Gallstones are little stones that form in the bladder, mainly caused by cholesterol. As cholesterol levels in the bile surpass bile acid levels, this imbalance leads to the formation of crystals and subsequently gallstones. Although some of the risk factors for gallstones cannot be changed, managing weight through diet can be key in preventing the condition. Furthermore, studies have shown that some foods and drinks are highly effective at warding off the formation of gallstones.
Ian Marber, nutritional therapist, stressed that cholesterol-lowering foods like fibre are important in the prevention of gallstones.
He added: “Excess cholesterol can be notably reduced with fibre, at least 20 grams, preferably 30 grams daily. The best sources are beans and pulses, vegetables, fruit, wholegrain and nuts.”
A study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, found that diets high in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat and refined sugar were often to blame for the formation of gallstones.
The study found that one serving of oats, the equivalent of a half a cup – contains no added sugar and virtually no saturated fat. Neither did it contain cholesterol or trans fat, two of the culprits known to hike the risk of gallstones.
Marber added: “Oats contain a specific fibre called beta-glucan that is especially useful in binding to excess cholesterol so that it ends up in the loo rather than being reabsorbed into the blood via in the intestines.
“One oatcake supplies 1gram of the 3grams of beta-glucan required to reduce cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in eight weeks, while a small bowl of porridge gives the full 3grams.”
A BMJ study has shown that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day is beneficial against gallstone formation.
Researchers reported that coffee stimulates contractions and lowers cholesterol in the bile. However, they noted such effects are only apparent when coffee contains caffeine.
The NHS notes: “Gallstones can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain that usually last 1 to 5 hours, although it can sometimes last just a few minutes.
“It’s sometimes triggered by eating fatty foods, but may occur at any time of day and may wake you up during the night.
“Biliary colic doesn’t happen often. After an episode, it may be several weeks or months before you have another episode.
According to the health body, the pain can be felt:
- In the centre of the abdomen
- Just under the ribs on your right-hand side. It may spread from here to your shoulder blade.