Lessons I've Learned from my Gallbladder

Three days before Christmas last year, I was sitting on the couch watching television after supper. Over the course of about an hour I developed what I took, at the time, to be the worst case of “heart burn” I’d ever had: a dull pain, very strong, centred under my rib cage. The pain was accompanied by tremendous gas that manifested in burps the likes I’d never knew myself capable of producing.

I figured the problem was simply related to something I’d eaten, and when it passed a few hours later, I forgot all about it.

Then, two days later, the same thing happened.

On and off for the next several weeks I developed a regular pattern of symptoms: about two or three hours after eating I would begin to feel a pain in my lower back, followed, over the next half hour, by increasing abdominal pain, the aforementioned burping and, at its worst, chills and irritability.

I had no idea what was happening to me, but it wasn’t pleasant.

The week after New Years, I made an appointment with my family doctor, and she diagnosed me as having a stomach ulcer. There are two types of peptic ulcers, those of the stomach and those of the duodenum. Mine was pegged a stomach ulcer because of the time of day, and because eating more, which sometimes makes duodenal ulcers feel better, made me feel worse.

Because I’d appeared to have some relief from Pepcid Complete, my doctor prescribed me Ranitidine 150, which is a genericized version of Zantac.

I dutifully took the Ranitidine twice daily for 30 days. It had no effect whatsoever, and my symptoms only got worse.

Starting from the first time I noticed the symptoms, I started to modify my diet to try and reduce them. I continued this, and broadened the foods I limited or eliminated, once the problem was diagnosed as a stomach ulcer. Following the sort of guidelines you can find many places, I eliminated citrus fruits, caffeine, chocolate, fried foods, milk, tomatoes and spicy foods. While I could easily identify foods I could say for certain would cause me problems, I had a more difficult time finding foods guaranteed not to cause problems.

About three weeks into this experience, in late January, I’d managed to stay symptom free for a week, and naively thought I was “cured.” Catherine and I went out to dinner at The Pilot House, and I had what, in an earlier time, would be considered a pretty non-spicy, innocuous meal. We went out to the movies afterwards, and when we got home I was descended on with the wraths of hell, and was up, with the worst symptoms to that point, until 6:00 a.m. It wasn’t fun.

With neither the Ranitidine nor my dramatic change in diet offering any reliable relief, I made another appointment with my family doctor for late January. At that appointment she did two things: schedule me for an ultrasound, and change my prescription to Nexium.

An interesting sidenote: I was sent to Summerside to the Prince County Hospital for my ultrasound because they could see me right away whereas my doctor characterized the wait at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown for an ultrasound to be “several months.” Thank goodness for Summerside!

I was on the Nexium for a week, and, like the Ranitidine, it offered no more relief than taking nothing offered.

I had the ultrasound the following Tuesday, and three days later I was in the office of a surgeon in Charlottetown talking about gallbladders.

The gallbladder, an organ I’d given no thought to before, ever, is a small organ located near the liver. Its function is to assist in the storage and pumping of bile (“A yellow, or greenish, viscid fluid, usually alkaline in reaction, secreted by the liver.”) from the liver, where it’s made, into the intestines, where it assists with digestion.

Gallstones are formed when “when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material.” When gallstones form, they can block the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder to the intestines, and when this happens, the result can be a “gallbladder attack.”

I learned all of this from the surgeon I was referred to because my ultrasound showed that I had something in my gallbladder that was causing problems.

When I read about the usual symptoms of a gallbladder attack, it was a pretty spot-on description of what I’d been going through.

The “cure” for gallbladder problems is to remove the gallbladder. There are other approaches that have been tried that involve trying to remove or dissolve the gallstones, but my surgeon advised that the reoccurrence of gallstones, assuming these methods are even successful, is high.

Fortunately, we mostly don’t need our gallbladders. I get the impression that it’s “mostly” because it seems that the gallbladder, while we can live happily and healthfully without it, hasn’t quite reached the stage that the appendix has reached in terms of being totally useless. The best description I’ve read says this:

Once the gallbladder is removed, bile flows out of the liver through the hepatic ducts into the common bile duct and goes directly into the small intestine, instead of being stored in the gallbladder. However, because the bile isn’t stored in the gallbladder, it flows into the small intestine more frequently, causing diarrhea in about 1 percent of people.

 

With things getting steadily worse — the frequency and severity of my attacks was increasing from “once or twice a week” to “once every couple of days” — I had to do something, and it was pretty clear that the gallbladder was the source of my problems. So I agreed with my surgeon that we should schedule its removal.

Easier said than done.

It’s all very well and good to listen to reports about the “health care crisis” and think of it as an abstract problem. In my case the problem was very concrete and clear: the wait for a “cholecystectomy” (aka gallbladder removal) in Charlottetown was six weeks.

Now, granted, I could live through the pain, and I wasn’t in imminent risk of more serious injury (gallbladders, it seems, don’t “rupture” like appendixes do). So I can understand more serious operations going ahead of me. But I’ll tell you, back on February 28th when my appointment was made, the first week in April seemed pretty close to “the end of time.”

