Does Alcohol Affect the Bladder?

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 always to 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 problems as well.

One possible example is the gallbladder. Does alcohol affect the gallbladder? Below is what you should know about alcohol and the gallbladder.

Alcohol and Gallbladder | Does Alcohol Affect the Gallbladder?
Before looking at the specifics of alcohol and the gallbladder, what is it?

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 small, and it’s responsible for storing bile, which is a substance that helps you break down and digest fat you consume.

It doesn’t produce the bile, but it stores it when it’s not being used. It’s your liver that actually produces the bile, and then when you eat, it’s released by the gallbladder where it then goes into the small intestine to break down fats.

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 and inflammation, and irritation of the walls of the gallbladder.

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

Some of the complications that can arise when you have gallstones include something called biliary colic, which is pain resulting from gallstones blocking certain ducts, as well as acute cholangitis, where gallstones cause inflammation of the bile ducts.

As was mentioned above, there’s also a condition called pancreatitis, which occurs when a gallstone travels to block the entrance to the pancreas, resulting in inflammation.
Gallbladder disease or gallstones are also referred to as cholelithiasis, and if this is something you’re diagnosed with, you’re advised to eat a healthy diet that’s high in fiber and low in fat.

A common question people have is “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 this organ 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 and the gallbladder don’t have the same relationship.

Currently, there is no research that shows that alcohol contributes to gallbladder problems including gallstones, and a small amount of alcohol may actually help prevent the development of a condition related to the gallbladder. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should start drinking to keep your gallbladder healthy because you’re ultimately going 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 large amounts of alcohol can make the problem worse. If you have gallbladder symptoms, you should avoid alcohol.

So, if alcohol doesn’t affect the gallbladder and 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

So to sum up, does alcohol affect gallbladder health? In most direct ways alcohol doesn’t cause gallbladder problems, and the best things you can do to maintain a healthy gallbladder include having a healthy weight and avoiding crash diets.

With that being said, that doesn’t mean alcohol and gallbladder health 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, you should avoid alcohol because it can cause complications.