Cholesterol Gallstones

Cholesterol Gallstones
4.42 (88.42%) 38 votes

Comparing gallstone attack rates in omnivores versus vegetarians.


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The #1 digestive reason people are hospitalized, though, is because of a gallbladder attack. Every year, more than a million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones, and about 700,000 have to get their gallbladders surgically removed.

What are gallstones made of? In 80-90% of cases, the gallstones are made out of cholesterol. Here’s a picture of someone’s gallbladder packed with gallstones. All that yellow you see making up the stones is pure crystallized cholesterol that built up in this person’s body.

If the only source of dietary cholesterol is animal foods, one might expect meat-eaters to be at higher risk. Turns out you have to go all the way to Kathmandu to find some good science. Non-vegetarians were found to be at higher risk for gallstones than vegetarians, but not just a little more risk. Nine times the risk. 9 to 1 odds of getting gallstones; nonvegetarians versus vegetarians.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The #1 digestive reason people are hospitalized, though, is because of a gallbladder attack. Every year, more than a million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones, and about 700,000 have to get their gallbladders surgically removed.

What are gallstones made of? In 80-90% of cases, the gallstones are made out of cholesterol. Here’s a picture of someone’s gallbladder packed with gallstones. All that yellow you see making up the stones is pure crystallized cholesterol that built up in this person’s body.

If the only source of dietary cholesterol is animal foods, one might expect meat-eaters to be at higher risk. Turns out you have to go all the way to Kathmandu to find some good science. Non-vegetarians were found to be at higher risk for gallstones than vegetarians, but not just a little more risk. Nine times the risk. 9 to 1 odds of getting gallstones; nonvegetarians versus vegetarians.

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Doctor's Note

Also check out Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?

And check out my other videos on cholesterol

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

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96 responses to “Cholesterol Gallstones

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    1. I’ve read that low-fat / vegetarian diets can actually CAUSE gallstone formation due to the gallbladder not being flushed regularly enough and thus bile sits there and cholesterol, et al, eventually precipitate out of solution into stones? I ask in part because I think this may have happened to me when I had tried a low-fat plant-based diet (not a pleasant experience). And it has been a… worry… about restarting said diet again.

      Among others. Wondering what the studies say? What’s the best way to avoid gallstones? High fat to empty the gallbladder regularly? Low fat, high fiber to lower cholesterol? If there’s little to no fat, does the gallbladder get triggered to expel its contents or let bile sit and precipitate into stones? Can other substances in the diet cause the gallbladder to expel its contents w/o adding lots of fat back into the diet?

      Do low-fat dieter only THINK they’re protected because they HAVE stones, but their gallbladder is never forced to strongly contract, thus reducing the chances of a painful obstruction, despite stones existing?

      Interested to know the answers…

      1. Gallstones are much less prevalent in persons with on a plant-based diet see… Of course those of us who were on the standard american diet we may have already formed stones which won’t go away. Eating a low fat plant based diet will tend to stimulate the gallbladder less and won’t contribute to the formation of more stones or larger stones. I haven’t seen a study on frequency of gallbladder attacks but in my clinical experience patients going on a low fat plant based diet have decreased or eliminated their attacks. The presence of stones doesn’t appear to be a problem as long as they remain without symptoms. When going on a plant based diet the intestinal tract can take some time to adapt. The overall health of the body is best on a low fat whole plant based diet with Vit B12 supplementation. Hope this helps.

        1. Thank you for your input Dr. Forrester. I’ve got symptomatic gallstones, calcified, all small, under 5mm. My symptoms are slowly starting to decrease ever since I started the 80/10/10 lifestyle, cooked version, vegan; just over a month ago. What should I do? My symptoms have drastically decreased, but I still feel kind of uncomfortable with them.

          Should I consider surgical removal of the gallbladder? Would a 80/10/10 lifestyle have any effect on the purge of the stones, or am I stuck with them and will need the surgery eventually? Will my health be compromised in the long run without a gallbladder? Is my health at risk keeping the gallstones although them staying mostly asymptomatic?

