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Image from http://www.surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions–procedures/gallstones-%28cholelithiasis%29.aspx

Our gallbladders are amazing little organs. Weighing-in at just over 2 ounces, and less than 4 inches long by 2 inches wide (that’s on the larger side…) the gallbladder holds onto bile created by the liver. When the bile is needed to aid digestion (especially of fats), the gallbladder contracts squirting bile into the bile duct where it eventually ends up in the intestines. (Here’s a nifty little article from UCSF Department of Surgery about gallstones.)

It’s amazing to think that gallbladder removal is still a routine procedure in 80% of symptomatic cases. (70% of people with gallstones have no symptoms at all.) Signs of infection such as swelling, fever, vomiting and diarrhea indicate a potentially life-threatening condition that should be treated immediately.)

A government health website from Australia describes surgical “techniques include laparoscopic (‘keyhole’) cholecystectomy or open surgery. The gallbladder is not a vital organ, so your body can cope quite well without it.” While laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder via laproscopic incision) is far less invasive than “open surgery” with significantly lower post-operative pain, complications (and costs!).

***Non-surgical gallstone therapies are available, make sure to discuss all the options with your medical provider!***

While it may be statistically possible to continue life without the gallbladder, I am wary of any claims that any of our organs are “not vital”. I have read testimonials of patients who suffer from liver stones, frequent bouts of vomiting and chronic incontinence after having the gallbladder removed.

A typical “gallbladder attack” however, presents as sudden, stitching, sharp, radiating pains that originate in the upper-right abdominal quadrant (the liver region, just below the bottom rib on the right side). Severe symptoms are absent and the patient is able to walk around (though with difficulty), speak normally and clearly and describe the pain. There is usually a loss of appetite, especially for fatty foods. These symptoms may not necessarily require a surgeon – and might be treatable at home with a simple cleanse.

Now, I’m no doc. Please do not take any of the content of this article, or related content on this website to be a substitute for the qualified guidance of a trained and certified medical professional. The presence of significant swelling, bloody stool or urine, diarrhea, fever, vomiting (with or without blood) indicates a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. “Hang up and call 911”! 

However, if you are interested to learn how I helped my husband through a sudden (and scary…) gallbladder scenario at home with no medication and no surgery, read on…

One snowy February morning my husband woke up in terrible pain. He was grasping his right side, just under his rib cage. He could hardly drink and had no appetite. He described the pain as “like a knife” in his side and radiating down and across his back.

image from http://scuguide.com/product/ga-i-abdominal-cavity-peritoneum/
image from http://scuguide.com/product/ga-i-abdominal-cavity-peritoneum/

At this moment, many things are crossing my mind. He does have a history of liver problems – so that’s on the top of my list. The pain is not a direct result of blunt trauma or acute poisoning. He’s not vomiting, and there’s no blood in his urine or stool. He doesn’t have a temperature, he is cognizant, responsive, and he can walk around (though with difficulty because of the intense pain).

Acute appendicitis presents similarly to this, but the appendix is located in the lower-right abdominal quadrant closer to the groin. Someone with a clear case of acute appendicitis would not be able to stand on their tippy-toes (the classic test) and would describe the pain as originating in the lower right quadrant. (See illustration) At this point, however, I’m not ruling it out…

Thank God he doesn’t have a fever. No swelling, no marked tenderness on palpation (pressing down on the area where he feels the pain). The first thing I say is, “You should see a doctor.” But, he refuses. (*Please note: had my own husband – who hasn’t seen a doctor in decades – had any severe symptoms such as vomiting, bloody urine or stool, elevated temperature and/or marked abdominal swelling, jaundice, decreased cognitive function I would have called 911 for him immediately. No question.*)

Trying to figure out the root cause of a presenting case is called finding a “differential diagnosis“. I really don’t know what I’m looking at. All I know is that my husband is in a lot of pain, and that I want to help.

A quick Google search led me to something I had never considered, because I’ve never seen a case like this before: gallstones. But Google is not the be-all-end-all for me, the next step is to crack open my Medical-Surgical Nursing textbooks, A&P reference guides, and finally my herbal and homeopathic companion texts to common pathology and related holistic therapies.

Here’s what I concluded (while my poor husband is still waiting in agonizing pain…):

  • I was 90% confident that my husband was suffering from a gallstone
  • I was 100% confident that his condition was not life-threatening, and was treatable at home
  • Gallstones are a result of poor lifestyle choices – no doubt about it. High fat, high stress, high cholesterol, not enough exercise, not enough fiber, and not enough fresh vegetables or liquids = a higher likelihood that you have gallstones that will cause trouble!
  • Since it’s too late to go back and say, “gee, honey, maybe we should eat better and go for a walk” – I needed a theraputic approach that would quickly, safely and painlessly help him to pass the gallstones.

My husband was in so much pain, he said “I’ll try anything” – so this is what we did:

  • Homeopathic Berberis 200c (high potency to match the severity of the symptoms)
  • no solid food (he didn’t feel like eating anyway)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + raw honey in 8 oz of water three times a day followed by…
  • My homemade Clean Livin’ tincture (blessed thistle, juniper berries, dandelion root, nettle) one dropper-full in 8 oz of water three times a day
  • Raw, unfiltered, organic Apple Juice and organic broths in-between
  • 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice (YAK!) right before bed, sleep on the right side (this stimulates the secretion of bile)

He refused to give up coffee, which would have cleared the pain much quicker, but I was impressed that he stuck to this regimen for three days. I followed this cleansing protocol with him for three days to support him as much as I could – sometimes it’s easier if you have a friend who will suffer along with you! Within 24 hours the pain had improved by 50%. Within 48 hours, the pain was gone completely. He did not notice the passing of any stones, per se, but he was sure that everything moved out with a quickness!

my homemade cleansing tinctures as simples or Clean Livin' formula
my homemade cleansing tinctures as simples or Clean Livin’ formula

We finished the three-day cleanse with one small meal of steamed vegetables and whole grains. Since then, my husband has had no recurring symptoms and (as an added benefit) has more energy, eats better and is generally a happier guy.

You are invited to join the Holistic Homestead for our annual, free, online Spring Cleanse! Click here to register and receive a free PDF all about cleansing! We are cleansing March 29th through April 4th – our online support group will give you plenty of inspiration, ideas, methods to try and friendly advice for a successful Spring Cleanse! 

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2 thoughts on “Oh my aching gallbladder! (A true story)

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