But here we are: I’m scheduled for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy tomorrow morning at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The “laparoscopic” part means that the operation is done with a video camera and some lower-impact incisions; this in contrast to an “open cholecystectomy,” which, from descriptions I’ve read, sounds like what you see the surgeons doing on M*A*S*H every night. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is day surgery — you can leave the same day as the surgery — while an open cholecystectomy requires a week-long recovery in hospital.

What have I learned from this three month odyssey?

First is patience. I’ve basically been unable to eat a normal diet for three months. I’ve been subsisting on oatmeal, apple juice, rice, and toast. I’ve been able to function — not thrive, but at least function. I watched as “the end of time” receded into 5 weeks, 4 weeks, next week, and now it’s tomorrow. That’s been a good lesson in patience.

Second, I learned a lot about my diet. When you have to think seriously about whether or not to put something into your body, lest it cause you to hunch over in pain three hours later, you tend to take eating more seriously. I’ve gotten good at reading labels. I finally figured out the difference between protein, fat and carbohydrates. I know a lot about the relationship between what I eat and how I feel. I’ve learned a lot about the kind of foods I was used to eating, and how easy it is, relatively speaking, to do without them. I’ve shaken off an addiction to (or at least a predilection for) sugar, fat and fast food. My diet for the past three months has been abysmal, but at least I’ve been thinking. These are all lessons I hope will last.

Third, I’ve learned that one way to lose weight is to eat less. There’s nothing like threat of gallbladder attack to motivate, and because I’ve been averaging about 700 calories a day for three months, I’ve lost almost 40 pounds in the process as a pleasant side-effect. This fact alone has gone a long way to keeping my spirits up, as it’s just plain easier to live without an additional 40 pounds to carry around all the time.

Finally, I’ve had to come to grips, if not with my own mortality at least with my own fragility. Up until this point in my life, I’ve been pretty ignorant of any connection between my actions (or lack thereof) and my well-being. The “cheeseburger to body connection” has been an abstract ill, with effects in some nebulous future. I consider it a great gift from my body to alert me to this in such a determined but non-life-threatening way.

I’ve also learned the following very practical techniques for reducing the pain of a gallbladder attack; your mileage, obviously, may vary:

  • Take a hot bath. This is like wearing a hot water bottle. It’s a great pain reliever, and also takes the stress off the lower back, where gallbladder pain lasts longest.
  • Take Tylenol 3’s. This only worked some of the time for me, and only during the last couple of weeks. My surgeon prescribed these after the attacks increased to the point where they were going on for 6 or 7 hours. Rather than eliminating the symptoms, the Tylenols appear to shorten the attacks and make them easier to take. At least sometimes.
  • Go on a liquid diet. My surgeon recommended going on a liquid diet for 24 hours after an attack. When he initially suggested this, I thought he was insane, and I ignored his advice. When things got really bad, I followed his advice, and it helped. Often I found myself symptom free for 4 or 5 days after 24 to 48 hours of clear liquids alone.
  • Relax. I’ve found that if, at first sign of symptoms, I go upstairs and lie down, listen to the radio, and trying and just lie still, I can shorten attacks considerably. On the other hand, if I try and push through, or stay downstairs in the hubbub of family life, it’s amazing how the little stresses of everyday life can make things worse.

 

I’ve not written about any of this earlier because, frankly, writing about it would have made things worse by making it all appear more real and concrete. I was happier pretending it was all a sort of private dietary fantasy. But I thought it important to at least say a few words now, if only so that my experiences can go on the record and perhaps be of assistance to others.

I’ll be away from this space for the rest of the week. Talk to you all on the other side of the anaesthetic!

Comments

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on April 7, 2003 - 23:33

Oh, and good luck and I hope you feel well soon.

Matt's picture
Matt on April 8, 2003 - 00:07

Best wishes, Pete.

L.Nicholson's picture
L.Nicholson on April 8, 2003 - 00:16

Hang in there Peter.Just think,forty pounds lighter….and feeling good…ah,the possibilities!! Get well soon.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on April 8, 2003 - 00:33

Don’t forget the weight you’ll lose during the operation. A gallbladder must weight something.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on April 8, 2003 - 02:55

First of all Peter best wishes

Don’t we bumble along in life as in a dream until our health or the health of one we love fails? Facing serious illness, pain and death sure sharpens a love of life. So I am not sure anymore. Not sure that bad things are all bad.

Dave Moses's picture
Dave Moses on April 8, 2003 - 12:36

Take care, Pete. As I get older, the thing I’m starting to realise is that Health is Happiness. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Alan's picture
Alan on April 8, 2003 - 14:53

How ongeneous of a blogger to have his gall removed. No more can I shout at the screen “the gall of the man” as you will be a man without a gall. But you will have gall. But gall which is not sticking around in yer innerds.

Some book learnin’ stolen from the web. The Greek name for gall bladder is cholecyst, from chole, bile + cyst, bladder. The Greek root chole also appears in the word choleric, hot-tempered, irascible, “bilious”. This word is derived from the ancient medical theory that temperament, along with all other aspects of health and disease, is governed by the balance among four humours, allied to the deeper philosophical belief in four elements of fire, water, air and earth. The four humours are gall (= chole) or yellow bile from the gall bladder, black bile (= melan + chole) from the spleen, blood (Latin sanguis), and phlegm or mucus. Along with choleric, the modern words melancholy (pensive, depressive), sanguine (confident, cheerful), and phlegmatic (sluggish, stolid) complete the set of terms for humour-based temperaments.

