The gallbladder is your body’s silent soldier. It’s the small, pear-shaped organ that stores and releases bile (a fluid produced by the liver) to help your body digest fats. Among the different problems that plague this tiny organ, the most common are gallstones, which are hard crystal-like stones that form in the gallbladder. Gallstones can either be cholesterol stones – which form when bile forms crystals with cholesterol – or pigment stones – which are formed when bile combines with calcium salts and other substances. Although the exact cause of gallstones is unknown, it is believed to be caused by any one of the following factors.
- An increase in bile cholesterol levels
- Insufficient bile salts, which prevents cholesterol dissolution
- Other substances in bile resulting in cholesterol crystal formation
- Concentrated bile
Factors like obesity and a poor diet increase the risk of developing gallstones. If you’re looking to prevent gallstone formation naturally, here are 6 foods that can help you.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has for the longest time been known for its many health benefits, including the prevention of gallstones. It boosts bile flow, which improves fat digestion. This, in turn, reduces the risk of gallstones. It also helps in reducing cholesterol levels and in breaking down elements that might otherwise form gallstones.1
You can consume 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of turmeric in a day. You could either add it to your food while cooking or mix it with warm milk or with water and honey. To increase its absorption, you could add some black pepper too. Black pepper contains piperine, the active ingredient that gives pepper its pungency and enhances the absorption of curcumin.2
Although turmeric helps maintain gallbladder health, it also has blood-thinning effects. So, if you’re on blood-thinning medications or have bile duct blockages, talk to your doctor before you consume it.
2. Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
The gallbladder works with the liver to remove toxins from your body. So, to prevent cholesterol and calcium from crystallizing and forming gallstones, your gallbladder and liver should be detoxified regularly. Eating alkalizing fruits and vegetables like lemons, apples, beets, celery, and tomatoes reduces inflammation and detoxifies both the liver and gallbladder. Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices is also beneficial for this very reason. Unfiltered, raw apple juice – in particular – is quite helpful as it contains a high amount of pectin, which not only softens existing gallstones but also prevents the formation of new ones.3
3. Foods Rich In Healthy Fats
A sufficient intake of healthy fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids) reduces the level of cholesterol in your body, lowering your risk of gallstones.4 Because your body can’t produce many of such fats, incorporating foods rich in them can benefit you. Add olive oil to your foods for monounsaturated fat supply. Also, eat fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, mackerel, and sardines to supply your body with polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You could add a dash of lemon to olive oil to make a tangy, healthy homemade vinaigrette. Add it to fresh salads and eat them regularly. Such a vinaigrette goes well with fish too.
Caffeine is controversial, but a steaming cup of joe might just help you prevent gallstones alongside fueling your body. Those who drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day are said to have a lower risk of gallstones than those who don’t. Caffeine’s effect on lowering the risk of gallstones can be associated with its ability to stimulate bile flow.5 While one cup of coffee usually does no harm, consult your doctor before increasing your caffeine intake.
5. Fiber-Rich Foods
Dietary fiber prevents the accumulation of cholesterol in bile, which reduces the chances of gallstone formation.6 So, consuming foods that are rich sources of dietary fiber like legumes, oatmeal, barley, sweet potatoes, turnips, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, asparagus, flaxseeds, oranges, apricots, grapefruit, and mangoes can help you steer clear of gallstones. Try a combination of your favorites among these foods to ensure you get enough fiber from every meal.
6. Iron-Rich Foods
A deficiency of iron increases the risk of gallstones. 7 So, start filling up on iron-rich foods like spinach, kale, sea vegetables, and whole grains to increase cholesterol metabolism and prevent gallstone formation.
Besides eating these foods, here a few food habits you could incorporate to prevent gallstones from forming.
Food Habits That Can Reduce Gallstone Risk
- Don’t skip meals: Skipping meals causes a buildup of bile in the gallbladder. And until you have your next meal, bile will keep accumulating, increasing the chances of gallstones. Have small meals at regular intervals during the day to allow bile to keep getting released from the gallbladder into the small intestine, preventing its build-up.
- Follow a well-balanced diet: High-calorie and high-fat foods increase the risk of gallstones.8 So, eat a balanced diet low in high-fat foods like french fries, potato chips, pizza, and ice cream. Make sure that you include more plant-based foods in all your meals to let them work their alkalizing magic on your gallbladder.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Crash dieting and rapid weight loss can cause gallstones.9 So, if you intend to lose weight, do it slowly by eating right and incorporating exercise into your daily routine.
Tweak your food habits and start eating healthily to keep your gallbladder in good shape and be free of pesky gallstones.
|↑1||Debjit Bhowmik, Chiranjib, KP Sampath Kumar, Margret Chandira, and B. Jayakar. “Turmeric: a herbal and traditional medicine.” Archives of applied science research 1, no. 2 (2009): 86-108.|
|↑2||Shoba, Guido, David Joy, Thangam Joseph, M. Majeed, R_ Rajendran, and P. S. S. R. Srinivas. “Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.” Planta medica 64, no. 04 (1998): 353-356.|
|↑3||Kritchevsky, D., S. A. Tepper, and D. M. Klurfeld. “Effect of pectin and cellulose on formation and regression of gallstones in hamsters.” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 40, no. 4 (1984): 350-351.|
|↑4||Gaby, Alan R. “Nutritional approaches to prevention and treatment of gallstones.” Alternative medicine review 14, no. 3 (2009): 258.|
|↑5||Leitzmann, Michael F., Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Donna Spiegelman, Graham A. Colditz, and Edward L. Giovannucci. “Coffee intake is associated with lower risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in women.” Gastroenterology 123, no. 6 (2002): 1823-1830.|
|↑6||Sulaberidze, G., M. Okujava, K. Liluashvili, M. Tughushi, and S. Bezarashvili. “Dietary fiber’s benefit for gallstone disease prevention during rapid weight loss in obese patients.” Georgian medical news 231 (2014): 95-99.|
|↑7||Johnston, Sean M., Kevin P. Murray, Scot A. Martin, Karen Fox-Talbot, Pamela A. Lipsett, Keith D. Lillemoe, and Henry A. Pitt. “Iron deficiency enhances cholesterol gallstone formation.” Surgery 122, no. 2 (1997): 354-362.|
|↑8, ↑9||Attack of the gallstones. Harvard Health Publishing.|