Understanding Gallstones -- Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 10, 2023
2 min read

Being overweight or having diabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting gallstones. But in general, a sensible diet is the best way to prevent them. Avoid crash diets or a very low intake of calories (less than 800 calories daily). Seek out good sources of fiber -- raw fruits and vegetables, cooked dried beans and peas, whole-grain cereals and bran, for example -- and avoid eating too much saturated fat. A high-fiber, low-fat diet helps keep bile cholesterol in liquid form. However, don't cut out fats abruptly or eliminate them altogether, as too little fat can also result in gallstone formation.

Researchers have found that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of gallstones.

Recent studies have shown that moderate consumption of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons a day) may actually lower your chances of developing gallstones. An ingredient in olive oil evidently helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and gallbladder. Researchers have found that the incidence of gallstones is relatively low among people who live in areas where olive oil consumption is high.

Some studies suggest that lecithin -- a natural substance used as a thickener in ice cream, mayonnaise, and other foods -- may help prevent gallstones by keeping cholesterol from solidifying in the gallbladder. Lecithin is found in a number of foods, including soybeans, oatmeal, eggs, milk, peanuts, cabbage, and chocolate. Even though most people get plenty of lecithin in their normal diet, supplements are available in tablet or liquid form at health food shops and drugstores. Take 500 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams daily, or follow the instructions on the label.

WARNING: Over time, large amounts of choline, a chemical in lecithin, could lead to liver problems or other complications. Check with your doctor or nutritionist before taking lecithin supplements.