So can we expect a dissipation of the “hot-tempered, irascible, bilious” tendencies we have come to love?

Wayne's picture
Wayne on April 8, 2003 - 16:53

Some would wish a similar dissipation for yours truly I am sure, Alan.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Peter.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 8, 2003 - 19:27

Alan, are these things you have learned in Kingston?

Alan's picture
Alan on April 8, 2003 - 19:46

Its the black shoes speaking to me - like Jim Carey in the mask. They are getting tighter, Craig, tighter…

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on April 8, 2003 - 21:16

While we should be worrying about the well being of Peter’s gall bladder, I find myself worrying about your black shoes. Ah, a plate of Fran’s finest will surely be the cure. It seems so right to be talking about the re-opening of 75 Queens St, and the fine Curry to follow - while Peter is having sharp instruments stuck in him.

Alan's picture
Alan on April 8, 2003 - 21:32

I am sure it was the lack of regular hot Madras that made the gall bladder keel over in the first place…I think I read somewhere that regular Madras eaters have a 97.8% reduced chance of a wonky gall bladder.

Tamara's picture
Tamara on June 12, 2003 - 23:09

I am so glad to have found this informative piece. I just had my ultrasound today and my gallbladder is apparently filled with stones. Ugh. Anyway, I’m fairly sure my Dr. will recommend getting it removed. I’m a little scared. Hope it goes well.

Bonnie's picture
Bonnie on June 15, 2003 - 20:14

Does anyone know if it’s possible to do the Atkins diet after laparoscopic cholocystectomy?

Leyla's picture
Leyla on March 12, 2004 - 19:01

Has anyone here had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy? I’m 23 years old and been having some of the worst indigestion, pain in between the shoulder blades, and pain in the upper right quadrant. I recently went to the doctor because it’s so bad. He informed me that I have gallstones and my options are medication to dissolve the stones or surgery. The pain is so bad that I just want the gallbladder gone. I was curious if any of you have felt extreme relief after having the surgery, or if it’s caused problems for you.

Leyla

Amanda's picture
Amanda on March 13, 2004 - 18:32

My name is Amanda, Im 20 years old and I recently (less than a month ago) had my gallbladder removed. My doctor told me that for my age I was the worse case he had ever seen. Before my surgery I found that I couldn’t eat anything greasy. McDonald’s French Fries sent me over the edge. I too had back pain along with hearburn and abdominal and gas pains. My worse sympom was diahrrea. It took a long time before I figured out what I could, and couldn’t eat. The last couple of weeks before my surgery I was sticking to only greens, fruits, and cottage cheese. Nothing was digesting properly in my system.
My surgery went great, hardly any pain whatsover. The only painful aspect was the needle they used for my IV. I could have lived without that. But the recovery and my incisions, were almost painless. The procedure takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Carbon Monoxide gas (?) is used to pump up the stomach so that they can see inside, and four incisions are made. One is in the belly button, so it isn’t noticable, and then there are three along the right side of my stomach, very small. THe stitches are on the inside and dissolve on their own. The gas they use during surgery can cause shoulder pain during recovery, which I experienced. It is very unpleasant and there isn’t really anything to relieve it. I was up walking around the nest day and was in the doctors office and back to work in 10 days.
It has been less than a month and I feel fantastic in comparison to how I felt before. I can eat foods that I couldn’t before, but in moderation. For example. I can only eat pizza once a weak, otherwise I’m sick. It is recommended that a low fat diet is maintained after surgery for about 2 weeks, which I found helps if you can stick to it.
Good luck. I would recommend the surgery so that the gallstones dont come back, and with a surgery that isn’t that painful, its worth it.

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer on April 11, 2004 - 19:56

Hello, first of all (please be super careful on the Atkin’s diet, it nearly killed my aunt…she was rushed to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack..the doctors insisted that she stay off that diet..(and atkin himself died of heart disease and was very much overweight)

anyway, I’m Jenn, I’m 24 and I had my gallbladder removed when I was 14. I know the gallbladder attacks all too well and I did have gallstones. At the same time I had an ulcer and none of the pills they gave me really helped.

The surgery was the easiest of any surgery I’ve experienced (there have been 6). Thankfully I had no more attacks, however I get chronic stomach aches even presently and sometimes this even results from simply having a glass of water, ..I get such pain that my entire body burns up and I’ve nearly fainted at times…I suppose I might be part of that 1% who experience problems after gallbladder removal.

Anyway, the surgery is definitely worth it and my scars from the surgery are almost gone..you get a lil ‘x’ above the belly button as the main incision..MUCH better than what people had to experience in the past..

hehe with the surgery, all that I warn is that you avoid laughing afterwards;)

anyway, good luck!

