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Gallstones and Low Carb

Gallbladder

Gallbladder in pink

Do gallstones improve or worsen on a low carb / high fat diet? It’s a common question with an interesting answer.

The gallbladder stores bile, a yellow-green fluid manufactured in the liver. The bile is used to digest the fat you eat. The question is: Is it good or bad for the gall bladder to eat fat?

The conventional fat phobic answer

The usual medical belief today is that fatty food can result in gall stones. This is because what happens if you already have gallstones in the gallbladder and eat fat: A gallstone can get stuck on the way to the intestines and give you a gallstone attack (pain in the top right part of your stomach).

The conventional advice is thus to eat low fat – and take pain killers if you get a gallstone attack. If the attacks continue the gallbladder is removed by routine surgery and the problem usually goes away. Probably with the side effect of slightly decreased ability to absorb fat and nutrients from what you eat (there is a reason we have gallbladders).

The conventional low fat advice rarely makes gallstone disease go away. Instead it often gets worse with time, until surgery is necessary. That is hardly a coincidence.

How to get gallstones

If you eat low fat less bile is needed to digest your food. More bile thus stays in the gallbladder. Long enough, perhaps, for stones to form. It’s been shown that people who (instead of fat) eat more carbohydrates are at increased risk of gallstones.

It all sounds logical. And there is even better evidence. The risk of low fat diets have been tested at least three times:

Studies of extreme low fat diets

galla

  • In a study of 51 obese people using an extremely low fat low calorie diet (just one gram of fat a day!) the gallbladder was examined by ultrasound before the diet and after one and two months. After one month four of the 51 participants had developed new gallstones. After two months more than one in four (13 people) had new gallstones! This on an almost fat free diet. Three participants needed to have their gallbladder removed during the study.
  • A similar study examined 19 people eating an extremely low fat low calorie diet over 16 weeks. At the ultrasound examination at the end of the study five people (again about one in four) had new gallstones.
  • A third study compared an extremely low fat diet with a diet slightly higher in fat during 3 months. More than one in two (6 of 11 people) in the group eating extremely low fat developed new gallstones. Nobody in the group eating more fat did.

Conclusion: Do you want gallstones? Avoid fat.

What happens if you do the opposite?

What if you were to do the opposite of the usual advice? Regularly eat food with fat in it? Then more bile will be used to digest the food. The bile ducts and the gallbladder will be flushed through regularly. Probably no stones will have time to form, and pre-existing stones might (if you are lucky) be flushed out into the small intestine.

The risk is that you will get gallstone pain in the short term – if you already have gallstones.

The question is: Do you want to think short-term (low fat) or long-term (higher fat)?

Does high fat food work?

It’s logical to think that food higher in fat can result in a gall bladder free from gallstones. But as far as I know no study has tested high fat food to people with gallstones.

On the other hand I know quite a few people who have experienced that their gallstone disease disappeared on a LCHF diet. Sometimes at the expense of initial gallstone attacks though.

A Swedish low carb site conducted a survey of its members. 145 people who used to have gallstones answered what happened since they started eating LCHF. Take the result with a huge pinch of salt as this kind of survey gives very unreliable answers:

Gallstone survey

This survey gives some support to the theory that high fat food can cure gallstone disease.

Gallstones and kidney stones

Patients with kidney stones get better advice. They are told to drink a lot of fluid, increasing the production of urine, so that stones do not have time to develop. If you already have kidney stones this advice could give you a painful kidney stone attack initially – but you are still advised to drink a lot.

The reason why we give the opposite advice when it comes to gallstones might be the obsolete fear of fat. If we were afraid of water instead patients with kidney stones might have been advised to avoid drinking to avoid kidney stone attacks. If they did not improve their kidneys would be surgically removed.

What do you say?

Have you had gallbladder problems? Have you tested a LCHF diet? What happened?

Mer

Other health problems

LCHF for beginners

PS

Another common question is if you can eat LCHF if your gallbladder is already removed. The answer is that this seems to work fine.

Some people without a gallbladder might have to increase their intake of fat gradually to allow their body time to adapt. Otherwise the body might not have time to digest the fat which could result in loose fatty stools initially. However this rarely seems to be a problem.

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221 Comments

  1. animor
    Your section on kidney stone advice was unclear. Why would drinking more water cause a kidney stone attack - initially - and would then the advice to drink more be correct or just an example of what not to do? It seems as if drinking water IS good but I'm not entirely sure I have understood you.

    "Patients with kidney stones get better advice. They are told to drink a lot of fluid, increasing the production of urine, so that stones do not have time to develop. If you already have kidney stones this advice could give you a painful kidney stone attack initially – but you are still advised to drink a lot.

    The reason why we give the opposite advice when it comes to gallstones might be the obsolete fear of fat. If we were afraid of water instead patients with kidney stones might have been advised to avoid drinking to avoid kidney stone attacks. If they did not improve their kidneys would be surgically removed."

