When my daughter was 5 months old, I woke up in the middle of the night, with a strong pain in my upper abdomen. I’d never felt pain like this before. It was just near my stomach, under the sternum, where the ribs meet, and went all the way through to my back. At first, I thought it was heartburn, but it kept getting worse.
I went to the hospital, explained the pain to the doctors. They put me on some antibiotic drip, wouldn’t let me eat and in the morning, gave me an ultrasound to confirm that I had gall stones in my gall bladder. The surgeon met with me and asked me when I wanted to schedule the ‘minor‘ procedure to have my gall bladder removed. I told him that I certainly needed to do some research before they hacked a body organ out of me, especially since the pain had subsided and I had spent the day researching on my phone how to take care of gall stones.
What is your gall bladder and what does it do?
Your gall bladder is this tiny organ that is part of your digestive system, it’s located just below your sternum, near your stomach. In order to understand your gall bladder, you first should understand the function of the liver in the digestive system. You liver produces a liquid green/yellowish substance called bile, which breaks down fat in the food that you eat. While your liver is constantly producing bile, your gall bladder actually stores the bile and intelligently squirts it out into your small intestine whenever you eat something with fat in it.
Ever lay down at night and hear this gurgle sound in your guts that comes in a sort of rhythmic pattern for a few minutes? That’s your gall bladder squirting bile. It’s very common to accumulate ‘stones‘ in your gall bladder. Stones are the solidification of stuff like cholesterol and calcium carbonate. Even ‘healthy‘ people, like me, can get them. Many people actually have gall stones, but never realize it because they don’t cause problems. The problems arise when the tiny tube, the bile duct, that connects your gall bladder to your small intestine, gets blocked with a stone. When a gall stone tries to pass through this tube and gets stuck, it hurts like hell. It gets inflamed. The danger lies in the very rare event of the stone getting so stuck that it becomes extremely painful and infected and you can end up damaging the liver and in very rare events, you can die (yup, those of you who checked Dr. Google at 2 in the morning, what did you expect to find?! Read on though please…)
The western ‘cure‘ for gall stones is to simply have the gall bladder to be surgically removed and everyone says how safe it is to do so… However, many people who do get their gall bladder removed, have problems later down the track with digestion and with their liver. If one was to have severe and chronic gall stones, or gall bladder failure, you may want to consider having the surgery, but if you have only a few attacks and then go back to normal, there are many natural remedies you can do to keep your gall bladder where nature intended it to be. Even my family doctor told me that.
How to avoid getting gall stones
The western recommendation for preventing gall stones is to avoid eating fatty food. But, this is a blanket statement because not all fats and foods were created equally and everybody processes foods differently. These recommendations have been suggested to me from people with a background in ayurveda, the ancient science of life. I’ve been following these recommendations for years, and they have helped keep, not only my gall bladder in check, but other parts of my digestive system running smoothly.
- Avoid eating heavy foods at night. Cheese, nuts, legumes are really hard to digest. You should only eat these foods in the middle of the day… when the sun is high in the sky. (certain legumes, like split yellow mung beans in the evening, are ok)
- Eat more warm, moist, slightly oily foods, like veggie soup, especially in the evening.
- Drink plenty of water (but don’t need to become obsessed about it)
- Avoid eating cold foods, especially in winter or at night. If you really need that icy dessert, have it in summer in the early afternoon
- Reduce your consumption of animal products or anything that requires a lot of energy to digest. Meat and eggs are difficult for the body to digest. Dairy can also be hard to digest if it’s eaten cold, or if it’s something like a hard cheese. If you really want some cheese, try eating soft cheeses instead, and make sure that it’s cooked. When the digestive system is sluggish, the toxins accumulate faster in the body (and can create gall stones).
- Lay off the nuts, especially at night. Nuts create a lot of heat in the body and bile is ‘hot‘. If you’re already a ‘hot‘ type of person, you’ll want to avoid certain nuts. Seeds are better; sesame, sunflower, soaked almonds are best.
- Avoid eating too much fried food, especially at night.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Try to eat no later than 3 hours before you go to bed (aim for not past 7pm). So you’re not falling asleep on a full tummy.
- Do a gall bladder cleanse periodically. There are several ones to try. I’ve tried one similar to this one. But, I found this one to be a little harsh, there are more gentle cleanses out there. Look around and do your research. Many mainstream doctors will tell you that you cannot cleanse the gall bladder, so don’t be surprised if you ask your doctor and he/she looks at you like you’re a quack. Ayurvedic doctors can help you find a cleanse that is right for your body. Otherwise ask at a health clinic, ask a naturopath or person trained in homeopathy, they will point you in the right direction. Most health food stores will carry a gentle liver/gall bladder cleanse tea or pill.
Make sure you’re asleep during Gall Bladder ‘Time’
Gall bladder ‘time‘ tends to be from 10pm-2am in the morning. This is when your body should be sleeping and doing repairs. The liver is working hard to remove toxins from the body. Often, if I stay up late (and I’m stressing about something), this is when my gall bladder starts to hurt. Drink some water and go to bed immediately if you start feeling a smidgen of pain.
What Can You Do During an Attack?
Simple remedies for the 1st signs of Gall Bladder Pain
The first signs of gall bladder pain is often mistaken for heartburn. The difference between heart burn and gall bladder pain is that gall bladder pain tends to be a bit lower down than heart burn (which is generally in the throat), and the pain often goes straight through to your back when it starts getting bad.
- drink some warm water.
- chew on some cumin or fennel seeds to help with digestion.
- meditate, or rest, go to sleep.
- go for a walk, to help aid digestion.
- occasionally eating something actually helps, especially if you have an empty tummy. Have something that sticks to you, like toasted bread with an oily spread like olive oil or butter, or warm rice, most of the foods listed above to avoid, might not be good at this point, but if you’re desperate, and you know you’re hungry, try eating something.
Gall Bladder Pain is not going away
- Mix about 2 tablespoons of 100% olive oil mixed with a big squeeze of lemon. Mix this really well and drink it. You’ll have to chug it like a shot, it’s pretty weird tasting, and then lie down or rest. The oil will help the gall bladder squirt and hopefully squirt out whatever is in there getting stuck.
Gall Bladder Pain is still not going away
- Take about 200mls (8oz) of warm water and dissolve a teaspoon of epsom salts (Magnesium Sulfate). You can usually buy Epsom salts in the grocery stores or at the pharmacy. Drink it and lay down. The magsium relaxes the bile duct and allows the stone to pass through. This should give you instant relief. This remedy is only reserved for emergencies, when they pain just won’t go away. If you still do not feel relief, consider going to the doctor or the emergency room.
Gall Bladder Soup
If you’ve been having a funny gall bladder, try making this soup recipe a friend of mine gave me. It’s really yummy, easy to digest and easy to make. And, ironically, it’s green, just like the bile in your gall bladder!
Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor. I’m NOT a certified natural medicine practitioner. I am a person who has experienced gall bladder attacks and I’m sharing what has worked for me. Please use your common sense. If the natural remedies aren’t working, or if you find you are having a reoccurring problem, do not hesitate to see your doctor or the emergency room for a diagnosis.