Gallstones are a painful condition associated with the gallbladder. When a person has gallstones, it means that there is an accumulation of crystalline deposits in the gallbladder.
The Keto diet, on the other hand, is quite popular among people who look for a quick and effective way to burn fat. But despite its popularity, many people wonder whether or not the keto diet can cause gallstones or not.
Can keto diet cause gallstones? If you are one of those folks asking this question, please read on to find out more about this.
What Is a Gallstone?
A gallstone is a small, hard lump that forms in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ that sits under the liver, just below your ribs on the right side of your abdomen. It stores bile, which is made in the liver and helps digest fats.
A gallstone can range from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball, though most are less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) across. Some people have no symptoms when they have gallstones, while others may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain or nausea.
If you have symptoms, they might include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort on the right side under the rib cage
- Pain between your shoulder blades
- Nausea or vomiting
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Pain when passing urine, especially if it’s dark in color
- A fever, which can indicate that a gallstone has traveled into your bile ducts
Why Do People Develop Gallstones?
People of all ages can develop gallstones, but they’re more common in adults over age 40. Women tend to get them at an earlier age than men do.
People who have poor eating habits or obesity are more likely to develop gallstones.
Other factors include:
- Digestive tract diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease
- Liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis C (HCV) infection
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding (women who’ve had children have a higher risk)
- The use of certain drugs, including estrogens (birth control pills), oral contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy
- Anabolic steroids
- Inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis
Can Keto Diet Cause Gallstones?
The ketogenic diet is all about eating fat, but it’s a different kind of fat you’re used to. This shift could be a problem for your gallbladder.
Gallstones are caused by bile that doesn’t get released or reabsorbed into the body as often as it should. Bile is usually made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When you eat, your gallbladder releases the bile so that it can do its job of digesting fats.
The gallbladder also has to deal with any excess bile produced by the liver. When you break down fat and absorb the nutrients, you have to get rid of the leftovers.
On a ketogenic diet, you have to wait longer between meals to allow your body to use up more of its own fat for energy. The result is that less bile gets absorbed back into your system and starts building up inside your digestive tract. Eventually, this stagnant bile turns into sludge, which turns into stones.
There are two types of gallstones: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones form when there’s too much cholesterol in your intestines. This causes an imbalance in the bile acid levels in your digestive tract, which then leads to the formation of stones.
Pigment stones are made up of bilirubin and calcium salts. They’re usually caused by an infection in your gallbladder or liver, but they can also form when you have too much iron in your blood.
How to Prevent Gallstones on Keto Diet
The best way to prevent gallstones on the keto diet is to eat enough fat to meet your calorie needs, but not too much. A good ratio to follow is 1g of fat for every 1000 calories consumed daily.
The ideal amount of fat for a daily meal plan would be about 2g each for breakfast and lunch and 3g each for dinner. Although you can’t overdo it with fat when you’re following a keto diet because it won’t raise your triglycerides levels (which is what causes heart disease), it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough fiber too.
Fiber helps keep your digestive system running smoothly, as well as lowers cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. You should aim for 25g of fiber per day on a keto diet plan.
Best Diet for Gallstones
Gallstones are a common condition, but the best diet for gallstones is not always obvious. It can depend in part on your symptoms and your treatment options. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones, it’s important to know that there are many things you can do that will help prevent stones from recurring or causing complications.
Although doctors may prescribe medication to dissolve your stones, they recommend dieting—in fact, it is possible that the best diet for gallstones might be a diet high in fat.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one of the most effective ways to prevent stones from forming or reoccurring is to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. This can be achieved through a low-carbohydrate/high-protein diet.
A study published in a 2012 issue of the World Journal of Nephrology found that a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet was effective for weight loss in overweight adults and reduced the risk of gallstone disease.
Cutting back on carbohydrates can also reduce the amount of insulin your body produces—another way to help keep your gallbladder from producing too much cholesterol, which is needed to make bile.
Eating a diet rich in fiber can also reduce cholesterol levels. Fiber acts like a sponge for cholesterol, which prevents it from being absorbed by your digestive system.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the keto diet cause gallbladder stones?
It’s possible that a keto diet could contribute to gallstone development, but it’s difficult to say for sure. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that causes the body to burn fat instead of glucose for energy. This process produces ketones as a byproduct—and these molecules can cause some serious side effects when they build up in your system.
Can a low-carb diet cause gallbladder problems?
Yes, a low-carb diet can cause gallbladder problems. The keto diet is one example of a low-carb diet that can cause gallbladder issues in some people. This is because the ketogenic diet causes the body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The liver produces ketones during this process, and these can build up in your system if you’re not used to burning fat as an energy source.
What diet causes gallstones?
There are many different diets that can cause gallstones. However, the most common culprit is a high-fat diet (especially one with lots of animal products). This type of diet causes your liver to produce more cholesterol and bile than normal—which can lead to gallstones forming in your gallbladder.
How do I keep my gallbladder healthy on keto?
While it’s not possible to completely prevent gallstones, you can ensure your gallbladder is functioning properly by eating a healthy diet that doesn’t include too much fat. Try following these tips: Reduce the amount of animal products in your diet. Don’t eat fatty foods like bacon, sausage, and steak every day—and avoid processed meats and fast food as much as possible. Eat more fiber-rich foods like vegetables, legumes, and whole grains to keep things moving along smoothly in your digestive system.
What dissolves gallbladder stones fast?
There isn’t one thing that dissolves gallstones, but there are some things that can help. If you have a stone stuck in your bile duct, it may be helpful to drink large amounts of water and take an over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen. These will help alleviate the pain caused by the stone growing against the duct walls.
Can drinking water help with gallstones?
Yes, drinking water can help with gallstones. It’s important to drink plenty of water if you have gallbladder disease because the organ helps your body digest food and produce bile. If you don’t drink enough fluids, your liver won’t be able to flush out toxins, as well. This can lead to more stones forming in your gallbladder or bile ducts.
According to the most recent research, when it comes to the ketogenic diet and gallstones, it isn’t that simple. The truth is that while some studies have found that ketogenic diets can indeed promote gallbladder stones, many others have not.
Neither category of study is conclusive enough to recommend against the ketogenic diet, but as always, we must be careful about jumping to conclusions without waiting for future research to provide a clearer answer.
In the meantime, I think the safest option for most people is to consult your doctor about any concerns that you have about your gallbladder or health, more generally, before beginning a ketogenic diet.