BILE DUCT CAN CAUSE GALLBLADDER ATTACKS IN PEOPLE ON VERY LOW CALORIE DIETS
If you want to reduce your weight, lowering your caloric intake is an option. If you want to reduce your risk of gallbladder attacks while losing weight, don’t lower your caloric level too far.
Crash diets have been proven to increase gallstone attacks.
Crash Diets and Gallstones
A new study from researchers in Sweden followed 6,640 people for one year who were losing weight on diets with different caloric levels. The “crash diet” included liquid meals providing 500 calories a day for six to 10 weeks. After that phase, those dieters gradually resumed eating solid food and followed a maintenance diet for nine months with an exercise regimen.
The other dieters followed a “low calorie diet” with between 1200 and 1500 calories a day for the first three months. It also included two liquid meals a day, then transitioned to a weight maintenance diet of all solid food for the next nine months.
As reported in the International Journal of Obesity, 48 people on the crash diet developed gallstones requiring hospital treatment while only 16 people in the low calorie group did.
One reason offered for this difference in gallstone attacks is that the people on the crash diet lost more weight. They had an average loss of 30 pounds at three months compared to 17 pounds for the low calorie group and an average loss of 24.5 pounds at the end of one year compared to 18 pounds for the others.
Even though obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, losing weight too quickly just makes the problem worse.
What Causes Gallbladder Attacks?
The gallbladder’s function is to hold bile, a liquid made in the liver, and release it during digestion when needed to help breakdown fats. Bile contains water, bile salts, protein, bilirubin (a waste product), cholesterol and fat.
The most common type of gallstones is made from cholesterol. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile it can harden into small pebble-like substances – or stones.
During rapid weight loss the liver secrets extra cholesterol into the bile, and that can increase the risk of gallstone formation. It is also believed gallstones are formed when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough, which is the case when eating a very low fat diet.
Bile travels through ducts, or tubes, to get from the liver to the gallbladder to the intestines. If there are stones in a bile duct that block the flow of bile it can cause inflammation. That can lead to the fever, jaundice and the pain commonly associated with a gallstone attack.
Who Gets Gallstones?
In addition to being overweight and losing weight too quickly, simply having gallstones is a risk factor for developing more. Other contributing factors identified by the National Digestive Disease Information Clearing House include:
Female – Women are twice as like as men to develop gallstones
Family History – There is a possible genetic link to gallstone problems
Diet – The more cholesterol and fat in your diet, the greater your chances of making gallstones
Ethnicity – American Indians have a genetic predisposition for gallstones and Mexican-Americans men and women also have higher rates
Cholesterol-lowering drugs – Drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile
Gallstone attacks typically occur after eating a meal and can mimic signs of a heart attack, so getting a proper evaluation is critical.
If your pain is in your lower back, see my post about kidney stones to see if they are a problem for you.