Although the direct link between gallstone development and diet is inconclusive, certain dietary habits may be contributing factors to the development of gallstones. It is therefore advisable for a person prone to recurrent gallstones to consider dietary changes as a part of conservative management.
Diet to Prevent Gallstone
High Fat Diet
Most gallstones are cholesterol stones and arises when the level of cholesterol in the bile exceeds the solubilizing capacity of bile salts which render it water-soluble. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that a higher dietary fat intake will increase the chances of gallstone formation since the cholesterol is a product of fat metabolism in the liver.
However, many people consuming a high fat diet do not develop gallstones and dietary fat only partially contributes to cholesterol in the bile. Other risk factors for gallstones may also need to be considered.
Diet should therefore be seen as a contributing factor rather than one of many causes of gallstones. Other foods and dietary habits also need to be considered in terms of the prevention of gallstones. This includes :
- This is a result of a high calorie and hight fat diet in conjunction with a lack of physical activity.
- Weight loss helps to reduce the incidence of gallstone formation although rapid weight loss should be avoided (discussed below).
- Absorption of cholesterol from the gut can be reduced by consuming a diet high in water-soluble fiber.
- Fiber also reduces the absorption of sugar, which has been implicated in the development of gallstones.
- High dietary sugar intake is associated with high triglyceride and low HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood.
- Gallstones are more likely to occur in a person with high triglyceride and low HDL levels.
- Fasting and Dieting
- Restricting food intake decreases bile secretion and allows bile to stay for longer periods in the gallbladder. This increases the concentration of bile and may contribute to the development of gallstones.
- Fat is an essential dietary component and should not be avoided altogether. A low fat diet is recommended but a fat free diet is unnecessary.
- Rapid weight loss is a known contributing factor for gallstone formation and includes :
- Very low calorie diets (VLCD)
- Losing more than 3lbs (pounds) or 1.5kg (kilograms) per week
- Bariatric surgery
Foods to Avoid Gallstones
Fats and Oils
- Cooking oil – all oils
Frying should be avoided as a cooking method.
Full-fat and full-cream dairy including :
- Milk, including evaporated and condensed milk
- Fatty meat – visible fat, marbled meat, skin, oily fish
- Processed meat – baloney (bologna), frankfurter (“franks”, hot dog, wiener), sausages, ham, and canned meats.
- Offals – liver, tripe, animal brain, trotters
- Dried or smoked meats like jerky, smoked sausages
Baking, griling and poaching are better options for the preparation of lean red meat, poultry without the skin and fish which is not oily.
Baked goods containing :
- Full-cream milk
- Full-fat cream
- Egg yolk
- Sugar – toffee, fudge, marzipan
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruit mix
This includes :
- Biscuits, cookies
- Creamy sauces, especially if it contains cheese, full-fat cream, full-cream milk
- Bottled sauces
- Fried and sweetened fast foods
- French fries, chips
- Chocolate bars
- Candy, sweets
- Fudge, toffee, nougat
- Sodas, soft drinks (regular, not diet)
- Ice cream