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Three Gallstone Treatment Options

Below are three common medical approaches to treating gallstones:

  1. Removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, today’s surgery, a procedure called laparascopic cholecystectomy, is easier on patients than the operation of the past, which involved making a large incision in the abdomen. Surgeons now make several small incisions through which they insert their instruments and a small video camera in order to view, detach and remove the gallbladder. Because no abdominal muscles are cut, there is less pain, faster recovery and fewer scars than with older methods. Most patients recover within days.
  2. Drugs. Uursodeoxycholic acid (Actigall) or chenodiol (Chenix) can both help dissolve gallstones, and may be used as an alternative to surgery. However, this treatment can take months, and stones can recur.
  3. Sound waves. This approach, called lithotripsy, involves the use of sound waves to break up gallstones. However, this procedure is considered appropriate only for patients who cannot undergo surgery. It works best on single stones that are less than two centimeters in diameter. Risks include pain and pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can occur within a month of treatment. There is also the chance that not all of the stone fragments will pass through the bile duct out of the gallbladder, leaving patients at risk for potentially serious future problems.

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Reader Comments (7)

About 3 1/2 years ago they wanted to take out my gallbladder. The last episode my pain lasted 12 hours I finally went to hospital and they gave me morphine and told me again to remove gallbladder. I said No that I would change my diet. I added more water and Betaine HCI to my diet and I eat anything I want and have not had any troubles and I feel healthy. Now I realize I most likely have gallstones still in me. I had 8 attacks before I had an ultrasound and found out what was the culprit. Then I had 3 more before started taking the Betaine. Once back 3 years ago I felt that pain coming on slightly so I ate a little more food and popped a betaine and I actually felt the pain subside. It was like heat melting the inflammation? Before I took Betaine I took an herb from health concerns called GB.6 Chuan Lian Zi. And it was amazing . You are only supposed to take for a month but I felt the inflammation shrinking when I took it. And it too allowed me to eat freely! I am such an advocate of this betaine and now I hear people are taking it for anti aging?
I had a girlfriend in Canada and she had scheduled a gallbladder surgery after one attack and I pleaded with her to seek alternative advice before going through with it! SHE did and 2 years later she is actually stone free cause she went the naturopath route and takes betaine but she radically changed her diet and lost weight and took 3 of those cleanses. And every week I meet someone who had their gallbladder taken out. I have met a doctor who was in the hospital with a gallstone attack and SHE did not have a gallbladder! She was flat on her back. COULD IT BE THE LIVER IS THE REAL PROBLEM ???? I take 648 mg most of the time one with lunch and one with dinner.
Thank you,
PS I pray your book is in Obama's hands and the Senate and the House. It is the closest that anyone has gotten to solving this catastrophe. If they read it and do not apply your sound wise groundbreaking words they are guilty of crimes! There plan does not come close to YOURS.
I think you are amazing Dr. Weil thank you for your time.
PS sorry if I seem dogmatic about betaine but it thrills me that it worked. I found lack of water and betaine was used from the early to mid 1900's. Why did they toss it out?
PS Tehy turned me down for insurance in one plan BECAUSE i kept my gallbladder!

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim Hasse

Dear Kim: On behalf of Dr. Weil and everyone who reads your blog post here--thank you!
Sharing experiences is so helpful and one thing Dr. Weil had in mind in starting the blog and his website.
Thanks again!

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered

i just found out that i have gall stones too..and my doctor wants me to come in tom. to get an ultra sound done….my question is do any of u know if i have to get my gall blabber removed too or do they just remove the gall stone out of the gall bladder only..i’m still confused on how this all works…any info would help…thank you

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergallstones treatment

My husband just had his gallbladder removed last week. Can you advise me on what foods he can eat, and what foods I should buy from now on, and what foods to stay away from? Are there any herbs or suppllements I should know about, that I could get in our local health foods shop? Also, is there a cookbook that specialises in anyone who's had this procedure done? Thanks for any help you can offer.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwomanbread

Apparently, coffee is supposed to be good for the gall bladder. I read it somewhere and forget how much, and what strength, etc. I am sure one can do a search.

August 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

My husband has recently removed his gallstones without removing the bladder and we've been doing some digging around to find diets and such for his condition. Apparently there are even methods to preventing gallstones from occurring which is great!

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Williams

Debbie, concerning the coffee-gallstone connection, Dr. Weil covered that in this Q&A from 2002:

"The Harvard researchers suggested that the caffeine in coffee is responsible for the gallstone effect, perhaps because it triggers gallbladder contractions that may discourage stone formation."

But he still didn't recommend coffee, suggesting green tea instead.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

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