          Thank you greatly for any input.

          1. You definitely want to keep your gallbladder unless you are in a really tough spot with very frequent attacks. I’ve heard of stories where people become much worse after having it removed, even getting ghost pains etc. 2/3 people with gallstones never even get an attack, myself included. These are called “silent” gallstones. I’ve often wondered what the long term effects of having gallstones that don’t cause pain would be, but I doubt there would be anything too serious. The best thing to do is try to not get them any bigger.

          2. I advise patients to hang on to their original parts for as long as possible. If the gallstones remain very symptomatic with alot of pain you can consider surgery. There is always a chance that your gallbladder becomes infected or you can pass a stone and it can get hung up at the valve before the intestine causing gall stone pancreatitis. Both these would require intervention although the latter can often be taken care of with endoscopy. These complications are however not frequent. All surgery carries risk so best avoided if possible. I hope your “gall stone” symptoms have continued to improve and you and your gall stones live a long healthy life.

            1. Hi Dr. Forrester, I have gall stones and there even in my liver too they hurt a whole lot but I don’t want anything taken out, I’m also very allergic to the stuff they use to put you under! I hold out great hope that theres a more natural way to both shrink them and pass them. I have seen many people online who used things like apple juice / apple cider vinegar to soften them an other things to flush them out is that a good idea is it a safe idea or a big no no? I have yet to go animal free with my diet but want to make sure all my ducks are in a row before hand. Thank you for your response. :) Oh PS I remember reading that a Dr can also get the stones out without surgery can you elaborate on that if you heard of that?? Thank you. :)

      2. Naturopath is telling me gallbladder is acting up because of not enough fat in diet. Been roughly eating 80-10-10 cooked. Never heard this before in any lecture. Feeling pretty crummy at times despite being very faithful to low fat plant eating diet.
        Thanks so much for ANY info.

        1. Hi, this is Dr. Daniela Sozanski PhD and Moderator at Nutritionfacts. My experience as a Naturopat is that gallbladder conditions are in many cases related to an allergy to certain foods, present frequently in your diet. During a gallbladder attack, in the hospital, you are put on an elimination diet… or fast for a few days, and that usually takes care of the symptoms. I would suggest that you explore such possibility. Dr. Jonathan Wright MD, founder of the Tahoma clinic and Green Medicine, and a 30+ practitioner of natural medicine has some publications on this topic, if you would like to research. I hope this helps, regards, Daniela

    2. A recently published study from the UK, which was much larger than the one cited in the video, found that vegetarians are in greater risk for symptomatic gallstone disease, after correcting for BMI. The Kathmandu seemingly did not correct for anything.

    3. Hi – love all your videos, new to vegetarianism and this site gives me continuous motivation to stay that way :)
      Got a question about gallstones: what does the science say about pigment stones?
      I have hereditary spherocytosis – a hemolytic anemia that results in chronic high levels of bilirubin which has resulted in pigment stones in my gallbladder.
      I have had several really painful attacks as a result but I really want to keep this organ in my body.
      Anything I can do?

      1. Thank you for a question. I am a haematologist and therefore look after patients with haemolytic anaemia. I am afraid I am not aware of any data to support any dietary intervention that would help reduce your symptoms. I would think that in general an ‘anti inflammatory’ diet would be beneficial, which is one composed of whole plant foods with the incorporation of lots of herbs and spices, including turmeric, ginger etc. It sounds like you are already doing this.

    4. Hello Dr. Greger,
      My 18 year old son is a vegetarian and he just received your book as a birthday present. I started having gallstone attacks 4 years ago and my doctor urged me to have it removed as the attacks were getting more intense. I took my son’s advice and cut out meat by 90% in the last year. We have been eating much of what you recommend in your book. I haven’t had an attack in over 9 months. I truly believe that my diet has had a positive impact on my health. I didn’t want the surgery to begin with and I’m so happy I didn’t go through with it. I’m now a true believer that a plant based diet can reverse major health issues and that surgery is not the only alternative. Thank you for the uplifting story with Joy and for the wonderful recipes!

