My Gallbladder Journey by Sherri Mitchell
Unfortunately, as we age, we know that our bodies are not the same as when we were young. Presbyopia (“Presbyopia”) is the condition where our eyes change in our early 40’s and I found out that our digestive system also changes about this time as well (Your Aging Digestive System. Website). I also found out Perimenopause, the pre-stage of menopause, also listed digestive disorder as a symptom (Sweet. website). Perimenopause symptoms can range widely and although many may have no symptoms, digestive problems can arise during this unique period to each woman. Besides mood swings, sleep disorders and the popular hot flashes, digestive disorders can also begin or be present. Lucky us!
If you are having or had gallbladder/stomach issues, then this may sound familiar: Back in October 2008, I began to have nausea and vomiting which led to an ER visit, many doctor visits and tests, prescriptions and OTC medications, as well as my current alternative medicine decision. The supplement diet that I was on for 15 or so months had helped to save my gallbladder. Series of tests like ultrasound, MRI and nuclear testing are typically needed in many cases to further diagnose, as it was in my case.
Having been on a supplement diet prior, I knew it could be an option to the alternative of another surgery. Since I had three cesareans from 1994 through 2000, the idea of getting another surgery scared me a bit. The gallbladder, although useful, is not necessary.
Some people have gallstones that can cause pain; luckily, this wasn’t my case. However, if this is your case, then a supplement diet for alternative treatment is NOT an option for you, unfortunately. Gallstone attacks cause extreme pain in the upper-right quarter of the abdomen, often extending to the back. This pain can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting (“Gall-stones – Alternative Medicine.” Website).” Gallstones affect about 20 million people in the U.S. per year (Everhart and Khare. 117).
On The Center of Disease Control website, they explain that “Digestive Diseases represent the third largest economic burden of illness in the United States. Digestive problems can be IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, bloating or acid reflux. Gallbladder disease is the most costly digestive illness, generating more than a billion dollars per year in direct costs for medical care” (“Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey”), it allows companies to promote GI problems and profit from them.
Digestive problems and GI health produce big dollars for not only hospitals, doctors, radiologists but also pharmaceutical companies like Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of Prilosec® OTC and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, manufacturer of Nexium®. Like all medications and prescriptions, there are warnings and side effects listed on or inside both of thesepackages(Read Our Package, Nexium, and Nexium Product Information. Websites). I was on both products from November thru December 2008 and took Pepcid AC® in the evenings periodically through 2010. After doing my own research, acid buffer medicines seem to only be a temporary fix and I feel that the side effects of meds may outweigh the benefits.
Additionally, to make a dedicated decision to stick with an alternative treatment, I had to research the actual surgical procedure as well. On the American College of Surgeons website, they discuss both of the surgical procedures of gallbladder removal which is also called Cholecystectomy (Cholecystectomy Surgical Removal of the Gallbladder. Website). One can have either a laparoscopic procedure where four small(er) holes are needed in the abdomen or an open procedure where a larger incision is required under the right side under the rib cage as described on this Cholecystectomy Overview page on their college site.
My symptoms pointed to Chronic Cholecystitis which means according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, Liver and Gallbladder Disorders Section, that it is recurring attacks of inflammation and pain (Shaffer. Website). In my case, my belief is that my Chronic Cholecystitis is due to various reasons based on my individual lifestyle, diet, stress factors, etc. In some cases, I believe that gallbladders are removed unjustly and can be saved.
My nuclear test showed my gallbladder to be 75% functioning. Fortunately, this was not enough for doctors to suggest immediate removal of my gallbladder. If the gallbladder is below 50% functioning, that is when they will suggest removal, and anything below 30% is high risk for removal according to Dr. Anshuman Chawla, Gastroenterologist in Downers Grove, Illinois. However, to me, and my personal test results, this was an indication that my digestive system was not working properly and I needed to do something about it to prevent surgery.
Like all surgeries and procedures, there are benefits and risks and the following was listed from the American College of Surgeons site: “Gallbladder removal will help treat pain…and in most cases stop pain and gallstones from returning.” Risks of not having surgery and risks of surgery are both mentioned on this website page, and it states that “risks of not having surgery are the possibility of worsening symptoms, infection or bursting of the gallbladder. Possible complications (after surgery) include bleeding, bile duct injury, fever, liver injury, infection, numbness, raised scars, hernia at the incision, anesthesia complications, puncture of the intestines, and death (Cholecystectomy Surgical Removal of the Gallbladder. Website).”
I decided to go back to see Dr. Hult (Hult Clinic of Chiropractic PC. Website), Chiropractor and Alternative Medicine Doctor who specializes in subscribing supplements to his patients. Dr. Frederick Hult is one of the only local Chicago area doctors to use software with interro electromagnetic for analyzing a person’s body make-up. This is important since we may have either excessive amounts or lack of vitamins, minerals, herbals and other substances (prescription drugs, etc.) that affect our body compositions. My mom’s friend referred me to Dr. Hult back in 1994 after I moved and had a bad reaction to a few allergy shots during my pregnancy. I was ready to try alternative medicine and this readiness comes at different times for each person.
