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Why Do So Many People Need Their Gallbladder Removed?

Why Do So Many People Need Their Gallbladder Removed?

You’ve likely heard of friends or acquaintances having a gallbladder removed. It’s considered a routine operation. You may wonder why so many people need this surgery. 

At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified bariatric surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria C. Chang, MD, explain the etiology of this common health problem. 

What function does the gallbladder serve? 

The gallbladder is a part of your digestive system. Your liver makes a liquid substance called bile that aids digestion. Your body stores bile in your gallbladder until it’s needed when you’re eating. 

As you eat, the muscles surrounding your gallbladder release the bile you need to break down fats in the food you consume. 

How gallbladder disease occurs 

Sometimes the bile — composed of bits of cholesterol, bile salts, and water — forms clumps that turn into solids called gallstones. A gallstone can be as tiny as a speck of dirt or as big as a golf ball. You may have gallstones and never know it. 

Symptoms of a gallbladder attack

On the other hand, sometimes gallstones block the movement of your bile. They can get stuck moving into your stomach. When this happens, you experience severe pain, usually in the upper right side of your abdomen under your rib cage. 

You can experience one or more of these symptoms when having a gallbladder attack:

The pain during a gallbladder attack is so severe that many people go to the emergency room because they don’t know what’s happening. Once the gallstone passes, the pain subsides. 

Why is gallbladder surgery so common?

Someone you know has likely had gallbladder removal. It’s a common operation in the United States for a number of reasons.

If you eat a diet high in saturated fats, are overweight, or are obese and have a body mass index (BMI) over 30, you’re at increased risk of gallbladder disease. Overconsumption of fatty foods causes an increase in the cholesterol your body produces.

Even if you’re not overweight, the Western diet can be heavy in saturated fats. You may develop too much cholesterol in your bile. We recommend diets that reduce high cholesterol if you’re prone to gallbladder issues.

Gallstones are more frequent in seniors. You’re more at risk if you’re over age 60, because clumps have had more time to develop in your bile.

About 25% of people with gallbladder disease may have a gene that increases chances of this health issue. If you’re Mexican American or Native American, you have a 30-70% chance of developing gallstones.

If you’ve had bouts with painful gallstones causing blockages in your digestive system, medical professionals recommend gallbladder removal. Having a planned surgery is a better option than the expense and trouble involved in going to the emergency room in severe pain. 

Can I function without a gallbladder? 

Yes. You and the millions of other people who need gallbladder removal can live a healthy life. Instead of being stored in your gallbladder, the bile moves into your intestines. Eating a diet composed of whole grains, lean protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables helps you stay healthy. 

Call one of our Houston, Texas, locations of Turnquest Surgical Solutions or request an appointment through our online portal today. We can help you lead a healthier life.

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