Dennis's picture
Dennis on April 19, 2004 - 00:29

I had a very similar expeience of being misdiagnosed and not understanding what was happening to me, lots of sleepless nights of pain. Then after Thanksgiving at my uncle’s house I had the worst attack that landed me in the ER. I was 34 at the time- had no alternative but to have the GB out by Lap. BTW, aren’t you guys a bit surprised how young you all are to be having such problems. The American diet is to blame no doubt. I would like to hear how Pete feels now, it’s a hard thing to do, I know. I do think losing your GB does change you a little. For one thing, you are not as good at extracting nutrients from food. I find essental fatty acids (EFAs) help me feel good. I am sooo focussed on my health now - no cheesecake ever. I am also on a low carb diet (technically not precisely an Atkins) I just don’t eat bread cookies, sugar and baked stuff, but I won’t eat greasy stuff like bacon, sausage, pork etc, like Atkins suggests. I do eat a lot of nuts to get complex carbs. I think oil intake is important olive oil, Fish oil (omega3, 6), but I avoid trans-fatty acids completely. I have lost 50 lbs and I run 1.5 miles 5 days a week. My blood lipids are perfect (TG 74, Cholest<100, LDL undetectable). I don’t think it’s unhealthy at all. what is unhealthy is low carb and low fat or low carb and high fat (atkins). You need EFAs.

Bonne chance mes amies!

S.G.'s picture
S.G. on August 3, 2004 - 09:44

I am facing gall bladder surgery myself, and I’m glad it was a problem that could be fixed, rather than something wrong with an organ in a permanent way. I had 2 horrible attacks, with me turning yellow (Jaundiced) on each one. I also have a fatty liver (as diagnosed via ultrasound). I appreciate your writing about your experience as it makes me feel better about going forward!

—S in L.A., CA, USA

Jennie Agnew's picture
Jennie Agnew on October 26, 2004 - 01:40

Almost 14 years ago, during a pre-natal ultrasound, the technician asked if I had ever had gallstones? I balked at her suggestion (having never had an attack at that point). Years later I was diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome (I’m now certain it was my gallbladder). Just wondering, how long can gallstones SIT, and not cause troubles? What then triggers an attack? I’ve had quite a few this past summer and I’m finally going to see my m.d. next week about having an ultrasound to confirm diagnosis. I will then look into surgery to remove it. Funny thing is that the worst of my pain is on my LEFT side under my ribs (not the right as I have read on websites is where I should be feeling it).
I’ve given birth three times (the most recent one at home) and I’d rather do it again then have another gall bladder attack! I agree with the person who gave the suggestion of HOT (and I mean HOT) baths - heat is the ONLY thing that has given me any relief.
Any suggestions/info. etc. would be GREATLY appreciated
Jennie, 37, Ontario, Canada

Amy's picture
Amy on May 18, 2005 - 14:26

Ahh I am in the middle in what I believe is a gallstone attack!! Was given Nexium made it worse!!!
Had a friend who had gallstones he said Nexium made his pain worse as well! Has anyone else had this problem?

Have a huge family history of gallstone: mother, grandmother, 2 aunts.

Hope you are all feeling better. Only now can I sympathise with this excruciating pain!

Amy, 23, Australia

kitty's picture
kitty on June 27, 2005 - 02:32

i just had gall bladder surgery 2 wks. ago and feel pretty good except i have stomach aches and terrible gas cramping. i am also a little nauseated. is this part of the recovery?

Carol's picture
Carol on July 14, 2005 - 22:03

My Mom had her gall bladder removed 33yrs ago, after suffering for several years with attacks.
Unfortunately in the last 4yrs she’s had 3 major attacks.complete with jaundice, nausea,and pain. Seems gallstones form in the liver and without a gallbladder,(which our Creator gave us)stones get
lodged in the duct and cause the same misery as before the surgery. No fun at 85yrs old! Mom was in the hospital several days on each occasion.
She had to endure a risky procedure to break up
the stones and who knows if they’ll form again!
Lesson here? Think long & hard before you consent to surgery. Try diet modification first! Hope this helps someone.

RSB845's picture
RSB845 on August 22, 2005 - 12:04

Thank you all for comments, could use some encouragement. I never had a true gallbladder pain, but lots of other discomfort in the lower abdomin, with plenty of nausea after eating. This has gone on for 6 months. Because the pain was not “on target” surgeons have not been too convincing that these symptoms will go away. Had a positive Hidiscan test, though for abnormal gallbladder- don’t think it is working at all.

I was given the option by one surgeon to “live this way”, eating about 20 things as a diet, that helps me manage things or get the surgery. Is this really an option, or is it a health risk to walk around like this?

The thought of surgery, even though I am scheduled in two weeks, is very concerning to me. I read about complications.

Please help me weigh the benefits of this surgery, or if I should have it at all!

Thank you,

RSB845

mystk's picture
mystk on November 12, 2005 - 00:09

Amazing stories of Gallbladder/Galdstones.. I am a woman of 76 and just had Laparoscopy for gallbladder removal.. I am into 4 days after and find eating the right foods and carefully is really a clue… Prior to all this, I experienced 4 severe gallstone attacks. Being alone was real scary and no warning or as to what was the cause… it took two weeks to get confirmed as to what was going on and then to schedule surgery… Going on the web was very informational and found that my regular physcian was not too impressed with the knowledge of my analysis of as to what was going on with me… Should one have the intuition to do some research can be very helpful in moving the process along…So far I am doing fine with a few inconveniences. All the postings were very helpful in understanding the gallbladder/gallstones…

