Dealing with gallstones can be frightening and painful. Facing surgery is not much comfort. Some people have heard of diets to help with gallstones, but the question is, “do such diets really work?” While a gallbladder diet may not be a fix for everyone, most people can benefit from change in what they eat to prevent gallstones or as part of therapy to treat existing stones.
Why Dietary Change?
Looking through medical literature will reveal a connection between diet and the occurrence of gallstones. Even though it may not be the only cause of gallstones, diet is certainly an issue to be considered.
Another factor related to gallstones is obesity. Gallstones are shown to occur much more frequently in people with high body mass index numbers. Because many of the dietary recommendations for gallstones will also deal with weight issues, it offers further motivation for implementing dietary change.
What Kind of Change?
Diet is not a pleasant topic. Most people simply do not enjoy having to limit what they eat, and associate diet with bland, unappetizing food. However, the changes that are helpful for gallstones do not mean a life of boring food. Rather, it is just a shift in eating choices that is not very difficult to accomplish.
- Low Fat – one of the biggest issues in dietary causes of gallbladder issues is the intake of fats. Saturated fats, such as those that are found in palm oil, are major contributors to gallbladder issues. Palm oil is commonly used to fry foods, so eliminating fried foods, including potato chips, French fries, and others, is a first good step in the right direction. Shortening and other such fats should also be limited.
- Good Fats – not all fats are bad for your gallbladder. Monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil or canola oil, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oils and flax seed oil) actually help in the digestion of other fats and triglycerides. Nuts also have good fats in them.
- High Fiber – dietary fiber is another positive thing for gallstones. Fiber helps the body deal with cholesterol, one of the major components of gallstones. Brown rice and other whole grains are great choices.
- Fruits and Vegetables – not only are these foods high in dietary fiber, but they also offer powerful antioxidants which help the body deal with toxins and disease.
- Less Sugar – high sugar diets contribute to the formation of gallstones. Cutting back on sugar as well as high carbohydrates foods such as pastas and white breads, is a positive dietary change.
- Drink Some Coffee – research suggests that the caffeine in coffee has two actions on the gallbladder: stimulating contractions and lowering cholesterol concentration in the bile. Unfortunately, the same effects have not been found from drinking soft drinks.
What Does a Day-to-Day Menu Look Like?
Wondering what these dietary changes mean on a day to day basis? Here are a few ideas:
- Breakfast – whole-grain granolas, cereals, pancakes, and muffins are great choices for breakfast, as well as low-fat yogurt and a fruit.
- Lunch – choices abound for the midday meal and can include a meat and veggie wrap in a whole wheat tortilla, a delicious salad with chicken or turkey, or some vegetable soup and a whole grain roll.
- Dinner – make your meat choices healthy by selecting baked chicken or fish, or less marbled cuts of meats. Add a potato and some steamed broccoli, and you have the makings of a delicious meal.
While dietary change is not always simple, the long-lasting health benefits make it well worth the effort. Like any habit, developing a healthy diet takes a little discipline, but it soon becomes routine.