    5. Firstly thank you so much for all your continued information on nutrition and diet. I hope someone can help me with a quick question.
      My wife was rushed into hospital 2 nights ago with severe stomach pain. Turns out she had an inflamed gallbladder and some gall stones passing – or not passing. We already follow a vegan diet and make informed choices on what we eat. Unfortunately now we are a bit paranoid and wondered if anyone could help to clarify the utter confusing messages on what helps/hinders this problem. Nut fats good or bad – which plant based milk is best to drink – oh my it’s endless. Any help/references much appreciated.

      1. I see indications of common misconceptions showing in your question so I’ll highlight them: 1) Dr. Greger does not advocate a vegan diet. He advocates a whole food plant based diet. This diet is a type of vegan diet, but not all vegan diets qualify. 2) Plant milk is not a whole food. Its highly processed. 3) Gall bladder issues can take a decade or more to manifest. Overall, the research we have is that a WFPB diet will reduce the chances of premature death and disease, but its not an instant cure-all for everything. WFPB means from plant to mouth with minimal to no processing or machinery in between. That includes no factories, no grinders, no blenders and no juicers. Knife and fork is ok.

  1. Will a low fat vegan diet get rid of gallstones? I am scheduled to have GB surgery and am wondering if I can avoid it by a change in diet. I have been eating a low fat vegan diet for 2.5 months since a day spent in OR for GB pain.

  2. A friend has been taking Lipitore for years and just had her gallbladder removed – – Is there a connection?  If Lipitore is supposed to reduce the cholesterol in the blood, does it get flushed to the gall bladder?  How does not having a gall bladder affect your general health?? 

  3. If we could not live without our gallbadders, science would find a way surgeons could remove the gallstones without removing an important organ. Why hasn’t this option been explored?

    1. Other options have been explored like dissolving the stones directly by infusing various liquids into the gallbladder but they haven’t worked. This is a case where primary prevention or avoiding them in the first place is best. But many patients with gall stones can avoid “attacks” by eating a low fat plant based diet. This strategy would probably markedly reduce the number of gallbladders that need to be removed. Most patients tolerate life without their gallbladder without too much difficulty although there are exceptions. It is nice to know that there are surgeons and safe anesthesiology for those cases that the gall bladder doesn’t respond to medical and nutritional therapy.

  4. what works for restless les syndrome. it’s so bad it goes up to shoulder/upper arms.? I have fibromyalgia .It started with sleep apnea then panic attacks, then restless les syndrome, then pain all over. Is there a link. I taken meds, but the restless legs syndrome and fatigue is worse than pain.

  5. I have been vegan for 2 years and have recently been diagnosed with gall stones. The doctors were very quick to recommend removal of the gall bladder however I am adamant to do this if it can be treated naturally. I’ve read that milk thistle (silymarin) is a known natural remedy for the dissolution of gallstones. How true is this and are there any other natural remedies that might be tried?

  6. Hello. I’ve vegan for about four years, and six months ago I had a cholecystectomy, I wonder why. Now my houseband is having troubles with his vesicle and his is vegan at home and lactovegetarian outside. My parents in law suspect that it’s because of the diet, what do you think it is then?

  7. Doctor Greger, do you have any information on how gallbladder polyps are formed(multiple, 3mm). Also, if they disappear eventually by a plant based diet? My husband, 26, recently discovered while getting an ultrasound done on his liver, that he has them. Please help! Thank you!

