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Gallstones are hardened formations, composed primarily of cholesterol, that develop in the gallbladder.
Gallstones are commonly associated with bile that contains excessive cholesterol, a deficiency of other substances in bile (bile acids and lecithin), or a combination of these factors.
Gallstone attacks cause extreme pain in the upper-right quarter of the abdomen, often extending to the back. This pain can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
People with gallstones may consume too many calories1 and are often overweight.2, 3 Obese women have seven times the risk of forming gallstones compared with women who are not overweight.4 Even slightly overweight women have significantly higher risks.5 Losing weight is likely to help,6 but rapid weight loss might increase the risk of stone formation.7 Any weight-loss program to prevent or treat gallstones should be reviewed by a doctor. Weight-loss plans generally entail reducing dietary fat, a change that itself correlates with protection against gallstone formation and attacks.8, 9
In women, recreational exercise significantly reduces the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery due to gallstones. In a study of over 60,000 women, an average of two to three hours per week of recreational exercise (such as cycling, jogging, and swimming) reduced the risk of gallbladder surgery by about 20%.10
Use of birth control pills significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing gallstones.11, 12
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2017.