Alcohol consumption, particularly in excess, has the potential to impact so many areas of your health and your body. It’s important to be aware of the risks of alcohol, and if you drink, always drink in moderation to avoid many of these risks.

While we think of things like breast cancer and liver conditions most often when we consider the damaging effects of alcohol, there are other ways it can cause health problems. But does alcohol affect the gallbladder? Here’s what you should know about alcohol and the gallbladder.

Article at a Glance:

In the most direct ways, alcohol doesn’t cause gallbladder problems. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an indirect relationship.

  • For example, if you have cirrhosis of the liver you’re more likely to develop complications, such as gallstones.
  • Also, if you have existing gallbladder conditions, it might be best to avoid alcohol because it could cause complications.
  • The best things you can do to maintain a healthy gallbladder include having a healthy weight and avoiding crash diets.

Does Alcohol Affect the Gallbladder?

The reason many people think there is a relationship between alcohol and the gallbladder is because of the proximity of the gallbladder to the liver. We know the liver and alcohol have a relationship to one another, and if you consume too much alcohol, it can cause a variety of liver problems ranging from mild to severe. However, alcohol use and gallbladder health don’t have the same relationship.

Currently, there is no research that shows that alcohol contributes to gallbladder problems, including gallstones. In fact, a small amount of alcohol may actually help prevent the risk of developing the condition. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should start drinking to keep your gallbladder healthy because you’re ultimately likely to cause damage to other parts of your body in the process.

Also, while alcohol and gallbladder conditions aren’t directly related, drinking heavily could indirectly contribute to gallbladder problems. One way is through liver cirrhosis. People who have cirrhosis of the liver can get gallstones as a result of a complication that comes from liver scarring.

Something else to note about alcohol and gallbladder conditions is that if you have pancreatitis as the result of gallstones, drinking alcohol can make the problem worse. If you have gallbladder symptoms, it is normally best to avoid alcohol.

If Alcohol Doesn’t Lead to Gallstones, What Does?

There are a number of reasons gallstones can form including:

  • Genetics; having a family member with a history of gallstones may mean you’re more likely to get them
  • Obesity or losing significant amounts of weight quickly
  • Having an imbalance in the chemicals that make up bile
  • Having irritable bowel or Crohn’s disease

What Is the Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is an organ that doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention unless a problem arises. Your gallbladder is located directly below the liver, and if something is wrong with it, you’ll usually feel pain below the ribs. It’s a small organ that’s responsible for storing bile, which is a substance that helps you break down and digest the fat you consume.

One of the most common disorders of the gallbladder is the formation of gallstones, which form from cholesterol and bile that’s hardened. Gallstones can be very painful and may lead to jaundice, inflammation, and irritation of the walls of the gallbladder. Gallbladder disease or gallstones are also referred to as cholelithiasis. Complications that can arise from gallstones include biliary colic (pain from gallstones blocking certain ducts) and acute cholangitis (inflammation within the bile ducts).

Some of the rarer problems associated with the gallbladder can include cancer, perforation of the gallbladder and pancreatitis. Some types of pancreatitis occur when gallstones move from the gallbladder and then block the pancreatic enzymes from being able to go to the small intestine.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.