In my practice I come across more and more gallstone cases, it seems to be on the rise again and the reason behind it most of the time is obesity, rapid weight loss and the well known yo-yo dieting. Extreme excess and then starvation procedures, nutrient deficiencies interfere with the liver function which can not make up good quality bile, and gallstones may form.

Fat Free dieting and Gallstones

Fat free 2 celery sticks.
If there’s no fat … the bile stays put and gets saturated.

It happens especially in the case of fat free dieting. Bile is a fluid that helps your body digest fat and also removes processed toxins from the liver. Each time you eat something with lipids in it, the duodenum releases a hormone (cholesystokinin or CCK) that lets the gall bladder know to release bile. If there’s no fat going into the stomach, the bile stays put and gets saturated.

Saturated Fats and Gallstones

On the other hand, obesity, and if the diet is rich in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates and low in fibre, one can also end up with gallstones.

BBQ steak and bacon.
The result of a diet high in saturated fats and low in fibre can also be gallstones.

Cholesterol and Gallstones

Fibre binds bile and holds on to cholesterol, removing it from the body. Cholesterol lowering medications lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood, but as they do not treat the cause, the liver makes even more – saturating the bile with it. These pebble-like formations contain 80% cholesterol and the rest is bilirubin (from the breakdown of red blood cells) and Calcium. When the bile contains too much of these solid materials, it can harden into gallstones

Gallstones and Antacids

The other factor that is needed for the bile flow is acid from the stomach. Most people with this problem have been taking antacids for a long time to treat heartburn due to sluggish digestion, leading to too low acid levels and malabsorption of nutrients

Brightly coloured tablets.
Antacid tablets are not helpful. Acid is needed for bile to flow.

Other Causes

Excess estrogen due to hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, contraceptive pills, pre-menopause and HRT also causes bile stagnation. Even excessive sunbathing/ sun-bed usage can lead to pigmented gallstone formation.

Nausea when Eating Fat

In many cases, gallstones produce no symptoms. However, gallstones can block the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder, which can lead to fat malabsorption and eventually nausea and pain when eating fat. These symptoms can arise when gallstones block the bile ducts (tubes that transport bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine for use in digestion) and are collectively referred to as biliary colic or a “gallbladder attack,” may develop suddenly.

Wholegrain breakfast cereal in milk.
Photo by Jan Willem Geertsma
Wholesome breakfast cereal high in fibre that helps remove cholesterol.

Abdomenal & Back Pain

They may include: pain in the right upper abdomen that builds rapidly and lasts from 30 minutes to several hours, pain in the back between the shoulder blades or under the right shoulder.

Contact Your Doctor

Since blockage in bile ducts can be complicated by a serious infection or rupture in the gallbladder, you should contact your doctor if you think you’ve suffered a gallbladder attack. If your symptoms are accompanied by prolonged pain (lasting for hours), nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, yellowish colouring in the skin or whites of the eyes, and/or clay-coloured stools, seek immediate medical attention.


Once these stones are formed, they are really hard to get rid of, especially if they are large. Ultrasound treatment or prescription bile acid medications can dissolve them, only then the bile flow can be increased, otherwise the stone might lodge in or even rupture the bile duct, and may also block the pancreatic duct. If biliary infection recur frequently, surgery to remove the gallbladder may be necessary. In that case, naturopathic treatment is advisable to support nutrient absorption and detoxification. Small stones can be removed by increasing the bile flow through diet and herbal medicine.

Prevention through Naturopathic Treatment

Prevention is always best, especially if there is history of it in the family. A naturopathic treatment always starts with a thorough investigation to find the root of the problem, whatever the health concern may be. We are all very individual: as there are no two snowflakes alike, neither are any two human bodies. Once we found the cause, with a tailor made menu plan and herbal supplement regime your body can be gently ushered back to health – without side effects.

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