Gallstones can range from extremely painful to barely noticeable. If you have experienced gallbladder problems in the past, you may be nervous about including certain items in your diet, like beer. Your gallbladder interacts directly with your liver, which can be heavily affected by alcohol consumption. You may not be unclear as to exactly how much and what types of alcoholic beverages you need to watch out for.
Gallstone Formation Background
The gallbladder is a small organ located just below your liver. Your liver makes bile, which contains water, cholesterol, bile salts, fats, protein and bilirubin. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and released into the intestines to help with digestion. Usually, gallstones form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile, or there is too much bilirubin binding to cholesterol. People with high cholesterol, obesity or sudden weight loss, are more likely to experience gallstones. Mild to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk for gallstones, along with regular physical activity and healthy food choices.
Interpreting the Evidence
Moderate alcohol intake is associated with a reduced risk for gallstones. Whether or not this is a cause-and-effect relationship has not been determined. Oftentimes, studies relating alcohol consumption to positive health benefits are related to other factors of healthy choices overall. This is called the "healthy people bias." Moderate alcohol drinkers tend to be health-conscious, while the opposite is associated with heavy drinkers. Nonetheless, you can include beer as part of an overall healthy lifestyle for gallstone prevention as long as you are not drinking enough to be considered a heavy drinker.
Moderate drinking is defined as two standard drinks for men and one standard drink for women per day. A standard drink of beer is 12 fluid ounces. It is important not to drink in excess if you have experienced gallstones because overdoing it can lead to becoming overweight, which is a definite risk factor for gallstone formation. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. Even light beer can lead to weight gain, especially if you are making unhealthy food choices while drinking.
Sometimes, heavy drinkers replace food with alcohol. This can lead to sudden weight loss, another major risk factor for gallstones. Losing more than 3 pounds per week will put you at higher risk. If you find yourself developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, seek medical and psychological support immediately.
Gallstones and Beer
Gallstones can develop for a variety of reasons that depend on your medical and weight history. Avoiding sudden weight changes and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels are the best general guides for gallstone prevention. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine how moderate consumption of beer can fit into part of a healthy, consistent diet for you.