Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Shortly after I was born Mom had a gallbladder attack. She remembers eating a peanut butter sandwich before bed and waking up in severe pain. She went to the hospital and they removed her gallbladder. As a result I've always been mildly phobic about peanut butter.
Gallbladder problems are hereditary. In the last twenty years my digestive system has been increasingly fussy probably in some part because of my gallbladder.  In my forties I had symptoms but an ultrasound didn't show any stones. There is this thing about being fair, fat and forty associated with gallbladder issues. I have read that it's showing up in younger people and it is suggested that it's the fault of fast food. Maybe. Mom had her problems when she was 27. I made it through the forties and fifties with only occasional flair ups. I've been increasingly careful with fats, carbohydrates, sugar to manage what I call my stomach aches but which may have been my gallbladder complaining.
Fat people (particularly fat women) may have gallbladder issues more often than others. There is apparently an estrogen factor. There is a connection with Diabetes. Rabid weight loss may also be a contributor. A person may be told to lose weight and cause an attack. Many articles mention obesity followed by rapid weight lost with no sense of irony. Like so many things medical there's mostly theories, educated guesses. And I have know a few men who were young, thin and generally healthy eaters who had gallbladder issues. For what that's worth.
Recently, I had two meals that were not gallbladder friendly. I had carbonara and a few days later I had a multi-coarse meal that included oysters coppa, lamb, and lots of desert. It was a great meal with two friends and fun conversation. It's one of my favorite things to do but I don't do it that often.
The other day I saw a chart on Facebook from some hippie thing. I don't remember and I didn't look carefully but it was a picture of the body with areas color coded and associated with specific emotions. The gallbladder/liver/pancreas are is associated with anger. On the day of the multi-coarse meal I also attended a board meeting that left me enraged. It's a topic for a post of its own but I'm trying to stay calm. Heh.
I think I started being "symptomatic" the day before those events but I'm not sure. Every day after that I've had pain in my right side. Mostly after I eat. I haven't had much appetite and I'm exhausted for no obvious reason. I went to the doctor, got an ultra sound and it turns out I have a gall stone. My gallbladder is not in terrible shape and my blood work was good. I'm not vomiting. My skin isn't yellow. I am still having pain but it's really not that bad.
I'll be talking to a surgeon. I almost always go for alternative treatment. In the past few years I've been drinking apple cider vinegar and baking soda to control gout pain with much success. It turns out that it's also a treatment for gall stones. (It works to clean out clogged plumbing as well.) I could do that and get some acupuncture and maybe I'd be OK. But I'm older. My organs are older. Should I get it taken out? Is it inevitable? Can I get good advise from a surgeon? If a knee surgeon won't operate on me will the general surgeon?
Generally speaking my diet is gallbladder friendly. I am confused about some things. I was afraid to drink my second cup of coffee this morning and then I read that coffee may help dissolve stones. I snack on nuts almost every day, mostly dry roasted almonds but recently some oily peanuts. I love dark green leafy food but tend to eat more of it in the winter. I wonder if I have had stones build up and dissolve for years.
I dunno.
I guess we'll see.


D. said...

Hi Tish. I'm 50 and had my gallbladder out 2 years ago. I'm fat now (about a size 24) and was about the same size then. Never had serious health problems, never a broken bone, never a hospital stay. I never knew anyone who'd had gallbladder issues or surgery. Only in retrospect did I realize that the pain in my right side - similar to what you describe - that I'd started having after some meals maybe a year prior was probably gallbladder. Then one morning on my way to work I started feeling nauseated while driving. I had not eaten anything but within minutes felt like I was going to vomit, and a terrible pain developed in that same area. It got so severe that I turned the car around and headed back home. Just as I pulled into my driveway, I barfed right there in the driver's seat. By now the pain was so severe I was almost doubled over. A friend drove me to the ER. Long story short, I was admitted to the hospital and had my gallbladder out, after a scan and some blood work. The procedure was done under general anesthesia. It didn't require complete "opening you up" but just a couple of small abdominal incisions about one inch across, the scars of which are now almost completely faded a couple of years later. I had no complications, even though I went into it terrified, thinking for sure I'd either have a heart attack during the procedure or otherwise not wake up from anesthesia. Probably lots of people have fears like this; mine was intensified of course because I'm fat. However, the surgeon himself did not emphasize my weight at all, did not say he was hesitant to do the procedure because I'm fat, but I'm so used to propaganda about us being at higher risk for everything bad that I was real scared going into the procedure. I need not have been, as it went like a textbook case. There was some discomfort after, some need to be ginger when turning over or standing/sitting, but not serious pain and it eased then disappeared within just a few days. All in all I'm glad I had the procedure because I never want to feel pain like I had that morning, ever again. It was so bad I was actually wincing when we hit small bumps in the road on the way to the ER. Hope this lengthy comment is ok, just sharing my personal "galling" experience! All the best to you - have been reading your blog for years and am always glad to see an update. Take care!

Tish said...

Thanks for all that, D! I see the surgeon on the 30th. If he says he'll do the surgery I'll probably do it. I'm glad yours went well. And thanks for reading!

Willa said...

I had been having pain for quite awhile, and I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but didn't go to the doctor about it because I couldn't afford the surgery, even though I had insurance. It eventually got so bad that I drove myself to the emergency room and was immediately admitted.

I had waited so long, though, that my liver and pancreas were in bad shape, and they had to keep me in the hospital for a week getting my white count up before they could operate. They did a procedure to remove the source of the immediate pain -- a stuck gall stone -- then, it was just waiting.

So, it's good you're seeing a doctor.

I didn't have any complications and everything turned out fine, although I still have digestive issues that I attribute to not having a gallbladder anymore. But at least there is no more of that truly awful pain.

Tish said...

I think I remember when that was happening Willa.