Jenn's picture
Jenn on December 13, 2005 - 16:55

I can surely understand how all of you feel. I am 23 years old and a week ago I had my gallbladder removed, and I am SO greatful for that. I was having severe attacks and they were unbearable. I had my daughter 3 months ago, and they said that the hormones from the pregnancy is what finally caused the problems to get worse. I think I’ve probably had this condition and never knew it previously. I had such severe pains that I could not focus on taking care of her and her daddy had to take over in the middle of the night because I simply had to focus on breathing if at all possible. Nothing would alleviate the pains. Not hot water, heating pad, muscle relaxers, pain relievers. Sometimes if I vomited it would relieve the pain about 15 minutes after. The DRs told me that if I felt like an attack would come on, take one phenergan and 2 lortabs and hope that it was soon enough to make it subside. Sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t. I think I dealt with the pain a lot better once I knew what it was. Before I knew I was afraid they messed my back up with the epidural, because I felt the pains approximately where my diaphragm is and all the way to my back. I really didn’t know what it was at first. But once visiting the ER and them explaining things and further reading up on it afterwards at home, I dealt with the pain a lot better even though the pain wasn’t any better in itself. Now the only pain I feel is in my shoulders and I think that was from the Carbon Dioxide gas they put in my belly for the lap. surgery. Anyone know how to get that gas to come out? That’s the only thing that hurts anymore. I am sure it will work itself out in time, but I was wondering what I could do to help it along. I am just thankful I am not having the attacks anymore. The surgery was well worth it. :)

Renee's picture
Renee on December 15, 2005 - 18:40

Hi, I just wanted to say akins did not die from heart problems..The Man slipped on ice and died from the fall..get your facts streight..!…

Carrie's picture
Carrie on December 16, 2005 - 08:40

I am 30 years old and have pretty much diagnosed myself for sure by researching gallbladders online. My story is yet another mis diagnosis. Oct. 24, 2005 I had what I thought to be kidney stone pain. I know or thought this because I have had 4 kidney stones. The pain got so intense and I began vomitting and headed to the ER. They took all the CT’s, X-rays and ultrasounds and could find nothing, but recommened I go to the GYN. I have PCOS which is Pollycystic Ovarian Sydrome. I form cysts on my ovaries. So they put me on birth control pills to try to shrink the cysts. Then scheduled me to come back 8 weeks later for another ultrasound. After 5 weeks of horrible pain, I couldn’t take it anymore and it seemed to be getting worse. I had to throw a fit, but asked to look again at the cysts and I felt that it was weird how my pain had worked its way just below my ribs. ANYWAY, nothing had changed. So the GYN said she wanted to go in and take a look by doing a Laparoscopy surgery. I said “GREAT”. Releived I would soon know what was wrong, until she said, “I can do it the first part of Feb.” WRONG, I almost cried. I can’t take this pain anymore. I asked her to let me see a partner or someone with more time. So today Dec. 15th I saw her partner and he told me yes, your rt ovary has problems, but I think there is more to it. He described the symtoms of Gallbladder problems and I agreed with those more than the ovarian cyst pains. Granted that pain is there, but not like the upper rib pain. So now on Mon. I am seeing a general surgen to see if he feels it is my gallbladder or appendix or whatever he comes up with. So I did a little experiment on myself and have figured out myself that I am 99% sure it is my gallbladder. I haven’t eaten McDonalds in months and new that the fatty foods, or apparently the fries would irritate me more. Sure enough I am here in so much pain. Anyway sorry to drag it out. Everything about this thing has been drug out. Why didn’t they catch it at the ER? You just can’t take someone’s word just because there is a D and An R in front of their name. I hope and pray that this surgen can get me in soon. But I am glad to figure it all out now on MY OWN. I know now I might be able to control some of this pain. Mine has been everyday since Oct. except for 5 days in which I didn’t eat because I was vomitting.(Not 5 days in a row) God bless anyone who is going through this. I also feel much better knowing what it is. Everything fits. Sorry so long. (do you think that my doctor will appologize for taking so long?)

amber merritt's picture
amber merritt on December 19, 2005 - 05:11

I had my gall bladder removed 3 years ago. I went through a rough time before I was diagnosed. The hospital I was using never found my problem. They tried to pass it off to me as acid reflux. I knew better but I definetely had no idea it was my gall bladder. I visited the ER around 4 or 5 times. They would give me a shot of demerol for the pain and send me home. This hospital has a history of diagnosing everyone with acid reflux. Here lately I have heard some horrible stories. During my ordeal I moved back to my home town and had an attack. It was in the middle of the night. The pain finally got so bad I had done everything I knew for relief, I called mt sister. She took me to the ER. By this time I felt dizzy and disoriented, I crying uncontrolably. They gave me shot of demerol and sent me home. I slept for about an hour andwoke back up with unbearable pain. We made another trip to the ER. This time they tried to tell me I had mental problems ( they tried to blame it on my fiancee passing away 2 years earlier or diet pills) none of these reasons were true. I was just in pain. Finally the doctor came to the conclusion it was my gall bladder. The next day I was sent for tests and all that stuff. We finally found out I had gall stones. They also said something about gang green. I still don’t understand that to this day. They said I needed emergency surgery but that still didn’t take place for 2 weeks. Now that I am free of this organ I had such bad heart burn and indigestion it makes me sick. Any suggestions

Carrie's picture
Carrie on December 19, 2005 - 14:01

Wow, I am sorry to hear you went through so much. I know that knowing something is wrong with you and trying to get the Doc’s to believe you is very frusterating. It is like they think we enjoy coming to the ER and we LOVE paying the bill.
I don’t know all the after surgery instructions yet, but I would think that you would still have to stay away from fatty foods. I am meeting with my surgeon today, I will ask him because I too am worried about the “after” math of removing the gallbladder. Although I sure can’t take the current symtoms anymore. Good luck to you.

