How Long Can You Live With Gallstones?

Unbelievably, some doctors diagnose gallbladder disease in a rather sexist way, according to nationally syndicated radio program personality and medical director of the Hoffman Center, Dr. Ronald Hoffman. They learn the “five Fs” in medical school to help remember a usual gallbladder patient: fair, fat, forty, fertile and female. Although this may sound sexist, the reality is that gallbladder disease mostly disturbs overweight, middle-aged white women who have had multiple pregnancies.


Gallbladder disease is a modern one that affects about 20 million Americans. The gallbladder’s function is to store bile to aid in digesting fats. Gallbladder surgery has become the most common major surgery and is sometimes required to remove gallstones, according to Hoffman. A case study from Saudi Arabia shows that the cause of this disease is largely due to diet. A study performed at the University Hospital of Riyadh showed that gallbladder surgery rose 600 percent in Saudi Arabia after the people shifted from a nomadic, traditional diet to a sedentary lifestyle with fatty foods from the developed world.


5 Foods to Avoid If You Have Gallbladder Problems

Learn More

Gallstones are formed from cholesterol and bile salt build-up, according to Hoffman. When the gallstones block the bile flow, a terrible pain on the right side ensues.


Several factors contribute to gallbladder disease. Heredity is one. Mexican-Americans, Native Americans and people of northern European descent get this disease more frequently than the rest of the population. Age is another. People over 60 are more at risk. More women are prone to this disease, and excess estrogen could be a factor because hormone replacement increases gallstones, according to Hoffman. A high fat or sugar diet contributes to gallstone formation. Obesity is a factor. Bile in overweight people is supersaturated with cholesterol, which leads to gallstones. In women of normal weight, constipation leads to gallstones.


Foods That Cause Gallbladder Pain

Learn More

You can live with gallstones and be symptom free, according to Hoffman. If you have gallstones, certain foods can trigger attacks and pain such as eggs, pork, onions, poultry, milk, coffee, oranges, corn, beans and nuts. Often, avoiding those foods will keep you pain-free even though you have gallstones. Hoffman says that a doctor can prescribe a better diet, one with more fiber and certain herbs that help drain bile. He warns that crash diets can exacerbate the problem.


You do not necessarily need surgery to remove gallstones, notes Hoffman. People with diabetes, however, are the exception and usually will need to have surgery. In addition, if you are in constant pain, you may require surgery. Most people, however, can live indefinitely with gallstones as long as you can control your pain through diet.


There are ways to prevent gallstones, according to Hoffman. He recommends that people lose excess weight, but not rapidly. Quick weight loss actually leads to gallstones. A healthy diet that is low in fat, cholesterol and sugar and high in fiber and vegetables can prevent this disease. If you have gallstones, eliminate the food triggers mentioned above, and taking nutrients like fish oil can help.