The gall bladder’s function in the body is to store bile which is produced by the liver. It also helps to aid in digesting and absorbing fats in the small intestine. Gallstones are a common ailment of the gall bladder and affect millions of people every year. Gallstones form in the gall bladder typically when the liver begins to secrete bile that is overly saturated with cholesterol. The excess cholesterol forms stones when it crystallizes and these stones are stored in the cystic duct or in the gallbladder. Gallstones can also form when low levels of bile acids are evident.
For many years the treatment for gallstones involved surgically removing the gall bladder. This is a very invasive surgery and can cause extreme pain for patients while they recover from the procedure which typically takes around six weeks. Today however, laparoscopic surgery can be done to remove the gallstones. Laparoscopic surgery is much less invasive and requires a shorter recovery time. Most patients are back to normal daily activities in as little as one week after the surgery.
Other gall bladder treatments include therapy to dissolve the bile acid as well as extracting the gallstones via a tube or catheter placed into the gallbladder. Shock-wave therapy has also been very successful in dissolving bile acid and gall stones. These treatments are designed to leave the gall bladder in place. They do not require removing the gall bladder in order to remove the gall stones. Of course, if the gall bladder is not removed, the patient faces a much higher risk of recurring gall stones in the future.
In order to prevent gall stones from recurring in patients who have had them in the past or for those who may be considered at a high risk of developing gall stones, a modification in the daily diet is often recommended. The amount of dietary fiber that a patient consumes each day plays an important role in decreasing the risk for gall stones. Drinking coffee regularly has also been associated with decreasing the risk of gall stones according to studies done. Men who drink at least two cups of coffee every day show a forty percent lower risk of developing gall stones in the future. Those who drink more than four cups of coffee each day may lower their risk by as much as forty-five percent.
Regular exercise can also help to prevent the risk of developing gall stones. Vigorous exercises such as running, power walking, jogging and many racquet sports can help to cut the risk of developing gall stones. Studies have shown that exercising for just thirty minutes each day five days each week can reduce your risk for developing gall stones by as much as thirty percent or more. It is believed that since regular exercise helps to keep the body in better overall health, normalize blood sugar and insulin levels and generally promote a healthier function of the internal organs, it can significantly reduce the risk of developing gall stones even in those that are at a higher risk due to other factors.
Non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS may also help to prevent the occurrence of gall stones in many patients. Aspirin or ibuprofen may help to lower your risk of forming gall stones. Although there are many non-invasive treatments for gall stones currently available, your doctor will tell you that prevention is the best way to defend yourself against this often painful condition. Eating right, getting plenty of exercise and avoiding foods that may contribute to gall stones is the best treatment method. If you do experience pain that you believe may be related to gall stones, it is very important that you seek medical help immediately as gall stones can cause irreparable damage when left untreated.
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