Dr. Hult helped me find allergy relief with a yeast-free diet for allergies and most recently, he has helped me with my supplement diet for my digestive and gallbladder problems. Dr. Hult has a Diplomate status with the American Chiropractic Council (Diplomates (DACBN) are Highlighted in Yellow. Website). Doctors from various Chicago hospitals come to observe him and learn more at his McHenry clinic; these doctors also understand that the alternative treatment brings relief; supplementation does help.
In addition to one’s diet, Perimenopause, Fibro and stress can also be big factors with gallbladder issues. Some elements related to the perimenopause may beresponsible for the reduction of gallbladder emptying (Petroianu 129-30). Extended constipation also may be one of the reasons that cause gallbladder problems or disease, so this needs to be considered(Fabiola. Website). Our Diet, which includes intake of fiber, vitamins and minerals, is a huge factor. “Without a daily supply of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, no matter how much energy we get in the form of calories, our bodies and minds deteriorate because we are not able to fully replace the dying cells in our internal and external organs (Zane Pilzer. Website).” Helping our organs to function properly really is our own job as we should be responsible for what we put in, and that will determine what we get out.
Here is what I found that helps my digestive system:
● Drink plenty of water (5 glasses minimum per the New Wellness Revolution book) and do not drink water or most of this required water during meals. Reason being, is that Paul Zane Pitzer, author of the book states: “The chemicals in your stomach become less efficacious when diluted, and this can cause valuable nutrients to wash through versus being absorbed by your body (Zane Pilzer. Website).”
● I have learned to reduce fatty foods especially at dinnertime, eliminate fried greasy foods, and stick to taking my daily supplements.
Note: I have forgotten to take my supplements a few times and knew within about 18 hours that same nausea and stomach pains would return; my body wasn’t able to digest the proteins yet, so I had to continue. After about 3-4 months, I tried to skip my supplements intentionally to decide if I can reduce the supplements as Dr. Hult suggested, and I was able to reduce the evening ones and eventually eliminate those completely.
● Daily supplements that I took included: Cranberry, garlic, taurine, Vitamin E, chewable Methyl B-12 by a company called Jarrow Formulas® (Methyl B-12. Website), generic multivitamin made especially for women, Calcium with Magnesium, Potent C Guard™ Buffered Ascorbate Powder (Perque Potent C Guard™: BufferedAscorbates. Website), Exhilarin® Stress Defense Formula (Exhilarin®. Website), fish oil, CoQ10, Bromelain (“Bromelain [Pineapple Enzyme].”), Stomach HCL™ by a company called Northern Nutrition (Shipshewana, IN company) and I also took two Biotics® Research Corporation Supplements called: Beta-TCP and Beta-Plus (B6 Phosphate to Bio-Ae-Mulsion Alphabetized Product Page. Website).
After being on 15 supplements during the a.m. and then about 4-5 more for nighttime, I was good for about 3 weeks initially. However, by the end of January, I also had to add one tablespoon daily of Finish Line’s U-7™ Gastric Aid (U-7™ Gastric Aid Liquid. Website) which has helped to eliminate the symptoms now and keep gastric distress afar.
● Make sure to stay regular. Regular bowel movements result with less bloating and gas. If I did get any discomfort, sometimes fiber supplementation helped as well as multigrain breads.
Keeping active with exercise a few times a week helps to keep the digestive tract moving and constipation at a minimum. Exercise also helps my Fibro as well as my mental well-being by reducing stress. I am pleased with my results from the supplement diets and know that my own research and initiative has helped and will continue to save my gallbladder.
I was surprised to discover that many symptoms were caused by not only my gallbladder and stomach issues, but also from my Fibromyalgia and Perimenopause. Each person has many health issues, symptoms and history, so all have to be considered when making a decision like removal of an organ. I was able to reflect on how every treatment should be unique just like the individuals we are. This research taught me that there are various acceptable paths for health treatment. Individuals need to be treated as individuals since there may be other symptoms or disorders to consider; one has to look closely at all symptoms and health issues to decide how the overall health can be improved and how symptoms are correlated to otherdisorders. This research helped confirm that supplements and alternative treatment were right for me to treat my gallbladder and stomach issues.
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Sherri Mitchell on March 05, 2015:
I am happy to say that I still have my gallbladder today, and refer back to my findings many times as well. Menopause-- and men go through changes as well, during our middle-life years, as this time in our lives does wonders with all the changes in our bodies (digestive problems arise before, during and probably after; and of course, mental and physical health changes as well). Hang in there and know that others are experiencing things right along with you. Thank goodness for blogs and online support, as well as the support of doctors, family and friends.
semitch (author) on January 31, 2012:
Thanks for reading and giving your valuable feedback.
Jackie, I have taken ginger root when pregnant for morning sickness, so yes, that would be helpful for nausea. And after large meals, restaurants give the peppermints to help settle the stomach, so that is also a wonderful suggestion!
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 31, 2012:
I will bookmark this. I have had some of these problems and using fresh ginger and peppermint tums for nausea seemed to help with my gallbladder symptoms, so you may want to look into that too. I took all the pepcids, tagemets, ets until it started a build up side-effect. I never take any of those any more. I will reread this when I have more time, very interesting.
Sue B. on January 31, 2012:
Interesting article! I, unfortunately, have had my gallbladder removed recently and was one of those people where the duct was 100% blocked by the time I was in the hospital. I did not have the classic symptoms and was not aware of any gallstone issues prior. The American diet certainly does not take care of our digestive system! I think you listed some valuable tips for everyone.