    1. ariann28 – I have them as well and need to get scoped evry year to make sure they haven’t grown, its a tough one, on the one hand you dont want HGH and IGF1 or growth factors surging through your body as you musnt make these polyps grow but on the other hand you dont want bile stasis, drinking lots of water should thin bile, bitter plants should help in production of new bile, beets help rid of old bile in the gut, fat/oil help the GB to empty its contents thus keeping it flowing and not stagnant, certain amino acids in chicken/fish some say are needed by the liver in phase II detox B vitamins, sulphur and some say choline (not sure about choline some say yes others say no)
      Artichoke, dandelion, Milk thistle are supposed to be good for the liver, how are you doing now?

  8. My doctor says I need to have my gallbladder removed due to gallstones but I was hoping to avoid surgery and finding a natural way to shrink and remove the stones. I’ve seen/read many quacks for solutions. Is there a legitimate method?

  9. I can tell you that mallic acid in apples does soften gall stones and the flush as per Andreas Moritz method does work because I just flushed over a hundred stones this morning. I’ve been a veg/vegan 50/50 little bit lacto n ovo for 30 yrs next month. Stones up to golfball size can be passed by this method. Does this render surgery obsolete :-) .? First flush in 60yrs!!!

        1. Most are formed in the liver, and some may form in the gallbladder. Having it removed does does solve the problem. Doing multiple liver flushes, as well as kidney/colon flushes is the best and least harmful way

    1. Hello Harvey,
      I just did the 1st Andreas Moritz cleanse and passed 400-600 green stones. Did you do more than 1 as he suggests and if so how are you feeling?

  10. I had gallbladder pain for 6 months before I found out I had ONE big cholesterol stone. The doctor removed my gallbladder. I had no idea there were natural remedies that might reduce the size of gallstones. So I wonder if turmeric would be good for me or not. I do need liver support, and I have osteoarthritis, which is getting worse, and would like to try it. Does turmeric help with fibromyalgia?

  11. Dr. Greger, I have read, or heard in one of the many YouTube lectures I have watched, that once the gallbladder is removed if the fat intake is not drastically reduced the bile will drip into the intestine and can cause irritation or even worse. Do you have any information to share about this? Thank you in advance.

    1. It is true that once your gallbladder is removed that you have lost your ability to store bile and that you won’t have the ability to discharge your bile from the gallbladder after a meal. Your liver will continue to make bile which will be slowly released into the intestine. I have had one patient who had a condition called bile gastritis which responded to a prescription of oral carafate. However in 30+ years of clinical practice I found that my patients tolerated the removal of their gall bladder very well especially when it was causing significant symptoms in the first place. Most folks with gall stones will not need to have their gall bladder removed. I would not be concerned unless you continue to have problems. Since there is alot of variability it is important to work with your physician(s) or other health care professionals to pick the right path for you. By eating a whole food plant diet with vitamin B12 you will minimize the likelihood of difficulties. Good luck.

  12. about 6 months after i went vegan i passed about 10 gallstones (maybe like 1 or 2 a month), it hurt like hell and the first time i was in the emergency room because i had no clue what it was, the gallstones had formed from my old extremely unhealthy diet and after i went vegan all the stones left my gallbladder causing the attacks, i havnt had a new attack in forever, im guessing all the stones are gone now, im pretty sure a vegan diet saved me from massive trouble down the road if the stones had time to grow larger

    1. nameless void, If you do get an ultrasound test showing that your gallbladder is now clear of previous stones, please post the results. We’re generally told the stones will not disappear but we know most people with stones are not whole plant vegan. So there’s little proof either way.

  13. I am 59 and mostly vegan. Four years ago at a good private hospital in Thailand I had imaging done which found a small cartoid atery plaque buildup on one side. And a gallstone cyst. I was told to monitor both but that they were so small as to be inconsequential to blood flow to the brain or becoming a gallstone. Six months ago after a full cardio check up at Hanoi Heart Hospital and two more relevant ultrasounds (and blood tests) the cardiologist recommended that I should start stains. I am looking into alternatives because of possible side effects. But what I don’t understand is *why* anyone would want to eliminate the ‘scab’ on a wound, if in fact the first step of plaque deposits in arteries is an injury. Wouldn’t that be like unplugging a hole?

