Alcohol and Gallstones | Can Alcohol Cause Gallstones?
When you regularly drink alcohol, it can affect your mental and physical health in so many ways. Drinking has become a part of our culture or so it seems, but the pervasive portrayal of alcohol in movies, TV, and the media often doesn’t take into account the risks that it can bring, particularly when it is used in excess.
One specific area of your health that alcohol can affect is the liver. Alcohol is metabolized in your liver and when that happens toxic byproducts are produced. This over time can cause scarring and damage to the liver, which can result in conditions like cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.
So what about alcohol and gallstones? What are gallstones, what causes them and can alcohol cause gallstones?
The following provides an overview of what gallstones are, and answers “can alcohol cause gallstones.”
The gallbladder is tiny and located under the liver, below your rib cage. It connects to your intestine and liver through tubes which are called bile ducts. Bile is stored in the gallbladder, and this is a fluid produced by your liver. When you eat a fatty meal, the bile stored in your gallbladder is released and it breaks down the fat. Bile is essential for digesting fat, and it also helps you to absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins.
Sometimes gallstones can form, which are basically small collections of solid material that can develop in the gallbladder. They can look like small stones, or be smaller, and they may be made entirely of cholesterol, completely from pigment which is calcium and something called bilirubin, or they can be something else.
Gallstones form when the chemicals that make up bile are out of balance, and they can occur as an example if your cholesterol levels in your bile are higher than your acid levels.
It’s believed that the primary reason some people develop gallstones, aside from factors like genetics, is because of their diet. For example, if you have a diet that’s high in unhealthy fats and cholesterol and low in fiber, you may be at a higher risk of developing gallstones.
Some of the symptoms of gallstones may go unnoticed, or the pain may be severe. The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the abdomen, but other symptoms may include nausea and vomiting.
If it is discovered that you have gallstones but they aren’t causing problems, you may not need treatment, however, complications are possible such as something called biliary colic. You may also experience acute inflammation of your gallbladder, which can require antibiotics.
The reason people might think alcohol and gallstones are related is because the gallbladder is attached to the liver, and this is one of the organs that can be most damaged by excessive drinking. However, there isn’t research that shows alcohol can really affect the gallbladder or lead to the creation of gallstones, at least directly.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t indirect links between alcohol and gallstones.
First, your gallbladder does have a direct interaction with your liver. If the functionality of your liver is impaired, it can cause problems in the gallbladder. For example, if you have a liver problem because of alcohol, it may make you more likely to have bile that’s imbalanced, which can lead to gallstones.
Also, if you are obese you’re more likely to experience gallstones, and people who drink alcohol excessively can be heavier than non-drinkers in many cases.
Although there are possible indirect links between alcohol and gallstones, drinking a bit or moderately is associated with having a lower risk of developing gallstones.
If you’re already diagnosed with gallstones and wondering what to know about alcohol and gallstones, it’s best to keep your alcohol intake at a minimal level. First, you want to make sure you’re not consuming too many calories, but drinking too much can also lead to irritation and inflammation that can make the symptoms of gallstones feel worse.
Alcohol intake isn’t necessarily directly going to cause gallstones, but if you drink to the point that your liver is compromised, you may be more likely to develop gallstones.
The best thing you can do to avoid gallstones is to maintain a healthy diet and weight, and drink only in moderation.
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