  2. Jean
    I had my gallbladder removed over 10 years ago and when I tried this diet, I had a lot of tummy upset /pain/gas/diarrhoea which seemed to be related to the amount of fat in the diet and the reduction of bile, sans gallbladder, to break it down. Any suggestions to a solution for eating LCHF without a gallbladder would be much appreciated as I am borderline Type 2 diabetes and need to get my blood sugar level down. Thank you.
    Reply: #216
  3. Marguerite
    Linda, can you point me in the direction of the recipe for gallstone removal, please?
    Reply: #215
  4. Linda Rice
    Linda

    Marguerite, it is 8 years since I did my gallbladder flush, so the same recipe took a bit of finding. I found it at: livestrong.com under the heading; Epsom Salt and Olive Oil Detox. It is practically verbatim of the one I used.

    A friend tried another recipe, but it didn't work for her. Mine was far more detailed, though, with several days preparation.

    I feel obliged to say that I am not a doctor and I don't know your medical history. Having your doctor's advice and support would be reassuring. However, as intelligent adults we have to make our own, informed, decisions, at the end of the day!

    When you check out the recipe you will see you have a choice of lemon or grapefruit; if it is of any interest, I used the latter. If you decide to do it, I would love to know the outcome. Following are some tips: 1. Drinking the final concoction through a straw, is a good one. 2. Time it in advance to suit your schedule, and make sure you can have a complete day of rest, the day after the flush/detox.

    My experience: No sooner my head touched the pillow than I had to throw back the covers and run to the bathroom, where I seem to remember spending most of the night. So be prepared! All the best,
    Linda

  5. Linda Rice
    Linda Rice

    Hello Animor, going by your last paragraph you seem to have got it, at least as I understood it! It was simply an analogy to highlight the irony of the standard advice. Perhaps the good doctor would correct me, if I am wrong.

    The standard advice does leave those practicing it with "their knickers in a twist," when it comes to seeing the logical answers on this and other issues, like diabetes!

    As water flushes the kidneys, oil keeps the gallbladder flushed and refreshed. However, when there are already stones, it is can be quite a painful process. There again it is very painful having the stones and there is always the chance that a gallstone will block the exit, requiring immediate surgery, which can happen at any time. Stones are better out than in and for myself I preferred the flush to the surgery. Though, of course, it cannot be guaranteed to work! But, there again, nothing ventured, etc.

  6. Karen B
    I started having gallbladder problems after I did a very low fat diet. I have been in and out of the hospital 5 times where they had to give me morphine to take away the pain. I was lucky as my Dr had an Ultrasound done and we found out that my stones are about 2 cms. I had done the cleanse a 3 weeks ago and got a few out. I am now going to do more until I get no stones coming out. Amazingly after I did the cleanse the pressure in my right side was gone. Although it has since come back I understand that when you do the cleanse that sometimes you release the stones in the front of your gallbladder and then the rear ones move forward.
    It was much easier than I thought. But the Epsom Salts were horrible!!! The grapefruit and oil mixture was really quite tasty. I thought that part would be quite unpalatable. I put the mix into my Magic Bullet and voila it was all mixed and ready to drink.
    To avoid any problems just make sure you know before that you don't have any big stones or you could land in the hospital and have to have your gallbladder removed. Then take the time to prepare for the 5 days before. It is well worth it (except for the horrible Epsom Salts!).
    You can look at the Livestrong method or Hulda Clark's cleanse as well.
    Good Luck
  7. Emma
    I have some questions! I did a gallbladder flush about 6 months ago after years of food allergies and tummy pain. The results were amazing and for the first time I was able to tolerate eggs, avocado, banana and other foods. Since then I've been following a lchf diet and loving it, but the last 2 days I've started getting gallbladder pains again particularly after breakfast (bacon, eggs and avo). After reading everyone's comments the general consensus seems to be that more fat is better for gallbladder health, but in my case it seems the increase in fat is triggering pain again. I would really appreciate any advice!
  8. Monica
    Hi everyone, I had my first attack when pregnant with my first child 16 years ago, although I didn't know it was gallstones at the time, I went for years tolerating the pain (approx. once per month) until 8 years ago the attack was sooooooo bad I ended up in hospital to be told it was gallstones and they were blocking my liver (the whites of my eyes were yellowing), they removed the stones orally under sedation. I have been fine for years up until about 6 months ago when I went on the LCHP diet, I found that yogurt was what irritated my stomach to a point were I was physically sick, since then I have found a fantastic pain relief APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, a splash of this in undiluted juice each morning and just drink in one. This is said to dissolve stones and 'touch wood' ive not had an attack since January - 2 weeks after starting the apple cider vinegar.
    Hope this helps :-)
    Reply: #209
  9. bill
    "... I went on the LCHP diet..."

    Why would you do that?

    "... undiluted juice each morning..."

    Why would you do that?

    I'm repeatedly surprised by comments
    on this site. It's as if they haven't read
    even the basics of what this site is about.

    Reply: #210
  10. Monica
    Point 1 - part of the 'basics' of this site is LC for weight loss, so why wouldn't I do that?!
    Point 2 - undiluted juice (a splash) you try taking Apple Cider Vinegar neat..!!
    if you have points to make Bill, make them, not just repeat quotes, that's not helpful in the slightest.
    Reply: #211
  11. bill
    Monica:

    What is "LCHP"?