  14. Me husband is a diabetic and is on prescription medication. He takes Metformin ER, 500mg – four tablets a day.
    Losatran 100mg- one tablet a day
    Glinepiride 4mg- one tablet a day
    Can he take the golden paste recipe at 1/4 teaspoon twice a day, while on the meds?

  15. I’m been on a plant based diet with B12 supplementation for two years and it’s going well. Since our third child has been born my meat eating wife has been admitted to hospital twice with gallstone-induced acute pancreatitis, the first attack was brought on eating a McDonalds and the second from eating some cheese. I learned that he mother, grandmother and aunt have all had their gallbladders removed and insist that it’s not related to diet and instead linked to cholesterol production during pregnancy. We have two daughters and I’d very much like to them to avoid the same fate. I’ve failed to convert her to a plant based diet and for the most part unless I’m cooking, the children eat the standard British diet. What links are there between pregnancy and gallstones?

  16. i been eating a lot of citrus and looks like im passing tiny stones about the size of a pin tip, it’s neat how the body can do amazing things when we remove the cause of the problem. i’m slowely moving toward a plant base diet.. I don’t want to end up feeling sick all over again by going to fast into it. I hope I can get off all animal products and remain off them without the effects of feeling sick during eating plant base. what am I doing wrong that is causing this issue is it detox?

  17. I’m really grateful for this video, having recently been diagnosed with gallstones I’ve had numerous people comment that my being vegan must be the cause so I can mention this study next time. What I’d like to ask is whether it would be worth asking my doctor about Ursodeoxycholic acid? I understand it’s not suitable for everyone, as some people’s stones will have calcified, but I’d like to try and explore ways to keep hold of my gallbladder if I can. But before I do, I’d be keen to understand if there are any risks associated with ursodeoxycholic acid (such as increased cancer risks) and whether they are better or worse than surgery? Also, are you aware of any plant-based foods that I would do well to consume in abundance to help reduce attacks? I’ve done a fair bit of reading but I’m wary of some of the advice I’ve read because a lot of it seems to be accompanied with advice to undertake these flushes despite evidence showing they don’t work on larger stones, and can be quite dangerous in some cases. Thanks in advance.

  18. Hi, I’m just going to say it , I’m hungry I enjoy eatting, I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarianhave been for 4 year, and I went to the emergaCy room this Sunday I’ve had a ton of weird things happening with my body nausea, dizzyness no period since july I’m 25 and Im a lesbian they gave me a pregnancy test anyway NOT pregnant, I’m tired alot, blurry vision, im unusally forgetful, mood swings like crying uncontrollably for no reason, trouble sleeping, waking up with stomach pain I stopped eatting after 8 at night now and hasn’t helped, bloating two the point where I go from a size 14 pant to size 18 and back to a 14 in the corse of a day. the doctor at emergency said he thinks I have gulstones I went for an ultrasound and won’t get the results for a week, the doctor didn’t tell me what to eat, my friend who had bad attacks said no nuts, beans, dairy, noodles, broccoli, romane, eggs what should I eat for protine and nutrition?

    1. don’t worry about proteins. You can even eat just sweet potatoes and survive optimally like Okinawas did for a long time. Go plant based (low fat) and keep reading on serious sources.

  19. I have a gallstone that measures 2.4 cm and also have sludge in my gallbladder. Is there a diet I could use that can save my gallbladder or is it time to have it removed?

  20. I have been a vegan for a year now. mostly eating raw fruits and veggies. However, recently I had a gallstone attack and I was in major pain for 1 day straight. And the doctor said I have to get surgery asap. But it’s been almost a month now and I haven’t had any pain since that day. In all, I don’t want to get surgery because I feel perfectly fine now and I will continue my rawvegandiet diet so I don’t see a need for surgery. Would you agree with me and would you suggest I still get surgery?

