Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease is swelling of the gallbladder, a pear-shaped organ under the liver that secretes bile, a fluid that helps with digestion. Gallbladder disease often occurs with gallstones. You can have gallstones and never have any symptoms, although if the stones are large, they can be painful and require treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

What Causes It?

A gallbladder attack is caused by inflammation of the gallbladder. This usually happens because a stone is blocking a passageway in the gallbladder. Gallstones develop in the gallbladder when substances in bile form hard particles. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

If you are having a gallbladder attack, you will feel tenderness when the upper right side of your abdomen is touched. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) occurs when the bile duct (a tube between the liver and gallbladder) is also blocked. If your health care provider thinks you have a gallstone, you will probably have an ultrasound. During an ultrasound, sound waves take pictures of your gallbladder. This test is painless and can be performed quickly, which is important if you are in a lot of pain.

Treatment Options

Gallbladders that cause pain are usually removed. Most gallbladder surgery today is performed with a laparoscope, an instrument that shows the surgeon pictures of your gallbladder as it is being removed and allows for a smaller incision and a shorter hospital stay than traditional surgery.

Some drugs can dissolve stones, avoiding the need for surgery. It can take two years for a stone to dissolve.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

It is important to see your provider for tests before you start any alternative treatment, so that you will use the remedies that are right for the size of your stone and your condition.

Nutrition Herbs
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. Homeopathy
Some of the most common remedies are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get better. Physical Medicine
Castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to skin, cover with a clean soft cloth (such as flannel) and plastic wrap. Place a heat source (hot water bottle or heating pad) over the pack and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. For best results, use for three consecutive days. Apply to abdomen, especially the gallbladder area, to help reduce swelling.

Acupuncture may prove especially helpful in pain relief, reducing spasm, and easing bile flow and proper liver and gallbladder function.

Following Up

Early surgery usually ends symptoms and recurrence; stones may recur in the bile duct, however.

Special Considerations

If you have diabetes or are pregnant, there is a higher chance of complications from gallbladder attacks. If you are pregnant, use choleretic herbs with caution. Milk thistle and dandelion root are safe in pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider before you take any medication or supplement.


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