While I was at medical school I thought getting gallstones had a lot to do with being ‘fair fat and forty’, because that’s what was peddled by consultant surgeons (not very PC back then)!

What I didn’t know back then was that most people who eat a Western diet have gallstones. And most of us don’t even know it.

If you know you’ve got gallstones, chances are you’ve experienced some pretty bad pain.

Most people think gallstones are only found in the gallbladder, probably because these are the ones that cause very noticeable and painful problems.

However, most gallstones are actually found in the liver. They sit there inflicting their damage in a more quiet way, which I’ll come back to in later blog.

liver stones

For today I want to share with you the most common causes of gallstones.

Causes of Gallstones

The biggest causes of gallstones by far are dietary. Gallstones are very common in populations living a Western lifestyle and eating a Western diet, and very uncommon in those that don’t..

Overeating

Your digestive system can only produce so much digestive juices, and it can’t go beyond that. So when you eat more than you need you put a big strain on this process and things start to go wrong, one being gallstones forming.

When you finish a meal, your stomach needs to be at least a quarter empty. Otherwise it can’t mix the food properly, and therefore your digestive system is overloaded and overworked.

Think about squashing too many clothes into a washing machine – it can’t do it’s job because there’s no room for things to move about. The same thing happens in an over full stomach, and this has a knock on effect to the rest of the digestive system.

Eating Between Meals

When you pick at food between meals you’re adding more pressure to your digestive system. It might not have even had time to finish the last lot of food, and it’s being asked to start again.

This constant start/stop digestion is asking your body to do something it can’t do. One of the consequences of this being your habit is gallstones.

Eating Small Meals at Lunch Time

Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile is needed to digest fat in particular, but also protein.

Bile production is at its highest at midday.

If your routine is to only eat a fairly light lunch you may not use all your stored bile, so it sits there sluggishly in your gallbladder becoming one of the common causes of gallstones.

sandwhich

Eating Heavy Meals in The Evening

Because your digestive secretions are highest at midday, they are naturally lower in the evening.

If you have your biggest meal in the evening you’re asking your digestive system to do its hardest work when it’s on a low ebb. Basically your body can’t deal well with big evening meals.

Once again – a digestive system under stress and this is another common causes of gallstones.

Eating Too Much Protein

Gallstones are very common in Western countries who eat a relatively high protein diet, as compared to other populations.

Asian populations who eat a high fat but low protein diet don’t suffer much with gallstones.

When we are growing babies we need protein to make our bodies grow. This is the time in our life that we need the most protein compared to our size. Mother Nature sees that we get enough to grow, and 5% of the nutrition of human breast milk is protein.

This leaves me wondering why the UK government recommends adults (who do not need as much protein as a growing baby) need around 20% of their diet to be protein. This does really add up does it?

Eating more protein than your body needs has consequences on your digestive system, one of those being gallstones.

The commonest causes of gallstones are dietary. I touched on this last week too, with processed dairy products:

Low Fat Dairy Products Are NOT Healthy

I’ll be coming back to gallstones quite soon because I want to tell you about how you can get rid of them, and stop getting any more. Although now you know some of the causes of gallstones you can put a stop to getting more than you may have already.

Watch out for more!

Have a great week.

Dr Julie