What Is A Gallstone?
Few people really know what their gallbladder does, but they certainly know when it’s causing them pain. The gallbladder mainly helps digest food. It stores up bile and then releases it through the small intestines after food leaves the stomach. This bile is actually made by the liver and is made from bilirubin, cholesterol, and other substances. However, most people don’t know that the gallbladder has such a function; instead, they know it produces gallstones, very painful things.
What are Gallstones?
Gallstones are created from hard particles that can form from the cholesterol or the bile pigments in the gallbladder. Medical experts actually classify gallstones by what creates them. Cholesterol gallstones make up the largest percentage of gallstones (around 80 percent). They’re a yellow or green color. Pigment stones, on the other hand, are normally a lot darker in color and much smaller. They’re created from bilirubin.
There are a number of different things that can cause gallstones. Body weight, diet, and genetics can all play a part in their creation, as can malfunctions in the way the gallbladder works. Any time the substances in the gallbladder are not balanced correctly, a gallstone can form. If there’s too much cholesterol, for example, it can lead to a cholesterol stone. This is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common as people have poor cholesterol. If the gallbladder isn’t able to empty itself as it should, that can also lead to stone formations.
Generally, a pigment stone is only formed when a person has specific medical issues. This includes cirrhosis of the liver, a disease that causes scar tissue to form instead of healthy tissue, or something like sickle cell anemia.
There are a number of different things that can make you more likely to develop a gallstone. Genetics and ethnicity are two things you simply can’t control. If anyone in your family has had to deal with a gallstone, it’s a sign that you may develop them yourself. Likewise, if you’re Native American or from Mexico, you may also be more at risk. Age seems to play a part—older people are more likely to develop gallstones. Finally, women are also at a higher risk.
There are some things that increase your risk that can be controlled. Being overweight is one of the biggest factors that lead to gallstones because it’s accompanied by an increase in cholesterol. Those who go on a major diet to avoid this risk may be creating another—losing a lot of weight very quickly makes the liver produce more cholesterol, which can then build up in the gallbladder.
If you take medication to lower your cholesterol, it may actually make the percentage of cholesterol in your bile and gallbladder increase, which again, can lead to gallstones. Ask your doctor if you’re on this medication and are concerned about gallstones. Finally, there are some diseases that can put you at risk for gallstones, including diabetes.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any diseases.