The gallbladder is an organ that helps in the digestion of fats. It is a bag located under the liver and that stores and concentrates the bile, which is released by the gallbladder in the upper part of the small intestine in response to food, especially fats. However, on occasion, it becomes clogged or inflamed giving rise to diseases such as cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) or cholelithiasis (gallstones). It is difficult to prevent the appearance of these problems, but yes there are a number of nutritional recommendations that can be followed to improve gallbladder health.
As reported Salvador Morales Conde, boss General Surgery and Digestive System Service of the Quirónsalud Sagrado Corazón Hospital, Seville, “For those patients with symptomatic cholelithiasis, it is advisable to avoid diets that favor the development of symptoms.
Based on this, the expert advises “reduce overall fat intake, taking into account that raw vegetable fats (olive oil) are better tolerated than fried foods and those of animal origin ”. It is also important to “limit the contribution of cholesterol, the consumption of complex carbohydrates (such as bread, cereals, pasta, and rice) and avoid simple sugars ”.
Finally, “they should avoid the intake of pastry or pastry products and carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods such as flatulent vegetables ”.
In addition to these tips, the experts at Endocrinology and Nutrition of the General University Hospital of Valencia advise:
- Follow a diet high in fiber Y calcium and a sufficient supply of vitamin C, to reduce the risk of bile saturation, with the consequent prevention of stone formation.
- The seasoning of the food should be soft (lemon, fennel, aromatic herbs, and salt).
- Restrict flatulent vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, artichokes), legumes, and whole grains.
- Eat legumes pureed or sifted.
- Avoid copious servings of meat, poultry, eggs, or fish.
- Avoid consuming whole dairy products, canned or smoked fish, foods rich in simple sugars and nuts.
- Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
- The consumption of raw olive oil. Fatty foods that have not been subjected to any culinary technique are better digestively tolerated.
- It is recommended la regular practice of moderate physical exercise (walk 30 minutes a day).
- Recommended culinary techniques: those that incorporate less fat into food, such as boiled, baked, microwaves, in papillote, steamed, in a water bath.
As mentioned before, cholecystitis is one of the health problems that are related to the health of the gallbladder. As Morales Conde describes, “It is an inflammation of the walls of the gallbladder that causes abdominal pain, usually in the right and/or upper-middle part of the abdomen”.
In about the 90-95% of cases, “Acute cholecystitis occurs as a consequence of an obstruction of the gallbladder outlet by a stone that is located in the cystic duct, in the neck of the gallbladder or Hartman’s bag,” explains Carlos Suárez, a specialist in Digestive System of the Medical-Surgical Center for Digestive Diseases (CMED). “In the remaining 5-10%, such inflammation occurs in the absence of gallstones (acalculous cholecystitis).”
Regarding the symptoms, Morales Conde explains that “this picture is usually accompanied by fever and malaise, as well as food intolerance “.
In Suárez’s opinion, it is important to know that “up to 75% of patients with acute cholecystitis have had previous attacks of biliary pain (right subcostal pain)”. Furthermore, “when inflammation of the gallbladder wall (acute cholecystitis) occurs, the pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen becomes much more intense and can often radiate to the rest of the abdomen, back or ipsilateral scapula ”.
Other symptoms that may appear in patients with cholecystitis are “nausea, vomiting, and localized rebound tenderness in the gallbladder area”, Suárez points out.
When would it be recommended to remove the gallbladder?
According to Morales Conde, “the removal of the gallbladder, cholecystectomy“It would be indicated in all cholelithiasis that has produced some symptoms, no matter how mild, since the chances of a short or medium-term complication such as cholecystitis, cholangitis, choledocholithiasis, or acute pancreatitis, are high”.
On the other hand, there are more doubts about asymptomatic cholelithiasis, since a percentage of them do not produce symptoms, there is no clear and evident data that make us predict the cases that will develop symptoms or a complication. In contrast, in patients with risk factors for developing more complex cases of cholecystitis (such as gangrenous cholecystitis), such as diabetic patients, cholecystectomy is recommended.
As Suárez puts it, “an inflamed gallbladder (cholecystitis) is a diseased gallbladder and will remain diseased regardless of whether the inflammatory process resolves with conservative measures, if the patient’s conditions allow it, the treatment should be cholecystectomy ”.
How is this operation done? Must be done today laparoscopically, although later it is necessary to convert to open surgery based on the findings during surgery.