Gallstones – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Overview of Gallstones

Gallstones are solid particles (stones/lumps) which form from bile cholesterol and bilirubin in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small saclike organ located on the upper right part of the abdomen and on the underside of the liver. Bile is a green-yellow liquid which helps with digestion. The gallbladder is a pouch that stores bile. Gallstones form when there is any chemical imbalance in the gallbladder. Primary causes of gallstones are too much cholesterol in your bile, your gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly and too much bilirubin in your bile. Gallstones cause a lot of pain and should be treated immediately.

There are 4 types of gallstones:

  1. Cholesterol stones form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile.
  2. Pigment stones form when there is excess bilirubin in the bile.
  3. Mixed stones (Both Cholesterol and Pigment stones in the bladder).
  4. Calcium-containing stones

types of gallstones

Symptoms of gallstones include pain in the right shoulder, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, diarrhea, indigestion, stomach pain, back pain between the shoulder blades, pain on the right side of the body, just below the ribs, fever, jaundice, intolerance for greasy/fatty foods, etc. Few preventive tips are very helpful in relieving symptoms of gallstones such as maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, avoid rapid weight loss, don’t skip meals, add fiber-rich foods in your diet, eat several small meals in a day, etc.

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. Prevention
  4. Home Remedies
  5. Treatment Options
  6. Reference


In most of the cases, people with gallstones don’t experience any symptoms. Its primary symptoms are pain that occurs suddenly and gets worse. Few other symptoms include:

symptoms of gallstones

  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach pain
  • Burping
  • Back pain between the shoulder blades
  • Pain on the right side of the body, just below the ribs
  • Restlessness
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Jaundice
  • Intolerance for greasy/fatty foods


  • Too much cholesterol in your bile
  • Your gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly
  • Too much bilirubin in your bile

causes of gallstones

Above are the 3 main causes of gallstones. Few other causes include:

  • Family history
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Females are more prone to have gallstones
  • Sometimes the stones formed due to various hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • A sedentary lifestyle increases the chances of stone formation in the gallbladder
  • Eating a high-fat diet
  • Eating a low fiber diet
  • Having liver disease
  • Eating a high cholesterol diet
  • Having diabetes
  • Sudden weight loss
  • People over 60 years of age
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Certain medications


  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid rapid weight loss
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Add fiber-rich foods in your diet
  • Eat several small meals in a day
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Choose low fat and low cholesterol diet
  • Avoid greasy, high fat and fried foods
  • Avoid dairy products and caffeine

Home Remedies

1. Lemon juice

Lemon is very effective in preventing gallstones. A compound named pectin is found in lemons which help to relieve the pain of gallstones. Lemon helps to keep the attack of gallstones under control.

  • Add 4 tsp of lemon juice to a glass of warm water. Drink it every day in the morning on an empty stomach.

2. Pears

A compound named pectin is present in pears, which helps to soften the cholesterol-filled gallstones and eliminates from the body. It is a very effective remedy for providing relief from gallstone pain and also other symptoms.

  • Add half glass of pear juice and 2 tsp of honey to half glass of hot water. Mix it well and drink it twice or thrice daily for few days.
  • Another option is to peel and deseed the pears. Cut them into small pieces and put them in boiling water. Let it cook for few minutes. Eat warmly cooked pears daily for few days.

3. Beetroot

It is high in flavonoids, fiber, and carotenoids. Beetroot juice lowers the cholesterol and also improves liver function.

  • Peel the beetroot, cut it into small pieces and blend it using little water. Drink a cup of fresh beetroot juice daily.

4. Radish

It is one of the very effective remedies for gallstones. It keeps gallbladder in good shape and also facilitates bile flow. But remember always eat radish in moderation.

  • Peel the radish, cut it into pieces and blend it using little water. Have 2 tsp of this juice daily.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint contains a natural compound called terpene which can effectively dilute gallstones. It also helps in digestion by stimulating the flow of bile and other digestive juices. It also helps to relax and relieve the pain of gallstones.

Treatment Options

In most of the cases, gallstones don’t require any treatment unless they cause you any pain. As there is no permanent medical cure, There are few medical measures that can be taken to relieve the symptoms of gallstones. The best treatment option is its surgical removal. Few treatment options available for gallstones are:

Gallstone surgery (Cholecystectomy): This is the usual treatment in case of complicated gallstones, in which gallbladder is removed. Usually, the gallbladder is removed by laparoscopic cholecystectomy. It is done by making a small slit in the abdomen using a small tube-like instrument. Laparoscopic removal is not possible in few cases, in that situation open cholecystectomy is another option. It is done by making 3-6 inch incision in the upper right abdomen.

Dissolving stones: Medicines are used to dissolve the stones in the gallbladder, which are made from bile acids. Through this treatment, it may take months or even years to dissolve the stones. This treatment works best in case of cholesterol stones and often used for the people who are unable to have surgery.

Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL): In this treatment, a device is used that generates shock waves and breaks gallstones into tiny pieces. Tiny pieces of stones can easily pass through the biliary system without causing any blockage. This treatment of removing stones is usually done in conjunction with Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

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