The Most Important Foods to Avoid for Gallstones Prevention
Gallstones can be very unpredictable as it is possible to have absolutely no symptoms but still have these small, hard stones formed and sitting in your gallbladder. On the other hand you may suffer from excruciatingly painful symptoms if you do have gallstones, particularly if they get stuck in the narrow bile duct or the small intestine.
It has long been thought that the diet you have affects your chances of developing gallstones and there have been many scientific studies through the years to determine the main factors as to why some people suffer from this condition more than others.
Some studies have concluded that women suffer more from gallstones than men¹, although both sexes can be affected by them. Similarly, recent studies have concluded that vegetarians are less likely to develop gallstones in comparison to meat-eaters².
What appears to have been very apparent from most of the studies conducted in relation to gallstones is that the food that you eat can play a major part in whether they develop or not. When you consider that it is possible for gallstones to form due to an accumulation of too much cholesterol in the body, you can see why taking a step back and looking at your diet is important in the prevention of these stones.
Although a build-up of cholesterol is not the only factor as experts do strongly associate obesity and even sudden weight loss as playing a major role in the formation of gallstones. Many people who have suffered from gallstones will be advised to change their diets and if your focus is on staying healthy then you will benefit from knowing what foods to avoid for gallstones prevention.
Probably not surprisingly, sugar is at the top of the list when it comes to what foods to avoid for gallstones prevention. Refined sugar (as in the type that does not occur naturally in our environment) is found in many sugary delights such as cakes, sweets and biscuits. The problem with sugar is that it triggers the release of insulin in the body and this, in turn, can increase the amount of cholesterol that is produced in the liver. And as we have seen above, it is widely believed by experts that cholesterol is a major contributor to gallstone issues. To be healthy and decrease the chances of the stones forming, it is best to cut out all of the sugar from your diet.
Dairy, Meat Products and Animal Fats
Dairy products are also thought to be one of the food groups to avoid for this condition. So too meat products such as chicken, beef, pork and turkey contain a high amount of animal fats. Animal fats should be decreased in the diet as much as possible and this is easy to do by only consuming low-fat dairy products.
Similarly, meat needs to be monitored for gallstone prevention as a lot of meat contains a high amount of animal protein. Calcium, oxalate and uric acid are formed in a higher concentration in your urine when you consume too much animal protein and too much of these can also be a contributory factor for gallstones developing. Change from fatty meats to lean meats and cut out all processed meats (such as sausages, burgers and tinned meat) completely.
Saturated Fats and Bad Cholesterol
Now comes the turn of saturated fats on the list of what foods to avoid for gallstones prevention. Saturated fats are usually referred to as “the bad fats” and preferred by many in favor of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which many studies have shown to promote good health. Saturated fats commonly found in a solid form at room temperature (such as butter, lard and margarine) and are also often made from animal fats – already a big no-no as you read above.
And of course, many of the processed foods that we eat contain saturated fats and so you will be able to cut out a lot of this type of fat by removing this food group from your diet. Again, saturated fats are known to be a big contributor to the level of cholesterol in the body, particularly LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol if you like). One thing to remember is that the body does need some of all of the fats and so it is not recommended that you cut fat out of your diet completely.
Making some important changes to your diet and taking control of what you eat can dramatically decrease the chances of gallstones forming or even help reduce the symptoms if you already suffer from them. Changing the foods that you eat may not completely prevent the formation of gallstones but it goes a long way to protecting you from the very real risk.
1. Heaton KW. The role of diet in the aetiology of cholelithiasis, Capocaccia L, Editor. In: Epidemiology and prevention of gallstone disease. Lancaster (PA): MTP Press Limited; 1983. p 129-43.
2. Pixley et al., 1985. Effect of vegetarianism on development of gallstones in women. British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition). 291 (6487) 11-2.