The gallbladder is a hollow, pear-shaped structure which is positioned under the liver. It is a part of the biliary tract, present on the right side of the abdomen.
Functions of Gallbladder
The primary function of the gallbladder is to store and concentrate bile. Bile is a yellow-brown digestive enzyme formed by the liver.
The gallbladder, when not being used for digestion, functions as a reservoir for bile. The absorbent lining of the gallbladder concentrates the bile. A hormone, called cholecystokinin, is released when food enters the small intestine. This enzyme activates the gallbladder to contract and secrete bile into the small intestine with the help of a common bile duct.
The bile breaks up fats, thus helping the digestive process. Besides, it also drains waste products from the liver into the duodenum.
Symptoms of a Gallbladder Problem
The symptoms of gallbladder conditions are as follows:
Pain: It is the most common symptom of the gallbladder problem. In general, this pain arises in the middle and upper-right section of the abdomen.
Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are general symptoms of most of the gallbladder problems; though only chronic gallbladder disorder may result in digestive problems, e.g., gas and acid reflux.
Fever or chills: Chills or fever may indicate an infection. The infection needs immediate treatment, which can become life-threatening if it spreads to other body parts.
Chronic diarrhea: If someone has more than four bowel movements a day for at least three months, it may be a signal of a chronic gallbladder disorder.
Jaundice: Jaundice (yellow-tinted skin) may be an indication of a stone (or block) in the common bile duct. The common bile duct leads from the gallbladder to the small intestine.
Unusual stools and urine: Lighter-coloured stools and dark urine are the indications of a common bile duct block.
Potential Gallbladder Problems
Some major gallbladder problems are described as follows:
- Gallstones or cholelithiasis: In this condition, substances in bile crystallize in the gallbladder and form gallstones. Though these gallstones are usually harmless, yet sometimes these can cause nausea, pain or inflammation.
- Cholecystitis: It is the infection of the gallbladder, which generally takes place on account of a gallstone in the gallbladder. Severe pain and fever are its symptoms, which can call for surgery when the infection continues.
- Gallbladder cancer: Although gallbladder cancer is very rare, it is difficult to diagnose and generally get diagnosed at late stages when symptoms take place. Symptoms of gallbladder cancer may bear a resemblance to those of gallstones.
- Gallstone pancreatitis: An impacted gallstone creates blockage in the ducts that drain the pancreas. It results in inflammation of the pancreas, which is a serious ailment.
The Gallbladder Diet
Adjusting your diet may prove to be beneficial if you are undergoing gallbladder problems. Foods that may worsen the gallbladder disease are foods high in trans fats and other unhealthy fats, processed foods and refined carbohydrates, e.g., sugar and white bread. Instead, your diet should include the following:
- Fiber-rich vegetables and fruits
- Plant-based protein, e.g., lentils, tofu and beans
- Foods rich in vitamin C, e.g., berries
- Foods rich in calcium, e.g., dark leafy greens and low-fat dairy
- Healthy fats, e.g., fish and nuts
When to See a Doctor?
Symptoms of a gallbladder problem may appear and disappear. However, if you have had one before, you are more likely to develop it.
Gallbladder problems are not deadly diseases, but they still need treatment. If you see a doctor and take necessary action, you can prevent gallbladder problems from worsening. Symptoms which indicate that you should look for immediate medical treatment are as follows:
- Abdominal pain lasting at least 5 hours
- Pale stools
- Sweating, chills or low-grade fever, in case they go along with the symptoms mentioned above.