Recommended Diet to Deal with Gallstones and Biliary Colic

Biliary colic is the result of an inflamed gallbladder caused by a blocked bile or cystic duct. This condition is characterized by the rapid onset of intense pain on the right side under the rib cage, which may radiate to the upper back. An attack can last for a few minutes or several hours and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Dietary modifications may reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, but talk to your doctor before starting a diet plan.

Tuna and tomatoes on slices of whole grain bread. Credit: naito8/iStock/Getty Images

Importance of Diet

The gallbladder produces a special liquid called bile or gall, which contains water, salts and chemicals like bilirubin to break down fats. In a healthy gallbladder, bile is able to freely enter the small intestine via bile ducts and cystic ducts, the go-between channels that bridge the gallbladder and main bile ducts. Bile supply varies with demand. A certain amount of bile is secreted every time you eat, but exactly how much depends on the amount of fat in your meal. If a gallstone impairs bile flow, biliary colic results until the stone either passes or is surgically removed. Even though symptoms may subside after an attack, they will likely reoccur until this situation is resolved. Diet is one way to prevent gallstones and biliary colic from coming back.

Weight Maintenance

If you are overweight, you may have an increased risk of developing gallstones and biliary colic. However, losing weight too quickly can also promote gallstone formation; a reasonable weight-loss goal is 1 to 2 pounds a week, according to the Weight-Control Information Network. Periods of fasting followed by eating a large amount of food can trigger biliary colic if you already have gallstones. Similarly, try not to skip meals. To avoid these complications, ask your doctor or a nutritionist to help you design a weight-loss plan that allows you to shed pounds slowly and consistently.

Foods to Avoid

Remember the supply vs. demand rule: the more fats you consume, the greater the output of bile from your gallbladder. Therefore, limit the amount of fat and low-density cholesterol in your diet. According to the American Heart Association, your total daily intake of cholesterol should not exceed 300 milligrams. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, or your LDL or bad cholesterol is over 100, you need to limit your intake to 200 milligrams. Avoid trans fat, which means limiting fried foods, cookies, crackers and many kinds of snacks.

Foods to Increase

Increase your intake of low-fat foods such as lean cuts of meat, fish, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals. Choose low-fat dairy products or non-dairy alternatives like egg substitutes. Certain nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds and almonds may help ward off gallstones and biliary colic because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol.

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