The term gallbladder disease is a general description of issues associated with this organ, like infection, inflammation, blockages, and cancer. However, one of the most common problems involves gallstones.
More than 25 million Americans develop gallstones. Of those individuals, 65-75% were assigned female at birth. Part of this increased risk involves female hormones and how they impact bile — the digestive fluid held and released by your gallbladder — and gallbladder function.
In addition to gender, other risk factors for gallbladder disease include:
You may not be able to control these factors, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and wait for problems to arise. That’s because certain lifestyle habits can also put you at risk of gallbladder disease, and you can change those.
As a general surgeon, Dr. Laureen Forgione-Rubino has advanced training and expertise in robot-assisted and single-incision laparoscopic techniques — the preferred method of removing a diseased gallbladder. Minimally invasive approaches mean faster recovery from surgery, but wouldn’t you prefer avoiding surgery altogether?
Dr. Forgione-Rubino recommends changing these four lifestyle habits as soon as possible.
Whether you have a few pounds to lose or several, weight is one of the primary lifestyle predictors of gallbladder disease. However, losing weight too quickly can also put you at risk of a problem.
Instead, play it safe. Strive to lose 5-10% of your body weight a week — or approximately 1-2 pounds — over a 6-month period.
We know it’s hard to follow a healthy diet in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially with so many quick and easy pre-made options within reach. However, the food you consume also plays an essential role in reducing your risk of gallbladder disease.
Following a Mediterranean Diet is a great place to start, and it can reduce your risk of heart disease at the same time! This balanced diet is rich in plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and healthy fats found in avocados, flaxseed, and fish oil.
You should also try to avoid sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats, like full-fat dairy, fast food, and red meat.
You probably don’t associate your gallbladder with exercise, but getting enough physical activity significantly reduces your risk of gallbladder disease. The best part? The health benefits are just as good with non-vigorous activity as with vigorous activity. So adding a brisk walk to your lunch break is all you need to reduce your risk of gallbladder issues.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week for the best health benefits.
If you need another reason to ditch your tobacco habit, do it for your digestive system and gallbladder. Smoking increases your risk of gallstones, but it doesn’t stop there. It also increases your chances of developing:
Smoking increases your risk of digestive system cancers, including those in your mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, and rectum.
Changing these lifestyle habits can significantly reduce your chances of gallbladder disease and even ease existing symptoms. However, if you’re experiencing severe issues or ongoing problems, surgery could be the best solution for addressing your condition.