Every now and then one of my patients will call me complaining of a kind of strange, uncomfortable pain in their right neck and shoulder blade area. Most often, they also don’t feel well either – a little nauseated, maybe a little stomach pain and don’t feel much like eating. They wonder if they’ve gotten some kind of flu bug. They’re often shocked when I tell them that it could be their gallbladder acting up and/or they may be passing gallstones! If this sounds like you sometimes, here’s what you should know about gallstones and gallbladder problems.
Your gallbladder is an organ that sits just under the liver. It helps you digest fat by concentrating and storing bile produced in the liver. It secretes this concentrated bile through ducts into the small intestine where your food starts to be digested. When your gallbladder is not making enough bile – often a slowdown occurs after age 30 especially in women – you can become unable to process and digest fats. This can result in nausea, abdominal cramps, or pain in the right side of your abdomen after you eat, especially if it is a heavier, fatty, or spicy meal.
Over time, undigested fats can form into stones. These stones are made from gallbladder products like cholesterol, calcium and bilirubin. They can be very small and pass unnoticed through your bowel. However, when stones become larger, they can block the neck of the gallbladder causing inflammation and distention. Or, they can cause a backup of bile into the liver and/or pancreas causing obstructive jaundice or pancreatitis resulting in a lot of pain.
Symptoms of gallbladder problems and gallstones can be mild, or more severe resulting in an “attack” which is felt as a distressing pain between the shoulder blades in the right upper back and lower neck. Nausea, vomiting, fever and/or chills may occur and can often necessitate a visit to your doctor or even local emergency room. At this point, many times doctors will recommend the gallbladder be removed.
However, you don’t have to wait until your gallbladder starts sending out emergency distress signals to make it healthy again. There are many natural, food/supplement “fixes” for older gallbladders that do not produce bile very well that can get your gallbladder working well again and keep you from having it removed.
Gallbladder diseases, and gallstone events, are most common in women over the age of 30, though it does occur in some men as well. Other important risk factors include:
As I often tell my patients, your diet can both cause and prevent disease. It all depends on what kind of foods and substances you put into your body. To prevent, and/or heal gallbladder disease naturally, include the following foods and supplements in your diet:
Gallbladder attack/gallstones are no picnic to experience. If you develop sharp pains in your stomach, upper right back/neck, call your doctor immediately as you may need an ultrasound, and/or further medical measures. In the meantime, however, changing your diet can help you prevent, and even remedy, gallbladder disease and stones before they becomes a crisis.