Biomarkers Nutrition

What are Gallstones? Definition + Risk Factors + Prevention

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are solid particles that form from bile in the gallbladder.

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small organ found underneath the liver. Its main purpose is to store and concentrate bile. The gallbladder releases bile into the digestive system when it’s needed to help digest fats.

What is bile?

The composition of gallbladder bile is 97% water, 0.7% bile salts, 0.2% bilirubin, 0.51% fats (cholesterol, fatty acids, and lecithin), and 200 meq/l inorganic salts.

Causes and Risk Factors of gallstones

  • Excessive amounts of cholesterol in your bile
  • High amounts of bilirubin in your bile
  • If the gallbladder is not emptied correctly, the leftover bile starts to form stones
  • Diabetes
  • Losing a large amount of weight in a very short amount of time
  • Medications containing estrogen like oral contraceptives or if you are taking hormone therapy drugs
  • Eating a high-fat, high-cholesterol, and low-fiber diet
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activity
  • Women are twice as likely to get gallstones as compared to men
  • Native American or Mexican-American origin
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms of gallstones

  • Extreme pain in the stomach or in the upper right part of your stomach, just below the ribs.
  • In case abdominal pain lasts for 15 minutes to 24 hours; most people afflicted with gallstones experience continuous pain for 1-5 hours.
  • If the pain starts at night and is severe enough to rouse you from your sleep.
  • If such pain frequently occurs after meals.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades or pain in your right shoulder.


  • Maintain a healthy and constant weight
  • Lose weight by gradually exercising and not crash-dieting.
  • Exercise regularly to lower your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Consult a general physician before taking birth control pills with a high-estrogen dose or if you intend to start hormone therapy.
  • Eat well-balanced and fiber-rich meals; do not skip meals, especially breakfast. Personal Dashboard banner final

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