Dianne's picture
Dianne on January 8, 2006 - 22:13

Hello. 44yo female, two children, ages 12 & 19. Clinically obese with a BMI over 30. Having intermittent, excruciating pain in rib cage for about 3 months, pain between shoulder blades for over a year, and pain/redness in my right eye for over a year (diagnosed by opthamologist as episcleritis, an inflammation of unknown origin). Went to ER for chest pain about 6 weeks ago. Brainiac doctor says my chest is too big (d’oh) and that the back pain is “mechanical”, meaning I need physical therapy. I’ve been exercising my upper body at the gym for over two months and the back pain is NOT going away and does not feel like a “muscle strain” type of pain. Went to family doctor two weeks ago and he agrees the back pain is mechanical and that I need a breast reduction or lose the weight. He put me on Nexium. The more I read about gall bladder diesase and the symptoms of it, the more I’m convinced I am a prime candidate for it. Fair, fat, fertile and 40. I am adverse to having the gall bladder removed. I want the bile stored there to break down fat in my body. I do not believe that the gall bladder serves no purpose and that we can “live without it”. I’ve already had my spleen removed at 25 (ITP) and my uterus removed at 40 (prolapse). I don’t want the vultures taking anything else outta me until I do all the research. I do feel a bit better on the Nexium. Perhaps it is just a random onset of reflux, even though I have NO heartburn and never have experience heartburn my whole life. I’m scheduled for an abdominal ulstarsound next week so perhaps that will shed some light on the issue.

Cody's picture
Cody on January 21, 2006 - 20:52

This is an excellent article/post. It’s a little hard to find first-hand experience reports about gallstones, and it’s quite hard to find ones so well written.

I too have gallstones. However, some of the comments (read: horror stories) I’ve read online about cholecystectomy are a bit frightening. I think that summarily removing the gallbladder (as some doctors suggest) after only a few attacks is a bad move, because of the risk of complications… not the least of which is continued abdominal pain! Yes, you can have ‘gallbladder attacks’ without a gallbladder. So I’m not going to consider removal unless the symptoms begin to get more uncomfortable or more frequent than the potential complications of removal would be.

I’m extremely lucky… at this point, only really obscene meals will give me an attack (indeed, all of the attacks I’ve had occurred after thinking to myself “This meal will probably give me an attack”) :P

whitney's picture
whitney on January 23, 2006 - 06:35

Hi my name is whitney im 14 YEARS OLD iv had lyme disease for 6 years without treatment i have siezures ,faint ,juandice,vomit,coldsweats,starving,arthritis in every joint,i have osteoarthritis,hypotension,hypertension,deppression,slipped opiphasis,blackouts,rashes on stomache,losing sight,and much more i also broke my neck and femer in a horse accident and am know wiser than alot of those stuborn doctors lol.i NOW HAVE GALLBLADER ATTACKS and am getting it removed tommarow jan/23/06 and hope my liver gets better i can’t leave my house and havent for 3 years so hpefully my chest pain will go away and my lyme disease (tick bite be carefull) i wish you best of luck.

Stephano's picture
Stephano on January 25, 2006 - 20:56

Hi, I agree with Steven. I was recently diagnosed w/ gallbladder malfunctioning problems. They may or may not have a medical name for this, but I have come to the conclusion, that if they do have a name , that it will be replaced with another really soon. The main reason is that someone with a low gallbladder fraction ( this would be the function of the gallbladder measured by the amount of bile it spits out) Yes, quite complicated… Anyway, my POINTO: Is that I had two surgeons tell me “OUTTA!” Of course, the skeptic I am said ” Notta!” This particular condition is not well understood by the medical field anyway, and their solution is to take the organ out completely… I have treated myself with an old time remedy that is virtually NON EXSISTANT…. I am now better and revitalized, and of course, I still have my gallbladder. So doctors have been trained to fix your problem…. but at what price??? There is a price tag on everything associated w/ the medical profession. The key is prevention and diet. Disease starts when YOU ultimately fail to give your body what God put on the earth billions of years ago and is still here today!

Steph

Darcey's picture
Darcey on February 12, 2006 - 17:08

I had my gallbladder out on Feb 1st — still surprised at how much pain that I am feeling in my belly button - (Have the half moon incision) - I figured that I would be better by now. Also, am not that hungry anymore, does anyone else notice that if you even slightly overeat you are in pain later? I have figured out that it is not really what I am eating, but how much. I am a small girl, 5’6, 130 lbs, and I used to be able to eat half a large pizza by myself, now I cant get the second piece down without feeling like I am going to explode, then if I would eat it, I am in severe pain later….anyone else experience this? And - can anyone tell me how long the bloating lasts???

