Gallstones are hard, pebble-like deposits that form in your gallbladder. Gallstones can lay dormant and cause no problems or they can induce severe pain in the abdomen and back that could last for hours and possibly require surgery, according to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse. Right now, there are no known therapies that completely dissolve gallstones; however, certain foods can help lower your risk of complications and prevent gallstones from forming.
Foods High in Fiber
Eating a diet high in fiber may prevent new gallstones from forming. Since gallstones are formed if there is too much cholesterol in your bile, increasing your consumption of both soluble and insoluble fiber can help because fiber naturally reduces the amount of cholesterol your body makes. To add soluble fiber, choose foods like oat bran, barley, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, oranges, kiwi, carrots, broccoli and celery. To add insoluble fiber to your diet, eat wheat bran and whole grains, such as wheat germ, rye, barley and rice.
Along with a high-fiber diet, new research has shown that eating magnesium-rich foods can also help prevent gallstones. In a study published in the August 2007 issue of "American Journal of Gastroenterology," Michael Leitzmann, M.D., and colleagues proved that magnesium could reduce the risk of forming gallstones. The study followed more than 42,500 men between the ages of 40 and 75 for 16 years. The participants were surveyed with health and diet questionnaires every two and four years, respectively. At the end of the study, results showed that the participants who consumed more than 400 mg of magnesium from food and supplements were 28 percent less likely to develop gallstones. To incorporate more magnesium-rich foods in your diet, opt for raw nuts, whole unprocessed grains, fish, lean meats and fresh green leafy vegetables.
A diet low in saturated fat and trans fat may also reduce your risk of developing gallstones. In a study published in the October 2004 issue of the "Annals of Internal Medicine," Chung-Jyi Tsai, M.D., and colleagues showed that consuming polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats reduced the risk of gallstone disease in men. The study followed more than 45,000 men ranging in age from 40 to 75 years old. All participants were free of gallstones at the start of the study and were periodically surveyed to calculate how much polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats they consumed as well as whether or not they had formed gallstones. The participants who had diets high in healthy fats and low in saturated and trans fat were 80 percent less likely to form gallstones. Eating healthy fats can lower your risk of gallstones and lower your cholesterol levels. Foods such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, cold water fish like mackerel and tuna, flax seeds and walnuts are rich sources of healthy fats.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gallstones
- Annals of Internal Medicine: The Effect of Long-Term Intake of cis Unsaturated Fats on the Risk for Gallstone Disease in Men
- American Journal of Gastroenterology: Long-Term Effect of Magnesium Consumption on the Risk of Symptomatic Gallstone Disease Among Men
- MedlinePlus: Fiber