Gastrointestinal Health: Gallstones and Cholecystitis

Gallstones and Cholecystitis

Your gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, which assists with digestion in the small intestine. It is a key part of your digestive system, so any gastrointestinal health issues that interfere with its regular function can become serious problems if left untreated.

Two conditions that commonly affect the gallbladder are gallstones and cholecystitis. Learn about what these conditions are, how to identify their symptoms, and what you can do to treat them to minimize pain and long-term complications.


Most people are familiar with kidney stones, but you might not have heard quite so much about gallstones. These are bile deposits that have hardened inside the gallbladder.

Oftentimes, gallstones cause no noticeable symptoms, and they don’t require any treatment. However, they can get stuck in your bile duct. They may cause serious pain in the center or upper right area of your abdomen or other symptoms such as nausea, back and shoulder pain, fever, and chills.

In these cases, it is best to speak to a doctor about treatment options and how you can prevent this painful condition from occurring again in the future.

Causes of Gallstones

The specific causes of the development of gallstones aren’t well understood. It’s believed that improper emptying of the gallbladder can cause gallstones to form, as can the presence of too much cholesterol or bilirubin in your body.

Cholesterol gallstones are by far the most common type. If your liver produces unusually high amounts of cholesterol, potentially due to changes in your diet, your bile may not be able to properly dissolve it, resulting in gallstones.

Pigment gallstones form when there is too much bilirubin in the bile. Bilirubin comes from your body breaking down red blood cells, so pigment gallstones are generally associated with other health conditions such as blood disorders.

Gallbladder and Gastrointestinal Treatment Options

If gallstones do not break down naturally over time, they can lead to complications like inflammation and blockages of the bile duct or pancreatic duct. You may need to undergo surgical treatment to remove your gallbladder to prevent the formation of new gallstones.


When gallstones block the release of bile from the gallbladder, the gallbladder can become inflamed, a condition known as cholecystitis. If gallstones break down on their own, you may not experience any significant symptoms, but if the gallbladder remains obstructed for an extended period of time, there could be troublesome complications.

Symptoms of cholecystitis include severe abdominal pain, tenderness in your abdominal region, bloating, pain in your back or right shoulder area, nausea, fever, and vomiting. Untreated cholecystitis can cause infection, tissue destruction, and gallbladder tearing or rupture, which requires emergent treatment.

Causes of Cholecystitis

Gallstones are the primary cause of cholecystitis, but this condition can also arise as a result of infections, tumors, and issues with your bile duct. In particular, bile ducts that are scarred are at a higher risk of causing gallbladder issues.

Reduce your risk of developing cholecystitis through prevention methods like maintaining a healthy weight, gradually losing weight versus attempting to shed pounds quickly, and following a low-fat and high-fiber diet. Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is the key to a nutritious diet that supports your wellbeing.

Treatment Options for Better Gastrointestinal Health

Most cases of cholecystitis require a hospital stay so doctors can reduce inflammation and stabilize your condition. Occasionally, surgical treatment may be necessary.

If you have gallstones that are causing obstruction or pain, your doctor may suggest a cholecystectomy to remove your gallbladder.

Taking Care of Your Gallbladder

While you can live without your gallbladder, it still serves an important function in your digestive system, and a cholecystectomy can come with unwanted side effects and complications.

Making just a few extra healthy choices each day can set you on the path to better gallbladder health. Cutting back on saturated fats found in butter, meat, and cheese keeps your cholesterol low, and practicing routine exercise improves your blood flow, both of which greatly reduce your risk of gallbladder-related health conditions.

Final Thoughts

Your gallbladder is just one part of your gastrointestinal system, but eating the best possible diet can greatly reduce your risk of developing gallbladder complications or even more serious conditions like pancreatitis. The earlier you adopt healthy habits, the easier it is to stick to them so you can avoid gallstones, cholecystitis, and other gastrointestinal issues.

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