This post is going to be separated into multiple parts so as not to inundate my readers with tons of information at once. Bear with me. There is very little information available on whether or not adopting a ketogenic or high fat diet/lifestyle is appropriate for people with gallbladder issues. I am hoping to clarify this for others, based on my own personal story.
A few years ago I discovered I had gallbladder issues. One day, as I sat in my office, I felt a soreness in my back come on suddenly. At first I thought, “whoa, what did I do to cause this soreness?” It didn’t make sense, first because I hadn’t done any workout that might cause such a pain and the way it came on so suddenly stifled me. As the day progressed I started feeling slightly bloated and a dull pain toward the front side of my abdomen. I had no idea what it was and just ignored it. I went to bed that night and the pain just worsened. At around 2 o’clock in the morning I got up, worried, thinking I might need to go to the ER. I nearly fainted.
I didn’t have access to a nurse hotline and really was not in the mood to make a trip to the hospital at this ungodly hour but was unsure what to do so I texted my best friend, who is a nurse, in the hopes that she might get my message. She got back to me within a couple of minutes. I thought, “this must be the life of a nurse?? Or mother?” I explained my symptoms to her and, as I had been on the internet, of course, playing curbside doctor, was worried it could be appendicitis, which, I knew, required a trip to the ER. She informed me it did not really fit the symptoms of appendicitis and suggested it might be a gallbladder attack. The informal diagnosis made sense, especially considering my mother had been through the same issue many years ago and I had just read it was likely hereditary. My friend didn’t think it would be necessary to go to the ER and thought it would be a good idea for me to look into a gallbladder cleanse, which I did.
I found a 24-hour cleanse online and decided this would be the easiest, as I wasn’t keen on having to drag on a cleanse for a whole week. I had the ingredients so I started the following day. By the day after that (two days after the attack) I passed several gallstones and although the cleanse itself was not pleasant I was happy to feel much better. I didn’t get another attack for at least a year. This time I knew what it was and how to deal with it. Since then I have had an attack probably once a year and have dealt with it the same way – with the same cleanse. I was fine with this, until something unusual happened, I had an attack in January of this year…and did the cleanse…but then I had another attack a month later. I read how people who did not have their gallbladders removed would have attacks increasingly often until the “only thing they could do” was the surgery (says conventional medicine anyway).
Obviously, given what I research and write about, I am not one to be removing organs from my body willy nilly. I’m pretty sure everything we have is there for a reason and therefore necessary, so my goal is to deal with it the best way possible with the goal of keeping my body intact. I’m not going to lie, I actually started researching the cost of gallbladder removal this last time I had the attack. Of course it’s my own fault, because I used my body as a research laboratory. I do this sometimes for my writing.
When talking to others who have dealt with this sort of thing, and also reading comments from people in a similar situation, it appears most people just suffer through the pain or take heavy duty anti-inflammatory medication, until the next attack or until they can’t stand the pain anymore that they are convinced to go through the surgery. I thought this was interesting so I decided to find out if it would “just pass” if I didn’t do anything about it. The pain came and went for close to two weeks. I wasn’t completely miserable until one morning I awoke in horrific pain and could barely move. My tummy felt like it was doing somersaults inside. I had to drive an hour and a half home and get ready for funeral services that were likely to last the whole day.
This was when I had to bite the bullet and take several hundred milligrams of ibuprofen – a rare occasion indeed. Thankfully this got me through the day but by the afternoon I was exhausted and pretty much down for the count. I knew I had to do the cleanse and also let my body rest in order to start healing. In the meantime, this is when I decided to look into the cost of gallbladder removal surgery, as it seemed the cleanse was only temporarily relieving my symptoms. The cost out of pocket versus that with insurance is insane – a totally separate topic of discussion, but interesting to ponder.
Now, the post you are reading is supposed to be about the ketogenic diet and gallbladder issues and I don’t want to disappoint but I wanted to give you a background on how I got here. As I spoke to people about my gallbladder problem many people were asking if it might be due to having started a keto/modified keto lifestyle. I had already been curious about this as well so I began to look into it after my attack in January. Surprisingly there is very little information on this but I did find one web post addressing this, which provided a little insight. When I read blog posts or articles I tend to read as many comments as possible, as I am able to sometimes find even better information within the comments. Well, in this particular case I hit the mother lode.
In the meantime, it turns out I won’t have to take the gallbladder out and, actually, it’s not a good idea to do so (as I had surmised). I “stumbled” upon a very informative book in my quest for relief. I’ll do a full review on the book very soon – as one of the installments to this blog post – but for now let me just say I was onto something in doing those cleanses. Hint: I just wasn’t following through.
In the next post on this topic I’ll discuss specifically what I found out about the ketogenic lifestyle/high fat diet and gallbladder issues. Spoiler alert: those of you who deal with these issues but wish to pursue such a lifestyle, even if it is modified such as using intermittent fasting or carb cycling, you will be pleasantly enlightened but I do think you would do well to have some understanding of how to approach it and also how the two are related. So stay tuned!