    You said: "...APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, a splash of this in undiluted juice...",
    not a splash of juice. You seem to be confused
    about what you said.

    What of my questions do you not
    understand?

  12. Monica
    Bill
    Personally, I think you are just picking for the sake of picking, I was trying to be helpful with regards to gallstones, end of story..!!

    LCHP - low carb, high protein
    Yes, a 'splash of apple cider vinegar' in a 'splash' of undiluted juice, not a full glass, I assumed I was talking to intelligent people therefore, didn't feel the need to write a splash of undiluted juice also, I thought this would be obvious, my mistake.

    I do not and have not said I don't understand your questions

    Anyway, I am getting bored of this back and forth, I have better things to do.

    Reply: #213
  13. bill
    Monica said: "LCHP - low carb, high protein"

    That might be a different website, not this one.

    This one is LCHF - low carb high fat.

  14. Sonia
    Thinking of trying the ketogenic diet. I have gallstones. Has anyone done this diet and been OK
  15. mrtmeo
    Dr Hulda Clark Liver Flush
    http://www.drclark.net/cleanses/advanced/liver-cleanse-page/liver-cle...
    It is important to do a kidney cleanse first and a parasite cleanse.
  16. TiredOfThis
    I also had my gallbladder out. Mine was taken out in 2009. I'm also pushing the envelope of type II. Now when I try to do Low Carb, I get some major stomach pain right below my rib cage/upper stomach. It's almost exactly where I used to have gallbladder attacks!!! Once I had to go the emergency room, because the symptoms were that of a gallbladder attack. The less than helpful staff, couldn't say what the problem was. I am wondering if there is a gallstone in a bile duct. Even if so, why does only eating low carb produce these symptoms.
    That was a year and a half ago. Now I am trying low carb again, and on my second day, I've started getting a little bit of that upper stomach pain AGAIN!!! Well I just went and made a sandwich, and it feels a little bit better. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
  17. Rachel
    I was on the HFLC diet for about a year when I developed bad gallbladder pains. I scanned positive with a 13mm gallstone and advised there was no way I could avoid having my gallbladder removed. Petrified I would not be able to eat high-fat low carb again I can confirm I am positively able to be back on this diet.

    What I am unable to do is eat wheat. That brings me severe diarrhea. I suggest anyone who has had their gallbladder out who is thinking their diarrhea is because they are eating fat with carbs, following gallbladder surgery should remove all carbs and see what happens. You have nothing to lose.

    I now realise the pains I use to get about 12 years ago must have been gallstones, may be they passed, may be they lay dormant, but this is when I was doing raw foods, juicing and low fat. I now wonder if the stones became bigger when on the HFLC diet because by going into Ketosis I was losing lots of weight and with it lowering my cholesterol, which has to surely be passing through the liver and gallbladder.

  18. Elizabeth
    This is an absolutely ridiculous article! There is not a person on earth who can benefit from a high fat low carb diet! I was on a high fat low carb diet most of my life. (Unintentionally) Both my parents were diabetic so I was just raised that way. Despite my "healthy" lifestyle I gained weight and started to have gallbladder pain, and pre diabetes! Well I recently went to a high carb low fat diet, and gues what? I completely reversed my high ac1 count, stopped having gall bladder pain, have lost weight and continue to slowly lose it. This article is going to kill people! You should never be on a diet that excludes all fats! But you shouldn't promote a diet that says don't eat carbs and eat all the fat you want! That's insane. Carbohydrates are so important to our health and well being. Again this is a terrible article and I pray that people who read this consider other options before clogging their arteries and causing themselves to become insulin resistant.
    Reply: #219
  19. Marion
    Um.. Elizabeth... Your parents were diabetics and ate LCHF and this helped them but it gave you pre-diabetics? How does that work?
  20. Linde
    My well admired Seattle cardiologist even recommends a LCHF diet. He doesn't support eggs and bacon all day, but lots of vegetables, adequate protein and lots of healthy fats, which are loaded with nutrients. You will deminish health problems and stabilize blood sugar if you follow this protocol. Apple cider vinegar or ACV is a tonic for your liver and gallbladder. Malic acid in the apples dissolves cholesterol formed stones and Is a godsend during an attack. I am starting the magnesium/Epsom flush, but prepping a few days before with vegetable soup and ACV since I cannot have any juice and it better for overall health. Whenever I have gallbladder discomfort I drink 2 Tbl. Raw ACV with 8 oz. filtered water and stevia drops, my symptoms cease every time. As soon as I went off of my LCHF diet, my gallbladder discomfort has gotten worse, which is why I am doing the flush. Sticking with any restrictive diet is next to impossible long-term, hense the typical yo-yo diet frenzy! The fair scones at the Evergreen Fair are tough to resist. I only had one, I promise! :) Good luck everyone!!
  21. bianca
    Healthy, active, 35 year old woman doing LCHF for 3 years. Most recent tests revealed polyps on my gallbladder. I've read that these can just be fat accumulated. I will retest in a year to see if they're still there or disappeared. Anyone any idea?
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