I used to have gallbladder attacks. I ate a low-fat diet as directed by doctors (yes, plural). I continued to have attacks, except more frequently even with the low-fat diet. I was even told I should have it surgically removed! I was doing everything the doctors said, why should I have it removed?!
What I didn’t know at the time was this was the wrong advice! The gallbladder excretes bile when there’s fat to digest. When there’s no fat to digest, the bile gets sludgy and stones can form. Usually the stones are in the form of cholesterol, but it’s not by eating cholesterol rich foods which cause cholesterol in the body. Instead, it’s actually NOT eating cholesterol that causes the body to increase its natural production of cholesterol. The body panics and creates extra in case of emergency such as a famine. (Reference – Weston A. Price Foundation)
Things that contribute to gallstones are low fat diets, moderate to high carbs (even whole grains), and also low stomach acid. Contrary to popular belief, much like the gallbladder temporary fix, most people have too low of stomach acid (I’ll do a post on it later).
- In a study of 51 obese people using an extremely low fat low calorie diet (just one gram of fat a day!) the gallbladder was examined by ultrasound before the diet and after one and two months. After one month four of the 51 participants had developed new gallstones. After two months more than one in four (13 people) had new gallstones! This on an almost fat free diet. Three participants needed to have their gallbladder removed during the study.
- A similar study examined 19 people eating an extremely low fat low calorie diet over 16 weeks. At the ultrasound examination at the end of the study five people (again about one in four) had new gallstones.
- A third study compared an extremely low fat diet with a diet slightly higher in fat during 3 months. More than one in two (6 of 11 people) in the group eating extremely low fat developed new gallstones. Nobody in the group eating more fat did.
Patients with kidney stones get better advice. They are told to drink a lot of fluid, increasing the production of urine, so that stones do not have time to develop. If you already have kidney stones this advice could give you a painful kidney stone attack initially – but you are still advised to drink a lot.
The reason why we give the opposite advice when it comes to gallstones might be the obsolete fear of fat. If we were afraid of water instead patients with kidney stones might have been advised to avoid drinking to avoid kidney stone attacks. If they did not improve their kidneys would be surgically removed. – (Reference – The Diet Doctor)
If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you’ll not be able to absorb fat and nutrients as well as if you had it. That doesn’t mean there’s never a reason to remove your gallbladder, but look for alternatives.
To correct my gallstone issue, I increased my natural fat intake slowly and supported my stomach acid. By natural fats, I’m speaking of olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, full fat dairy, and saturated animal fats. Do NOT up your fats by eating burgers, pizzas, doughnuts, french fries, etc. These are heavy in carbs, trans fats (vegetable and seed oils), and are usually ultra-processed. It will make things worse.
As a side note: I did have some pain when passing the stones through the ducts, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the gallbladder attacks blocking the ducts.