Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on November 06, 2022
Don’t Skip Meals

Don’t Skip Meals

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Your gallbladder releases bile each time you eat. When you skip meals, those bile juices build up. This raises the cholesterol levels in your gallbladder. Over time, the waxy fats can harden into gallstones. Some bile acids also may make you more likely to get gallbladder cancer. So carve out time for regular meals.

Pick Whole Grains

Pick Whole Grains

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They pack lots of rough fiber, which lowers your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. That protects your heart and helps keep gallstones away. Fiber gets your digestive system moving and flushes bile from your body. Aim to eat more high-fiber foods like whole-grain bread and pasta and brown or wild rice. Other whole grains include oatmeal, popcorn, barley, and bulgur.

Get to a Healthy Weight

Get to a Healthy Weight

3/15

Being overweight or obese raises your chances of getting gallstones. One study found that obesity makes you three times more likely to get gallstone disease. That’s because extra pounds can make your gallbladder larger and not work as well, and raise your cholesterol levels. That’s especially true if you carry your extra weight around your waist instead of in your hips and thighs.

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

4/15

You know that fresh produce is good for your body. That includes your gallbladder. For starters, fruits and greens brim with vitamins, including C and E. Both have been shown to help protect against gallstones. Fruit and veggies also are high in water and fiber, which can help you stay full. This can help you drop pounds. For the biggest benefit, eat lots of different produce.

Cut Back on Fried Foods

Cut Back on Fried Foods

5/15

Your gallbladder has to work harder to help digest fatty foods. Fried foods are often high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol in your blood. So a lot of greasy fare can lead to gallstones. Plus, it’s high in calories, which can make your scale creep up. One study found that people who eat fried foods more than four times a week were 37% more likely to become overweight or obese than those who had it half as often.

Snack on Berries, Peppers, and Kiwi

Snack on Berries, Peppers, and Kiwi

6/15

These colorful fruits and veggies pack in vitamin C. Studies show that people who get more vitamin C are less likely to get gallbladder disease and gallstones than those who eat less. Experts think that low levels of the vitamin may up the amount of cholesterol in your bile. Women should get 75 milligrams and men should get 90 milligrams a day. Good choices include strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupes, baked potato, and citrus fruits.

Avoid Crash Diets

Avoid Crash Diets

7/15

Your friend dropped 10 pounds in a week on super low-calorie plan. Sounds tempting, but crash diets can harm your heart -- and your gallbladder. That’s because losing a lot of weight quickly keeps your gallbladder from emptying right. This can set the stage for gallstones. To slim down safely, aim to shed 1 to 2 pounds a week by eating healthy and exercising.   

Drink Lots of Water

Drink Lots of Water

8/15

For many people, drinking eight glasses of H2O a day is a reasonable goal. Not everyone needs that much. But if you get less than your body requires, it can take a toll on your gallbladder. Water helps the organ empty and keeps bile from building up. This protects against gallstones and other problems.Sipping more also can help you slim down. Research shows people who drink more water eat fewer calories and less sugar.

Swap in Olive Oil

Swap in Olive Oil

9/15

This staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is also good for your gallbladder. It’s a great source of unsaturated fat, which prompts your gallbladder to empty. One study found that men who ate the most unsaturated fat were 18% less likely to have gallbladder disease than those who got the least. When cooking, switch butter with olive oil. Other healthy fat picks include fatty fish like salmon, nuts, and avocados.

Get Moving

Get Moving

10/15

Physical activity burns calories, boosts mood, and protects your gallbladder. Research found that women who exercised the most lowered their odds of having gallbladder disease by 25% compared to their couch potato peers. Aim for 30 minutes of workouts 5 days a week. Just starting out? Talk with your doctor about starting with 5-10 minutes at a time. Every bit helps.

Sip a Glass of Alcohol

Sip a Glass of Alcohol

11/15

Go ahead, enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner. Studies show that alcohol can lower your chances for gallstones and gallbladder cancer. Alcohol has been shown to raise levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. Some experts think that it may have an effect on the cholesterol in bile. But too much booze can harm the gallbladder, so limit yourself to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks  for men.

Watch Your Meat, Butter, and Cheese

Watch Your Meat, Butter, and Cheese

12/15

The fat in meat and dairy foods is saturated. This kind raises your bad cholesterol level, and in turn may make you more likely to get gallstones. Go for foods with non-saturated fats like those found in fish and vegetables instead.  Cook with vegetable oils instead of butter and lard.

Go Nuts

Go Nuts

13/15

They pack a lot of nutrition into a small size. Nuts are high in fiber and healthy fat. They also have lots of plant sterols, compounds that block your body from absorbing cholesterol. This may help protect against gallstones. One study found that women who ate an ounce of nuts five times a week were 25% less likely to need gallbladder surgery than those who ate them rarely. Snack on them, or sprinkle a few nuts on cereal, salads, and other dishes. Just watch the calories.

Lean Toward Vegetarian

Lean Toward Vegetarian

14/15

You don’t need to swear off meat for your gallbladder. But eating more meals with plant-based protein like beans and tofu may cut your odds for gallbladder disease. That’s because they’re high in fiber and low in saturated fat. You might go vegetarian 1 day a week. Delicious meat-free meals include a tofu stir-fry, bean burritos, falafel wrap, and vegetable and cheese pizza.

Should You Try a Cleanse?

Should You Try a Cleanse?

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Gallbladder cleanses are a thing. They claim to prevent or treat gallstones if you skip foods for a few days and drink only a mix of olive oil, herbs, and juice. The idea is that this breaks up gallstones so you can poop them out. But research suggests that those stones are actually lumps of oil and juice. The cleanses also can cause side effects, such as stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. So stay away.

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SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What is a Whole Grain?”

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: “Prospective Study of Alcohol Consumption Patterns in Relation to Symptomatic Gallstone Disease in Men.”

Alternative Medicine: “Nutritional Approaches to Prevention and Treatment of Gallstones.”

American Heart Association: “Saturated Fat.”

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American Journal of Surgery: “Soluble Dietary Fiber Protects Against Cholesterol Gallstones.”

Annals of Internal Medicine: “The Effect of Long-Term Intake of cis Unsaturated Fats on the Risk for Gallstone Disease in Men: A Prospective Cohort Study,” “The Relation of Physical Activity to Risk for Symptomatic Gallstone Disease in Men.”

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BMC Gastroenterology: “Vitamin C Supplement Use May Protect Against Gallstones: Observation Study on a Randomly Selected Population.”

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