How do I Dissolve Gallstones?

M.C. Huguelet

If you suffer from gallstones — hardened masses of bile which can become lodged within the digestive ducts, causing pain — you may be searching for a non-invasive alternative to the surgical removal of your gallbladder. Unfortunately, reliable nonsurgical methods for eliminating gallstones are few. It is possible to dissolve gallstones with the use of oral medications, but as this method is slow and potentially harmful, your physician is unlikely to recommend it unless you cannot endure surgery. While some alternative medicine practitioners hold that gallstones can be dissolved through dietary changes, conventional medical research has not substantiated this method. Although surgery remains the most effective route to gallstone elimination, a low-fat diet may help discourage stones from moving into the digestive ducts.

A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.
A healthy gallbladder and one with gallstones.

The most common way to dissolve gallstones is by taking an acidic oral medication. While such medications can successfully eliminate gallstones, however, you may need to continue taking them for months or even years before your stones fully dissolve. Further, these medications can cause diarrhea and may raise the blood cholesterol level. Therefore, your physician will likely recommend this treatment only if another health condition makes surgery risky for you.

Gallstones consist of hardened masses of bile.
Gallstones consist of hardened masses of bile.

A more aggressive way to dissolve gallstones is with a treatment in which the compound methyl tert-butyl ether (MBTE) is injected directly into the gallbladder. This treatment has been shown to successfully dissolve gallstones in just a matter of days. As of 2010, however, medical researchers have not yet established all potential risks of this procedure. Thus, it is still considered highly experimental.

An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.
An ultrasound may be used to investigate gallstones.

Some alternative medicine practitioners hold that it may be possible to dissolve gallstones by making dietary changes. You may hear, for instance, that your stones will disappear if you increase your intake of vitamin C, begin taking lecithin supplements, drink large quantities of water, or consume significant amounts of olive oil. Each of these measures may seem like an easy way to dissolve gallstones. Unfortunately, however, they have not been proven effective by conventional medical research.

Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help prevent gallstones.
Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help prevent gallstones.

Overall, surgical removal of the gallbladder remains the most reliable and effective treatment for gallstones. While there may be no simple way to dissolve gallstones, however, you may be able to discourage their movement from the gallbladder into the digestive ducts by eating a low-fat diet. Bile, which is stored in the gallbladder, helps to break down fats during digestion. By reducing your fat intake, you generally also curb the secretion of bile from the gallbladder, which may lower the chances that an already-formed gallstone will be carried into the digestive ducts.

Chronic alcohol abuse may cause gallstones.
Chronic alcohol abuse may cause gallstones.
Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the most effective treatment for gallstones.
Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the most effective treatment for gallstones.

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