Friday, April 14, 2017

Is Surgery Always Necessary for Gallstones?

Gallstone pancreatitis occurs when one on more gallstones gets stuck in a duct in the pancreas. This blocks pancreatic enzymes from leaving the pancreas and traveling to the small intestine to aid in digestion. When those enzymes back up into the pancreas, it causes inflammation and pain according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

The standard treatment is to remove the gallbladder within 30 days to prevent a recurrence, researchers said.

The study included information on more than 17,000 cases of gallstone pancreatitis in the United States. All occurred between 2010 and 2011. The patients all had private insurance and were under the age of 65.

Seventy-eight percent of the patients had their gallbladders removed within the recommended 30 days of their initial hospitalization. Less than 10% of those patients returned to the hospital with pancreatitis, the study found.

Of the more than 3,700 patients who didn’t have their gallbladder removed within 30 days, about 1,200 had their gallbladder removed within six months. But nearly 2,500 patients who didn’t have their gallbladder removed within 30 days had still not undergone the surgery four years later.

It’s not clear why some patients who didn’t initially undergo gallbladder removal had pancreatitis recurrences while others did not. More research is needed to find the answers, according to the study authors.

“These findings tell us that there may be a way to avoid gallbladder removal surgery,” said principal investigator Susan Hutfless, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The study was published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

My Take:
Gallstones are formed from cholesterol (used to make bile) and minerals. The typical patient is female, fat and forty. She often will have a history of repeated fad dieting to lose weight. So, poor diet and obesity are strong predisposing factors.

As the bile thickens and forms stones, it irritates the common bile duct and it can become spastic. Spasticity of the bile duct will create the same symptoms as a lodged stone.

I use Betafood, an organic beet root tablet to thin the bile over the course of a couple of months. However, betaine, a naturally occurring chemical in red beets, also stimulates relaxation of the bile duct through taste buds in the tongue. If symptoms are due to spasticity, sucking or chewing a tablet of Betafood will provide relief within a minute or two. About 50% of my patients report dramatic relief by stimulation of the taste buds.

A test called the ejection fraction measures the ability of the gallbladder to release bile into the common bile duct. Clinically, I have seen this test improve from less than 3% to 60% or more using Betafood.

The Bottom Line:
You can prevent gallbladder pancreatitis with a healthy diet and weight control. However, if you want to learn more about Betafood, type “Betafood” on my word search to review one of my early blogs.

Source: April 7, 2017 National Institutes of Health

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