If you’re overweight or have obesity, you have a higher chance of developing gallstones. Losing weight quickly can also cause gallstones.
Gallstones may not cause any symptoms but if they do, you should see your doctor. Sometimes gallstones make people feel sudden pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen. They may also have pain that feels like it is under the right shoulder or in the right shoulder blade. Eating foods high in fat or protein and having indigestion may be another symptom.
While being overweight or having obesity can cause gallstones, so can treatments to help you lose weight. Diets or surgeries that cause very rapid weight loss may be more likely to lead to gallstone problems than diets or surgeries that lead to slower weight loss.
Weight-loss surgery and very-low calorie diets can increase your risk for developing gallstones if you have rapid weight loss.
Several other factors may increase your chances of having problems with gallstones after weight-loss surgery or a VLCD. They include:
- existing gallstones before your surgery or VLCD, especially if they are causing symptoms
- a large amount of excess weight before the surgery or VLCD
- very rapid weight loss after the surgery or VLCD
If you are starting a VLCD or having weight-loss surgery, talk to your health care provider about how to reduce your chances of getting gallstones.
To help prevent gallstones, try losing weight at a slow pace. You’ll need to ask your health care provider how much weight is safe to lose over the course of a week. Health professionals recommend 1/2 to 2 pounds per week.
The foods you choose to eat can also affect whether you develop gallstones. Here are three tips to help prevent gallstones while you lose weight.
- Eat more foods high in fiber, like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread.
- Eat fewer refined grains and less sugar.
- Eat healthy fats, like fish oil and olive oil, to help your gallbladder contract and empty on a regular basis.
Exercising regularly also lowers your risk for developing gallstones. Ask your doctor how much exercise is right for you. In general, you should try to exercise five hours every week to lose weight or prevent the weight from coming back.
If you are thinking about starting an eating and physical activity plan to lose weight, talk with your health care provider first. Together, you can discuss various eating and physical activity programs, your medical history, and the benefits and risks of losing weight, including the chances of developing gallstones.
Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases