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Gallbladder Disease and the Elimination Diet

by
author image Sirah Dubois
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.
Gallbladder Disease and the Elimination Diet
Eggs may cause gallbladder symptoms if you are allergic to them. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Gallbladder disease is caused by some well-known mechanisms, such as gallstone formation and bacterial infection. Invariably, the gallbladder becomes inflamed and painful, especially when forced to secrete bile for fat metabolism, which is why fatty meals often precipitate a gallbladder “attack.” A doctor in the late 1960s established that gallbladder symptoms can also be caused by food allergies, and he recommended an elimination diet to determine which foods. After determining the food allergies, his patient’s symptoms disappeared, and many were able to avoid gallbladder surgeries. Consult with your doctor if you experience abdominal pains after meals.

About Gallbladder Disease

Your gallbladder is meant to collect bile from your liver, concentrate and store it, then secrete it into your small intestine to begin the process of fat metabolism. Liver disease, cholesterol imbalance, hormonal disruption and other factors can lead to the formation of gallstones, which are crystalline precipitates made out of cholesterol, bile salts, biliruben and calcium. Most gallstones are tiny and asymptomatic, but some can grow and block the bile ducts. Further, bacterial and viral infections of your blood, stomach and liver can lead to gallbladder infection. Regardless of mechanism, gallbladder disease involves inflammation and intense pain, which is called cholecystitis.

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Symptoms of Cholecystitis

Cholecystitis doesn’t usually involve constant symptoms. Instead, gallbladder attacks are precipitated after eating meals, usually from fatty foods, and frequently during the evening. Gallbladder attacks involve intense upper right abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, bloating and diarrhea. According to “Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine,” almost 500,000 gallbladder removal surgeries are performed yearly in the United States, which eliminates most symptoms for most people, but up to 15 percent still suffer from severe symptoms even without their gallbladders, which is an enigma called post cholescystectomy syndrome. Further, removing an organ so important for healthy digestion poses serious long-term consequences, even if the surgery provides relief in the short-term.

Cholecystitis and Food Allergies

Although gallstones and bacterial infections do cause symptoms and may require surgical intervention on occasion, Dr. James Breneman discovered in 1968 that a significant proportion of gallbladder symptoms are caused by food allergies. Dr. Breneman, who was chairman of what’s now called the American College of Allergy and Immunology, noticed that even people who had their gallbladders removed suffered from intense symptoms after eating certain foods. According to his book “Basics of Food Allergy,” he studied 69 cases and found that all were allergic to certain foods, and once identified, all his patients were symptom free within days to weeks. He noted that eggs, pork, onions, chicken, turkey, milk, coffee and oranges were the most allergenic foods that caused inflammatory reactions in the gallbladder.

About the Elimination Diet

Dr. Breneman used an elimination diet to determine the allergenic foods, which involves identifying foods that cause adverse effects by the trial-and-error method of removing them and reintroducing them after a few weeks and noting the changes in symptomatology. For example, if eggs are suspected of causing you problems, you would remove them from your diet for two to four weeks and notice if your symptoms resolve. If they do, you would reintroduce eggs to your diet and note any adverse changes. Allergenic foods determined by elimination diets can also be confirmed by allergy skin testing. Dr. Breneman also noticed that metabolites and toxins from medications could cause gallbladder symptoms also, not just foods.

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References

  • “Human Biochemistry and Disease”; Gerald Litwack; 2008
  • “Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine”; A. Fauci et al.; 2008
  • “Basics of Food Allergy”; James C. Breneman M.D.; 1978
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