Ask a Nutritionist: Gallstones and Pain

The Gut Stuff reader:

I have been suffering tight throbbing pain in the chest, nausea after eating, sometimes even when my stomach is empty. The doctors have done tests and say there is nothing medically wrong apart from a gallstone in my gall bladder. I have changed my diet completely in the last year but I am still suffering and I have now lost 6 stone in weight due to diet change and loss of appetite. Are you able to help by providing me with any advice? I am at my wits end about this and desperately need help to get to the bottom of my issue. I write this now with pain after having some breakfast of yogurt, dates and cashews! Help!!! Thanks.

Jeanette answers:

Very sorry to hear you have been feeling unwell, and for so long. There are a couple of red flags here which mean I would suggest going back to your GP and asking for more wide-ranging investigations. Dramatic weight loss, chronic nausea and pain, tight throbbing pain in the best, and loss of appetite could be suggestive of issues beyond the gut itself. 

Regarding the gallbladder, this is an accessory organ in the digestive system which stores bile (made in the liver) to help break down fats that we eat. If the gallbladder isn’t working well, this could mean not enough bile to break down fats – even healthy ones like in cashews nuts – from the foods you are eating. Not being able to produce enough because gallstones are blocking flow of bile from the gallbladder could in theory be connected with some of the symptoms you describe. However, we have to ask WHY the gallbladder isn’t working well and find out what else is going on e.g. chronic stress and eating on the run, yo-yo dieting, or dysfunction elsewhere in the body such as the liver. You can stimulate the gallbladder to work better by eating bitter foods as starters with meals (e.g. rocket, chicory, radicchio with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil) and chewing very thoroughly. You could soak nuts overnight in a little water or apple juice to make them easier to break down, and chew them really well, after having something bitter, e.g. half a grapefruit beforehand. But do see your doctor again as there could be more to this story. 

No advice in this column is designed to override any by your medical doctor and should not be relied on as a substitute for specialist dietary advice. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your general practitioner, or medical consultant. 

Do you want to ask a nutritionist a question about your gut issues? You can do that HERE!