Glass's picture
Glass on April 7, 2006 - 17:59

Have you ever tried any old home remedies for gall bladder symtoms? I tried Apple juice and it worked. I took the frozen kind and sipped it during an attack. I didn’t dilute it with water. it gave me relief.

Rachael's picture
Rachael on May 24, 2006 - 05:50

I have had 5 attacks over the last year. All start with indigestion and then drop down to my abdomen. When this happens I experience excruciating pain that lasts for hours and hours, I then become very nauseous and throw up a few times befor I feel better

The PAIN is severe, my doctor insists that it is IBS. Which i just dont agree with. My last attack (4 days ago) occured after eating a serve of hot chips. I do not want to have surgery even if it was an option.

Has anyone tried a natural remedy??

Mary Cole's picture
Mary Cole on May 30, 2006 - 22:43

I would like to ask Stephano a question? What did you take as a home remedy? I have had gallbladder pain off and on for a good part of my life, but I do not want it removed. I still have all of my parts and they are my parts and I would like to keep them. No good to any one else anyway!!!!! If there is something that doesn’t cost $250.00 and works, I would love to know what it is? Stephano, are you there? Or does anyone else have any suggestions? Thanks.

Cody's picture
Cody on June 5, 2006 - 14:18

A quick list I’ve gathered from the ‘net and my own personal experiences…

Things to AVOID: Eggs (high cholesterol), Meats (high fat, high cholesterol), Foods that you are allergic to (allergens can trigger an attack according to some websites), Saturated and Trans Fats, Rapid weight loss (can form additional stones), Heavy alcohol use, The “olive oil liver flush” quick-fix (a myth; if you somehow did succeed in making a stone pass, it would just lodge in the duct and hurt like hell), *ANY* MCDONALD’S (or kfc, or bk, etc) MENU ITEM BESIDES COKE (this one is the hardest, because I do mean ANY), Surgery to remove the gallbladder (in about 5 to 10 percent of people, biliary pain persists, probably due to stones forming in the bile ducts - and then you’re really screwed!)

Things to TRY: Coffee (increases bile flow), Dietary Fiber (reduces constipation, a gallstone risk factor), Vitamin C (converts cholesterol to bile acids), Moderate alcohol use, Subway’s “7 subs under 6 grams of fat” (but remember that they don’t stay 6 grams if you add cheese and mayo), Exercise (i don’t practice this one myself, but it helps), Drinking lots of water and other fluids

The list is of course not complete. There are lots of websites with more tips on how to naturally deal with gallstones (just Google for “gallstones”) and I’m sure you already have your own list of “Things to AVOID.” heh.

I’ve had 7 gallstone attacks since my last post in January… they are getting more frequent (maybe due to some sort of cumulative irritation effect on the gallbladder?) but also less severe (because I am eating less and less fat after each attack). One thing I’ve learned after a year of this crap is that a gallstone attack is a gallstone attack, but one caused by a nasty grease-burger is going to cause more pain and last far longer than one caused by a candy bar or two. Another is that gallstones are singularly responsible for all the “have you lost weight?” comments I’ve gotten, so they can’t be all bad.

Also, in case anyone is interested, here is my personal list of “safe” foods (foods eaten in copious amounts with no ill effect) vs. “unsafe” foods (foods that caused an attack) — post your lists too!

SAFE: Fish Fillets - baked, not fried; Low fat (3 g per serving or less) margarine; Any of the various low-fat ice creams; Fat Free miracle whip; Baked Lay’s potato chips; Cookies (strangely enough. I’ve eaten like 6 in one sitting before and not gotten an attack); “Cake” type donuts; Subway subs (the only ‘fast’ food I can safely eat anymore); Meatless/Soy burgers (you might be saying “eww,” but they’ve made some real progress with these just lately, and i can eat two or three safely)

UNSAFE: Deep-Fried fast food in general; Poutine (do I really need to explain this one?); Eggs (the cholesterol in these is off the scale); Regular butter or margarine (too much fat); Danish Pastries; Chocolate bars (they are deceptively low-fat… maybe only 6 grams of fat per bar, but like 5 will be saturated!); Deep-fried type donuts

as always though, Your Mileage May Vary, and this post is my opinion only. Also, thanks to Peter Rukavina for letting us use his comments area as a sort of makeshift gallstone forum. ;)

Cody's picture
Cody on June 5, 2006 - 14:35

Sorry for the double-post, but I forgot something. :(

This website is ESSENTIAL for anyone dealing with gallstones: http://www.nutritiondata.com

You can get the fat/cholesterol content in virtually anything — from a small fries at Wendys to a cow’s brain (no, I’m not kidding about that). And you can also use the “Pantry” tool to track your daily consumption (just select the foods you ate today, and it tallies the fat content automatically) which is pretty handy. A note of warning though: You may be really shocked at what’s in some foods (and what’s not in others!).

