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What Causes Gallbladder Disease?

What Causes Gallbladder Disease?

What Causes Gallbladder Disease?

Curious about what causes issues with the gallbladder? There are many contributing factors to developing gallbladder disease. Some of them are preventable with lifestyle changes, while others are a result of existing health conditions.
Chronic Inflammation
There is plenty of research on chronic inflammation and how it is linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and COPD. However, chronic inflammation affects all tissues in the body, including the gallbladder. The WHO estimates that conditions resulting from chronic inflammation affect more than 60% of Americans and that number is expected to continue to increase over the coming years.1
Inflammation is a normal body process resulting from the body’s immune response sending out inflammatory cells and cytokines to heal itself and protect from pathogens. Inflammation becomes chronic when it lasts for a long period of time, anywhere from several months to years. Causes of chronic inflammation include toxins, bacteria, mold, parasites, auto immune conditions, chemicals in the environment, oxidative stress from free radical production, uric acid crystals (like those in gout), etc.1
Symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
– Pain in the joints and muscles
– Chronic fatigue
– Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
– Irritable bowel
– Acid reflux
– Unintentional weight changes
– Recurrent infections.
If you have symptoms like this, ask your doctor about having a blood test done to measure inflammatory markers.1
Cholecystitis
Inflammation of the gallbladder itself, or cholecystitis, is caused by gallstones blocking the bile duct or an illness that damages the gallbladder. Severe abdominal pain, fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), nausea and vomiting are symptoms. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. Cholecystitis is a serious condition that can lead to sepsis (systemic infection) if left untreated. Treatment of cholecystitis includes pain management, IV fluids and often removal of the gallbladder.2
Poor gallbladder motility
Conditions like biliary dyskinesia and hyperkinetic gallbladder alter the effectiveness of the gallbladder. Biliary dyskinesia slows the movement of bile into the bile ducts, which can result in severe pain, especially after eating fatty meals. On the other hand, a hyperkinetic (or overactive) gallbladder results in digestive disturbance like intense pain and maldigestion of fat. Unfortunately, treatment for these conditions is typically gallbladder removal, especially if the symptoms are severe. 3,4
Poor Cholesterol Metabolism & Liver Congestion
Researchers are discovering that poor cholesterol metabolism is associated with a higher risk of gallbladder disease. Low HDL, high LDL, high total cholesterol and high triglycerides were associated with higher rates of gallstones. Most gallstones are made of cholesterol so poor cholesterol metabolism plays a role in the level of cholesterol in bile. Additionally, congestion of the liver can impact bile flow and composition increasing the risk of gallstones. When there are symptoms with gallstones, gallbladder removal is the recommended treatment. Lifestyle changes can greatly improve blood lipids and resulting risk for gallbladder disease.5,6

Other causes:
Birth Control, HRT, testosterone therapy
Gluten intolerance/Celiac
Low thyroid function
PCOS
Parasites/dysbiosis/H. Pylori
Pregnancy
Menopause
Insulin resistance
Fasting weight loss
Overeating
Nutrient deficiencies
– Magnesium
– Trace Minerals
– Iron
– Copper
– Vitamin D

References
1. Pahwa R, Goyal A, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

2. McEACHERN CG. Acute Cholecystitis. Arch Surg. 1959;78(2):300. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1959.04320020122017

3. Toouli J. Biliary dyskinesia. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2002;5(4):285-291. doi:10.1007/s11938-002-0051-9

4. Williford ML, Fay KT, Simpson FJ, et al. Optimal management of the hyperkinetic gallbladder: A comparison of outcomes between operative and nonoperative approaches. Am Surg. 2021;87(6):903-909. doi:10.1177/0003134820966283

5. Zhang M, Mao M, Zhang C, et al. Blood lipid metabolism and the risk of gallstone disease: a multi-center study and meta-analysis. Lipids Health Dis. 2022;21(1):26. doi:10.1186/s12944-022-01635-9

6. Kalra A, Yetiskul E, Wehrle CJ, Tuma F. Physiology, Liver. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

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