Pain from gallstones can be excruciating; many people describe the pain as being as bad as labour pains (even men!). Gallstones form in a poorly functioning gall bladder. The gall bladder stores bile which helps us to digest fats. If the bile has the wrong balance of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin gallstones can form.
There are two types of gallstones; hard and soft. An ultra sound examination is used to confirm the presence of gallstones. Intense pain can occur if the gallstones put pressure in the bile duct, the tube from which the bile leaves the gall bladder. However, much of the time people are unaware they have gallstones; gallstones can increase in size and number before matters become urgent.
So how can you prevent gall stones from forming? And what can you do once you have them?
Research shows your diet plays a big part. Alcohol, sugars and poor quality fats all increase your risk of getting gallstones [1-4]. The 'way' you eat seems important too; that is people who generally have bigger sized meals and less small snacks are more likely to be affected . On the list of foods more likely to prevent gallstones are: fish, fruits , vegetables [3, 5], polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats  (high in fish, cold pressed flaxseed oil, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil), oats , and nuts [8, 9].
Nutrients that have been found to decrease the occurrence of gallstones include vitamin C [4, 10], folic acid, magnesium and calcium . If I do use supplements I recommend the Entire Katoa Food State supplements for the optimum absorption and bioavailability.
People who are obese are more likely to have gallstones, so focus not only on improving your diet to lose weight, but also on exercising. People who walk more often (rather than sit), have less chance of gallbladder problems .
There are many herbs which help the gallbladder to work more efficiently; these include Yellow Dock, Artichoke, Dandelion, Mountain Grape, Wild Yam, Milk Thistle and Balmony . Other herbs may be used in addition, if the gallbladder is inflamed, to help disperse wind, and to help liquefy the gallstones. Do seek advice before using any herbal medicine. However, it is safe to drink a cup of Dandelion tea a day to help support your liver and gallbladder .
A really excellent naturopathic treatment which gets rid of gallstones is a Liver Gallbladder Flush. I have used this with many clients and it has resulted in the passing of gallstones which meant they no longer needed surgery. It is an involved procedure and beyond the scope of this column. I recommend you only do this with guidance from a naturopath. If you have very large gallstones the Flush may not be suitable for you. Do seek advice so that you can do the flush safely and successfully.
2. Leitzmann MF, Tsai C-J, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL: Alcohol consumption in relation to risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003, 78(2):339-347. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/78/2/339
3. Misciagna G, Centonze S, Leoci C, Guerra V, Cisternino AM, Ceo R, Trevisan M: Diet, physical activity, and gallstonesa population-based, case-control study in southern Italy. Am J Clin Nutr 1999, 69(1):120-126. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/69/1/120
5. Tsai C, Leitzmann M, Willett W, Giovannucci E: Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Med 2006, 119:760 - 767. http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00340-8/abstract
6. Tsai C-J, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL: The Effect of Long-Term Intake of cis Unsaturated Fats on the Risk for Gallstone Disease in Men. Annals of Internal Medicine 2004, 141(7):514-522. http://www.annals.org/content/141/7/514.abstract
7. Andersson M, Ellegard L, Andersson H: Oat bran stimulates bile acid synthesis within 8 h as measured by 7-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one. Am J Clin Nutr 2002, 76(5):1111-1116. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/76/5/1111
8. Tsai C-J, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL: Frequent nut consumption and decreased risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2004, 80(1):76-81. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/80/1/76
9. Tsai C-J, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL: A Prospective Cohort Study of Nut Consumption and the Risk of Gallstone Disease in Men. Am J Epidemiol 2004, 160(10):961-968. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/160/10/961
10. Walcher T, Haenle M, Kron M, Hay B, Mason R, Walcher D, Steinbach G, Kern P, Piechotowski I, Adler G et al: Vitamin C supplement use may protect against gallstones: an observational study on a randomly selected population. BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9(1):74. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-230X/9/74