gallbladder-feature

Treating and Preventing Gallstones

Patient:  Manoj Sharma

Age:  35

Weight:  90 kg

Symptoms:  Severe pain in mid/upper abdomen, vomiting, nausea, fever,                       diarrhoea, dark coloured urine

Diagnosis:  Gall bladder stones

gallbladder

Manoj had been feeling slightly uneasy for a couple of days. His stomach felt bloated. He was feverish and was experiencing bouts of nausea and diarrhoea. Dismissing it as a mere case of indigestion, he did not seek medical advice immediately. However, soon he was completely incapacitated with excruciating abdominal pain and his family had to rush him to the hospital. Ultrasound scans discovered the presence of stones in Manoj’s gall bladder. The doctor treated him with painkillers and warned him that it was possible that such an episode could recur. If it persisted, then the only option was the removal of the gall bladder.

Manoj believed deeply in Ayurveda and had often undertaken panchakarma therapies in Kerala’s famous Ayurveda centres. He decided to explore what options Ayurveda offered for patients suffering from gall bladder stones. His research provided him with the following insights:

How do Stones form in the Gall Bladder?

The gall bladder is a 4-inch, pear-shaped organ in the upper right section of the abdomen. Its function is to store bile that helps to break down fat from food in the intestine. This allows easy absorption of nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins into the bloodstream. The appearance of gallstones affects the working of the bladder. Gall bladder stones are of three types – cholesterol stones, bile pigment stones and mixed stones. Some gallstones are as fine as sand granules, while others may be several centimetres large. Gallstones develop due to genetic factors, obesity and poor food habits. The appearance of gallstones itself is not a cause of worry as nearly 80 percent of them are ‘silent’. They do not cause any problems and are asymptomatic. However, they can turn symptomatic and that is when symptoms like pain, nausea and diarrhoea manifest themselves.

Gallstones & Ayurveda

Gallstones are referred to as pittashmari in Ayurveda. The ancient science of healing attributes their formation to imbalances in all the three doshas.  Aggravation of Vata, Pitta and Kapha causes gallstones. Excessive increase in Pitta lays the foundation for formation of stones. When an individual consumes more of fatty, oily and heavy foods, Kapha in the body rises. This dense Kapha mixes with the excess Pitta to produce a sticky mixture. When Vata too gets aggravated, the body becomes prone to dryness. The sticky mixture is affected by the increased Vata and dries up into small, hard stones that take up residence inside the gall bladder.

Ayurveda’s treatment of Gallstones

Ayurveda has several remedies to both treat gallstone and prevent them. This involves herbal medications, lifestyle changes and diet control. The end result of the treatment is that the body expels the stones naturally thus eliminating the need for surgery. In addition, modifications in eating habits and daily routine can prevent the recurrence of gall stones.

Herbal Treatment for Gallstones: One of the most recommended treatments by Ayurvedic practitioners is a liver flush or a liver detox. Various herbs and spices can be mixed to create a potent liver flush. These may include olive oil, spices, turmeric and ginger – ingredients that are always available on our kitchen shelves. Vitamin C converts cholesterol to bile acids and thus prevents the formation of gallstones. That is why amla, lemons and oranges are used for liver detox. Herbs that have cholagogues and choleretics properties are helpful. Cholagogues stimulate the gallbladder to contract, while choleretics stimulate greater bile secretion. Both these actions could help reduce the risk of developing gallstones. The herb Boerrhavia diffusa is an excellent remedy as it balances the Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Other herbs that are used for flushing the liver and regenerating the growth of new cells include Katuki, Makoye, Bhringraj, Kalmegh, Punarnava and Giloy. Katuki increases bile production by the liver; Giloy corrects liver metabolism; Punarnava helps in liver regeneration; Makoye, Bhringraj and Kalmegh make liver function more efficient. Chicory is also used to treat gallstone problems. However, it can have side effects like ulcers and therefore should be taken under careful medical supervision. A castor oil pack over the affected area is also recommended. This can reduce pain and inflammation. It also speeds up the healing process.

Diet Modifications: Patients prone to gallstones must be encouraged to take small meals. Larger portions make the digestive process more difficult. Have a fibre rich, low fat diet. Dairy products should  be kept off the dining table. Non-vegetarian food must be avoided and junk food should be completely eliminated. Carrots, apples, pears, cucumber and beet root are good for gallstones. These can be juiced and consumed either as a snack or a meal. White flour, artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks and ice creams can aggravate the condition. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush the stones out of the system.

Lifestyle Changes: Obesity can cause gallstones and therefore it is important to exercise regularly. At the same time, overweight individuals should not go in for drastic weight loss programmes as fasting or extreme dieting can aggravate the problem. Instead opt for a systematic, sustained weight loss programme. Exercise is also helpful because it keeps blood sugar and insulin levels normal. This also prevents the formation of gallstones. Develop regular eating habits with fixed timings for the main meals of the day.

Manoj has incorporated several Ayurveda practices into his daily routine. This includes drinking plenty of water, incorporating vegetables and fruits like beet root and apples in his diet and exercising regularly. These steps should help prevent another attack of gallstones.

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