Livering it up: Stoned over your gall?

Here’s a shoutout to all weight watchers… mind your weight or it would hurt your gall and ultimately your liver. Yes, you read it right G-A-L-L that was no spelling mistake.  

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ just below the liver and stores the bile secreted by the liver. The liver and gallbladder are connected through the hepatic duct, which passes bile from the liver to the gallbladder.

Gall or bile is that thick green gooey fluid that breaks down lipids or fatty cells. Gallstones are hardened pieces of bile that form a pebble-like substance in the gallbladder. Gall stones may block the ducts leading out to other organs, including the liver, causing potentially life-threatening complications.  Gallstones usually form in the gallbladder; however, they also may form anywhere there is bile; in the intrahepatic, hepatic, common bile, and cystic ducts.

About 60% of people with gallstones never have any symptoms and never get sick. They’re just like you. Most might never even know they had gallstones. Their stones are discovered by accident, during tests for other diseases. If you do start having abdominal pain after fatty meals, indigestion, gas, bloating, or other symptoms, make sure to remind the doctor about the ultrasound scan results.

 The xray above shows a large stone in the gall bladder with septum.

So why should we be concerned about bile??

  • Bile is a watery liquid made by the cells of the liver that is important for digesting food in the intestine, particularly fat.
  • Liver cells secrete the bile they make into small canals within the liver.
  • The bile flows through the canals and into larger collecting ducts within the liver (the intrahepatic bile ducts).
  • The bile then flows within the intrahepatic bile ducts out of the liver and into the extrahepatic bile ducts-first into the hepatic bile ducts, then into the common hepatic duct, and finally into the common bile duct.

From the common bile duct, there are two different directions that bile can flow.

  • The first direction is on down the common bile duct and into the intestine where the bile mixes with food and promotes digestion of food.
  • The second direction is into the cystic duct, and from there into the gallbladder  

Once in the gallbladder, bile is concentrated by the removal (absorption) of water. During a meal, the muscle that makes up the wall of the gallbladder contracts and squeezes the concentrated bile in the gallbladder back through the cystic duct into the common duct and then into the intestine. (Concentrated bile is much more effective for digestion than the un-concentrated bile that goes from the liver straight into the intestine.) The timing of gallbladder contraction-during a meal-allows the concentrated bile from the gallbladder to mix with food.

So now that you know the important functions of bile, we need to ensure that it continues performing these functions. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) say that there’s a few factors that could heighten your risk of getting gall stones if you experience weight fluctuations. Read all about it here or the summarised points below:

1. Watch your weight, make sure your weight is in line with the Body Mass Index (BMI)

2. Don’t go on those yo-yo dieting, the eratic weight fluctuation puts you at risk of developing gall stones including very rapid weight loss.

3. Eat some fats just  to stimulate gallbladder contracting and emptying. However, no more than 30 percent of your total calories should come from fat.

4. Increased intake of both soluble and insoluble fiber has been found to decrease the formation of deoxycholic, which increases the solubility of cholesterol. Cholesterol deposits can develop into gall stones.  

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