Obesity and gallstones

Gallstones are a common problem that can cause severe abdominal pain and discomfort. While there are several factors that can contribute to their formation, one of the most significant is obesity.

In this blog, we’ll explore what gallstones are, and how they link to obesity. You’ll discover how weight can affect the formation of gallstones, and what you can do to lose weight safely.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are small, solid particles that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located below the liver used to store bile. They can range in size from as small as a grain of sand, to as large as a golf ball, and they can be made up of cholesterol, bilirubin, or calcium salts.

In most cases, gallstones do not cause any symptoms and are discovered incidentally during an ultrasound or other imaging test. However, if a gallstone becomes stuck in a duct, or is particularly large, it can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Occasionally, gallstones can also lead to more serious complications, such as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), infection, or blockage of the bile ducts. This can cause serious damage to the liver, pancreas, and other organs.

The link between obesity and gallstones

The link between gallstones and weight is well established. Obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for developing gallstones. Research has shown that individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop gallstones compared to those with a healthy body weight. This is down to the fact that excess body fat can increase levels of cholesterol in the bile.

In addition, obesity can also affect the contractions of the gallbladder, slowing down the release of bile into the small intestine. This can cause bile to become stagnant, increasing the risk of developing gallstones. Additionally, if individuals who are overweight or obese have other health conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, this can also increase their risk of developing gallstones.

While losing weight is one way to prevent the risk, studies have also shown that fad diets, and losing weight too quickly can cause gallstones to develop.

The importance of losing weight safely to reduce the risk

If you are overweight or obese and want to lower your risk of developing gallstones, losing weight safely is key. This may include making changes to your diet, such as increasing your fibre intake. Also, reducing your intake of processed and high-fat foods, and engaging in regular physical activity.

In some cases, bariatric surgery may also be an option for individuals who are severely obese. Especially those that struggle to manage their weight through lifestyle changes alone. Make sure you aren’t losing weight too quickly, and avoid following any restrictive, fad diets.

If you suspect that you have gallstones, book an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis today. He can carry out a physical examination and may request imaging tests and a blood test to confirm if there are gallstones, as well as check the health of your gallbladder. If gallstones are discovered, Mr Stellakis can recommend the best treatment for you.