  21. Dear Doctor, I have Gilbert’s disease – does that mean that I could have gallstones more easily than others? (I am 46, been vegan for 4 years now, cholesterol 166)

    1. Gilberts just means (if Im not mistaken) that your phase II detox system is sluggish and your bilirubin levels may be elevated in blood tests, my doc told me not to worry, that was 20yrs ago now I have polyps in GB and fatty liver, if your liver phase II is sluggish you may want to speed it up, coffee enemas, bitter veg, liver friendly herbs, drink lots of water, consider chicken/fish and some good oil like flax or cocconut? Im not an expert but have read a bit.

  22. Dr greger just enjoyed your book and many videos. Over 30 years vegi with some dairy i have just 3 days is hospital with gallstone pain. What can i do to reduce the chance of another attact thankyou

  23. Hi I have pain in my gallbladder but no stones. The Dr’s think it’s just gas but it is too painful for it to be gas. Any ideas on what it might be?

    1. Inshad,

      Gallbladder pain is still a potential . I assume you had an ultrasound to assess for the stones, however, spasms of the duct or a host of other issues including vascular considerations should be evaluated. If indeed your passing significant gas or your abdominal x-ray is showing an excess, consider reducing your fat intake for a few days or trying some digestive emzymes and note any/all changes. To be clear you should see your physician as this could be a much more serious issue. Dr. Alan Kadish Moderator for Dr. Greger

    2. Inshad,

      Your can still experience gallbladder pain, without stones. I’m assuming that you had an ultrasound to evaluate the ducts as well as for stones ? I would recommend that you see your physician for a more thorough workup including vascular considerations and an abdominal x-ray regarding the gas. You may find a correlation between fat intake and gas. If that’s the case consider using a digestive enzyme with your meals. Regardless, pain is a signal that should not be left unresolved, follow up with your doc. Dr. Alan Kadish Moderator for Dr. Greger

  24. Hi there,
    I stumbled upon an LCHF-diet promoting blog in which the doctor argued that a main cause of gallstones are low-fat diets because the liver produces bile continuosly and if the person doesn’t eat substantial amounts of fat regularly, it will accumulate and concentrate in the gallbladder and eventually solidify. The studies he cited to substantiate the association between carbs, low-fat diets etc. with gallstones were these ones:

    Could you help us sort this out? I know there are other studies associating dietary and serum cholesterol with gallstones, but don’t think I can separate the wheat from the chaff. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t heed the recommendations from that doctor and from these studies?
    Thank you

    1. Was the doctor Eades by any chance?

      Consider also
      where it is stated that “Intake of high energy, simple sugar and saturated fat favors gallstone formation. Fiber and moderate consumption of alcohol reduce the risk.”

      Looking briefly at some of the studies I could not tell whether they adjusted for e.g. fiber intake or complex vs simple carbs (which I doubt they did).

      It’s a confusing topic and I’d also like a definitive answer.

  25. Hello guys, please can anybody help or steer me in the right direction.
    I have gallbladder polyps they are 0.6cm and have to have ultrasound scans every 6 months to make sure they don’t grow, I have two that size and 3 tiny ones, if they reach 1cm they can become malignant, I also have fatty liver.
    I was wondering if any person has ever reversed gallbladder polyps using Gerson or fasting or some alternative or any method?, apart from taking out my gallbladder.
    I figure that the polyps are growth that could become malignant are similar in some ways to colon polyps but made from different tissue, I have read that colon polyps can be shrunk using Turmeric, Fibroids may be shrunk with Serrapeptase and yet have not found anything for gallbladder polyps (Cholesterolosis), I assume anything that can dissolve cholesterol and fasting? Thanks for any help or any news anybody can give me on reversing the cholesterol polyps or any studies on how to get rid of them,I have seen a study where they disappear on their own but how? I still don’t know, apart from nudging my body to autophagy (fasting/low protein/exercise) and possibly intermittent fasting alongside a Gerson type veggie juicefast? In order for my body to self cannibalise the tissue that it doesn’t really need.

