Are you having pain just below your rib cage? It may be a form of gallbladder disease. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you that a body system needs attention because it’s not working properly.
At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified general and bariatric surgeons treat many patients with gallbladder disease. Here’s what we want you to know about the gallbladder and disease related to this organ.
What is the gallbladder?
Your body needs fluid to help you digest your meals. Your liver makes that fluid, called bile, which helps you absorb the fats and vitamins in your food. Your gallbladder stores the bile when you’re not eating and also moves waste from your liver into your small intestine.
What are forms of gallbladder disease?
Gallstones are the most common type of gallbladder disease; more than 20 million American adults have them. Gallstones are pieces of digestive fluid that have formed into solids. They can be as tiny as sand or as big as a golf ball. Sometimes gallstones are asymptomatic, but you should seek treatment for those that cause pain and other symptoms.
Other types of gallbladder disease include a type of acute or chronic inflammation, infections in the gallbladder, and gallbladder cancer. If inflammation isn’t checked, it can lead to gangrene of the gallbladder.
Aside from pain under your rib cage, other common symptoms of gallbladder disease are gas, diarrhea, and pain after you eat.
Risk factors for gallbladder disease that you can’t control
Some risks can be controlled, while others can’t. Most of the risks that can’t be controlled are those you’re born with. Here are some of them.
If you’re a woman, you have double the risk of developing gallstones compared to men. Elevated estrogen levels from pregnancy or hormone replacement can increase risk for gallstones.
If you’re over 60, you have 4-10 times the chance of developing gallstones than younger people. Older adults often have elevated levels of cholesterol released in their bile — a major contributor to gallstone formation.
If you’re of Native American or Mexican lineage, you’re at high risk of gallbladder disease. Those of European descent have an intermediate risk of 10-30%, while those of Asian and African heritage have a low risk.
Your family history
Genes play a role in your health. If others in your family have had gallbladder disease, you’re more likely to have it, too.
Gallbladder disease risks you can control
Following are risks for gallbladder disease that you can lower, depending on your lifestyle and the actions you take.
Being overweight or obese
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re at increased risk of gallbladder disease. Too much cholesterol from the types of food you’re eating can clog your bile ducts, which leads to gallstones.
Crash diets, weight cycling, fasting
If your weight loss attempts result in crash diets, fasting, or yo-yo dieting — rapid weight loss and then regaining the weight right away — your body may increase its cholesterol production, forming gallstones. On the other hand, fasting overnight may help protect against gallstones.
Your eating habits
You’re overweight not only because of the amount you consume, but also what you consume. A Western diet low in fiber and high in fat, refined carbohydrates, and cholesterol can lead to gallstone formation.
Have you tried a supervised weight loss program? If you can develop healthier eating habits, you’ll lower your risk for gallbladder disease. If you’re in a failure cycle with diets, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.
At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, we review your medical history, including all of the medications you take. Certain medications increase your risk of gallstones, but there may be an alternate medication you can take.
Call or request an appointment with Turnquest Surgical Solutions through our online portal for treatment for your gallbladder problems and other bariatric and general surgery needs. We have two locations in Houston, Texas.