Linda Behm's picture
Linda Behm on June 21, 2006 - 01:49

Thank you for the information, I am in the middle of an attack, my first in twenty years. Funny how you don’t forget what that pain is. I can’t believe how fast it came on. Your article was very helpful, if I don’t feel better by morning I will call the doctor. Off to the bath tub. Thanks again, Linda

ray's picture
ray on August 21, 2006 - 23:49

I am on the list for galdbladder removal but I am not going through with it.
I stopped smoking after 37 years in March 2006 and I have not had an attack since. I have been eating fish n chips once a week and whatever I want and no attack.
Before when I was smoking I had attacks once a month. Also I dont want to get bowel cancer, so I am looking for the natural recipe to take and get rid of them that way.
Avoid being cut, Only as a last resort. I am also diabetic. I am also slim and single and 43 and live alone NW suburbs of Melbourne Australia. If you are a woman in need, as you can read I feel alive again. Yum. Ray

Ray's picture
Ray on August 21, 2006 - 23:51

sorry I meant I am 53 years young
Ray

Katherine's picture
Katherine on September 14, 2006 - 01:08

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thougthful diary of your experiences with your gall bladder. I have had symptoms for 5 years and have controlled it fiarly well, but for the past three months things have gotten worse. I had a CT scan 2 years ago which showd no stones but I think I need another scan. Eating is like walking through a mine field! I never know what is going to set off an attack any longr. I can no longer eat nuts, blueberries, tomatoe sauce,etc,etc. I hope the scan clearly shows something as I am tired of this. I have been ill four tims in the past 3 weeks to the point that I was up most of the night. I hav very little back pain though.

Cody's picture
Cody on October 9, 2006 - 04:45

Well, I found the only reliable cure for eliminating gallbladder pain apart from surgery:

Don’t eat anything with any fat in it. That’s pretty much what it has come to for me, haha. On the plus side, I’m losing lots of weight.

Tania's picture
Tania on October 11, 2006 - 12:34

Thanks so much for the info. Sounds just like what I have been experiencing…. Gallbladder ultrasound next week…guess we will see. Again, thanks for all the good information. Yours is the best description I have found so far on the net. I am sorry you had the experience but I appreciate your sharing it to help others who might be facing the same dilemma.

Katie's picture
Katie on February 14, 2007 - 12:42

Your story is like a mirror-image story of mine, and during about the same time.

I had two ops for my gallbladder. One was to get rid of the stones with tubes down my throat - that didn’t work, then about a month later of suffering (a week ago today) I had my gallbladder moved by open cholecystectomy. We’ve had the same things, not being able to hardly eat, losing a massive load of weight, losing the addictions to sugar drinks and fast food (I use to love cans of coke, would drink about 5 a day, and McDonalds was a massive favourite) now I don’t touch either.

When I went into hospital, my gallbladder was angry and inflammed, and had to take alot of antibiotics to get rid of the swelling.. then they just took me down to the theatre and took it out with one slice. Post op, I’m doing good, pains still there, but it ain’t as bad as it was, and I’m gradually getting better. I know you said you’re having the other kind of op, with the three cuts and the camera, and I hope you get the results you want.

It just goes to show though, after months of pain and waiting, and it’s a sucess, none of it matters anymore and life gets back to normal. I can eat butter on toast now and not have a really painful attack.

People just don’t realise how painful it all is.

Tammy's picture
Tammy on April 14, 2007 - 10:56

Wow, it is 10 before 3 in the morning and I have been suffering an attack since 10 last night. This is all very new to me as my first attack was a little over a month ago and they happen every couple of days. I learned a lot reading through all of your comments. My doctor put me on Pariet 8 days ago and it has seemed to help somewhat. I wasn’t even thinking about it tonight when while watching a movie with my son I ate a box of chocolate covered almonds. Hmmmmmmmmm nuts and chocolate just before bed is it any wonder I am sitting here suffering. Didn’t know that before. Also didn’t know about eggs before as I am a 2 eggs a day with my morning coffee person. Aside from hot bath I did not notice anyother real remedies for relief during an attack. I have tried pepto bismal and Bismuth and had some relief but they didn’t help tonight. Any other suggestions out there?
Thank you all for your insights

susan's picture
susan on April 24, 2007 - 22:37

I was told the only to get relief was to have the surgery. I had it done 6 days ago…I feel great. I ate a whole plate of mexican food last night and a cookie laid down to watch tv and feel asleep. Guess what…I woke up this morning feeling wonderful. I finally ate a yummy dinner without walking around the house at 2:00am in the worst pain ever. It will not go away and if you wait it will only get worse. I waited so I know. The surgery was so easy I was at home the same day watching tv on my couch. I was shopping 3 days later…eating a pretzel at the mall. I think the only side effect im going to have is gaining weight eating all the food I was not able to eat before. Im never eating oatmeal and apple juice again!! Good luck..walking will help with you attacks.

Cody's picture
Cody on July 11, 2007 - 15:47

Just an update…. eating even less trans fats and saturated fats now… and having less attacks as a result…. still haven’t had the gallbladder removed, but I’m only having an attack about once every 3-4 months now, as opposed to on a monthly basis… and due to being forced to not eat absolute crap (like KFC) i’ve lost 80 pounds…. ALL thanks to these gallstones. i love ‘em. maybe i’ll take them out when i lose so much weight that i look like a meth addict though…. ;) everyone keeps asking me what diet plan i’m on, what exercise program i’m doing… and i just tell them i’m losing weight against my will…. i never even wanted to be thin… that’s the funny part…

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