    1. Hi Kathleen, I’m one of the medical moderators here at NF and I’d like to address your question. Not having more information about your history regarding what was going on before you had your gallbladder out it’s hard for me to say but unless you are eating a fairly large amount of fat in a single sitting I would question the diagnosis of bile salt diarrhea. The reason I say this is because the gall bladder is only a storage tank for bile. Bile is produced in the liver on a continuos basis so as long as you are not eating large amounts of fat (especially in a single sitting) your liver should be producing enough bile to break down the fat. So in your situation I would first do an honest assessment of how much fat you are eating and if it’s substantial try cutting down and see if that helps. If that’s not the problem then I would want to know what kind of symptoms you were having prior to having your gallbladder out and have those symptoms improved since having your gallbladder out. I often see people having gastrointestinal symptoms and they undergo an ultrasound that shows gallstones so the doctor recommends they have their gallbladder out but the gallstones was not what was causing the symptoms. I’m not saying this is what happened in your case, because I don’t have enough information to say that, but if you are eating a WFPBD low in fat and oil you shouldn’t be suffering from bile salt diarrhea so I would encourage you to find a knowledgable doctor to help you get to the bottom of this.
      By the way there are nutritional supplements that contain bile salts but again you should make sure that’s whats causing your symptoms first.

  26. I was recently diagnosed with gallstones. They aren’t very big and they aren’t very high in number…but they are there. The doctor just said “do nothing” but I wanna know if my diet is making it worse? I eat wfpb 95% of the time (i don’t eat meat ever). I was on about a 30% fat diet eating this way, rich in seeds, nuts and avocado (no coconut). Now I thought I might be getting diabetes so I cut down the fat around 10%. How come I am finding that I have gallstones? Do you think because of the less fat, my bile is getting stagnant and forming stones, should I up my diet in fat again, or eliminate it all together? Please help! There is so much conflicting info I really don’t know what to do and it’s making me miserable!

  27. Teesha- I’m sorry to read about those gallstones that are making things difficult for you. As far as what causes gall stones, it is very unlikely your healthy diet. Actually eating a whole food plant-based diet decreases your likelihood of gallstones. Here are some more likely causes (or risk factors):
    Dieting and Gallstones
    Gallstones are more common among women and adults ages 40 and older than among other groups. The female sex hormone estrogen may help explain why gallstones are more common among women than among men. Estrogen may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile and decrease gallbladder movement, which may lead to gallstones.
    Other factors that may increase your chances of developing gallstones are these:
    • diabetes
    • family history of gallstones
    • high triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)
    • lack of physical activity
    • low HDL (good) cholesterol
    • obesity, particularly a large waist size
    • pregnancy
    • rapid weight loss
    Some drugs may also increase your chances of getting gallstones. Among them are drugs that have estrogen, such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (medicine that may be given to some women to address problems related to menopause). Taking drugs that lower cholesterol levels in the blood may also make it more likely that you will develop gallstones, as some of these drugs may make the liver release more cholesterol into the bile.
    The truth is that we don’t know exactly what causes gall stones after a few obvious culprits. a high fat diet and recent loss of significant weight (Has that occurred? . Keep working on maintaining a lower fat intake and recognize that as you age you may have increased risk. Obviously there’s nothing you can do about that. Do check out that reference as above as well as this video You will need to determine what affect turmeric has on you, because some research indicated it may cause pain, although others indicate it can help prevent gallstones.
    Your doctor’s advice to “do nothing” is not unexpected because many who have gallstones do not have severe symptoms. You’ve described yours as making you “miserable” so it’s important for you to carefully document the severity and frequency of your symptoms as well as monitoring your fat intake, as you are doing and possibly working with your doctor regarding hormones. I hope this is helpful and gallstones become a part of your medical history soon.

