Do you have gallstones? You might! Many people can have them and never even know it. More than 25 million Americans currently have gallstones, and up to 80% of them have what is called the “silent” type, causing no or very subtle physical symptoms.
Many don’t cause severe problems until the gallstones grow very large or get trapped in the duct that carries bile from the gallbladder to the intestines. This is something you want to avoid because the typical treatment is the surgical removal of your gallbladder.
Don’t feel like saying goodbye to your gallbladder? I don’t blame you! Before you start worrying about whether or not you have gallstones, however, there are easy everyday things that can prevent them from forming in the first place.
Here are seven ways to reduce your chances of ever getting gallstones.
#1. Eat more fiber
If you needed another reason to increase your fiber intake, here it is: fiber can lower your risk of gallstones. It helps decrease the saturation of cholesterol in the gallbladder and improves constipation at the same time! Healthy sources of fiber include hemp, chia seeds, psyllium, flax seeds, foods high in pectin (e.g., apples and citrus fruits), nuts, and beans.
#2. Exercise and lose weight the healthy way
Being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of developing gallstones. However, extremely rapid weight loss (i.e., 3 pounds or more a week) or yo-yo dieting also increases that risk. At least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity is the general recommendation for healthy adults, and eating a healthy diet is the way to go for healthy and sustained weight loss.
#3. Get some more C
Vitamin C helps to convert cholesterol into bile acids. This is important because more than 80% of gallstones are formed from cholesterol. If you ensure that cholesterol gets converted to bile salts, it won’t crystalize and form stones. Foods high in vitamin C include kiwis, papayas, leafy greens, citrus fruits, broccoli, pineapple, and strawberries.
#4. Eat a plant-based, whole foods diet.
It all comes down to protein. The chances of having gallstones are lower in people who consume vegetarian-based proteins than animal proteins and in those who consume a high amount of fruits and vegetables. Good vegetable proteins include nuts and seeds, chia, hemp, pea protein, quinoa, and beans.
#5. Drink caffeinated coffee
The caffeine in coffee is what helps protect you from getting gallstones. It does so by stimulating the bile flow, preventing it from stagnating and crystalizing in your gallbladder. To give you a good idea of how much it can decrease your risk, men who consumed two or more cups of coffee a day had a 40-45% decreased risk of developing gallstones compared to non-drinkers.
#6. Decrease refined sugar and those “bad fats.”
Both of these ingredients are typically found in processed, packaged, or deep-fried foods. While the association between gallstones and a higher intake of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and refined sugar could be because these can lead to excess weight, there is evidence that they play a direct role in causing gallstones. Incorporating healthier fats such as omega-3s (found in nuts, seeds, flax, and fish) can be protective.
#7. Avoid foods that promote allergies.
Finally, it might come as a surprise to you, but hidden food allergies may be linked to the formation of gallstones. How? Well, it has to do with the gallbladder not responding and releasing bile appropriately during digestion. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t aware of our food intolerances because the symptoms can be so subtle. You can discover any underlying allergies by paying attention to how you feel after certain foods.