  28. Hello,

    I am wondering if you could point me in the right direction to get more information about polyps in the gallbladder. I have been dealing with severe pain in the upper, centre part of my abdominal section for a couple months. The health care system is slow where I am and no one can seem to help me out in the meantime. I was told I have a few polyps in my gallbladder and one if them is large. Initially (before the ultrasound), I was told I had gastritis based on my symptoms. The only thing that doesn’t bother is me so far is oatmeal. This has caused a lot of frustration and pain. I also have issues with constipation (2 – 4 bowel movements/week) and do not know if this could all be related.

    I have been following a vegan, whole foods diet for a couple years now, but lately I have not been able to eat a lot of variety with the pain.

    I am only 26 years old and preparing to go back to school in September and would like to have the pain under control.

    Any help would be much appreciated.

  29. Michelle,

    No in answer to the normalcy of 2-4 bowel movements a week. This is considered significant constipation and would have an impact on your gallbladder and all other organs. Please appreciate that without a full history it’s not really possible to give you the full answer your requesting.

    However some begining steps… how about an evaluation of your stool (CDSA2 as an example) ? Please don’t fail to followup in 3-6 months with an evaluation of the polyps. What other changes have taken place prior to your GI system changes is going to be important in terms of knowing whats going on. Resolution of your constipation is a critical piece of your health care needs so don’t put this off.

    Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger

  30. I have undergone laparoscopic cholecystectomy. i am on plant based diet for 6 months now.. any limitations on plant based diet post cholecystectomy? t

  31. Hi geet and thanks for your question. Presumably, you had a cholecystectomy due to gallstones which would have required caution with use of turmeric (see this video: but that should not be an issue currently. Just be sure to supplement vitamin B12 if you are following a whole food plant based vegan diet (for advice of how to supplement B12:

  32. I had an ultrasound after having upper abdominal pain, and was diagnosed with gallstones. I’ve not had another attack since the first one, although I’ve had some minor pain in the area a few times since. I don’t have high cholesterol, I eat a healthy diet, and I’m not overweight. I don’t have any other health problems. I am over 40 and female, which seem to be the only factors I’ve seen that could impact the development of my gallstones. No known family history of gallstones either. Blood work shows my cholesterol and triglycerides are normal. I am baffled as to why I’ve developed gallstones, and so is my doctor. Does anyone have any insights into why my stones may have developed? Looking for ways to mitigate developing more stones. My stones are small but there are hundreds of them(?!), so I’ve considered trying a “gallbladder flush” to see if this would resolve. Does anyone have any advice on this process or has anyone tried it and had success? I’m not interested in having my gallbladder removed, since I’ve only had one attack and my symptoms since are tolerable; not really having pain so much as just minor discomfort and bloating. I’m supplementing with chanca piedra, which is supposed to help to break up the stones, but unsure whether or not it’s working.

  33. Hi this is Dr. Daniela Sozanski PhD Natural Medicine in Atlanta Ga and Moderator with Nutritionfacts.
    Someone asked me today about gallbladder stones and attacks: this is what I suggested: get tested for food sensitivity and/or allergies. Going on an elimination diet with challenge re-introduction, may give you some good hints of foods you should permanently eliminate. Dairy maybe one. In addition you may want to try short fasts at intervals, drink lots of water and most importantly, stay with a high fiber, fresh/raw veggies, mostly plant based diet.
    Focused nutrition: nuts, one serving a day as snack, dandelion and watercress, beets and beet leaves, carrots, tomatoes, artichokes, daikon and jicama, lemons, horseradish and raw mustard seeds, watermelon, grapefruit, apples, oats, raw and whole, but steel cut ok, flax seed freshly ground, oat bran; seek foods rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, D and E; eat vegetables mostly raw to benefit from live digestive enzymes content
    herbs and spices: Burdock root, walnut, alfalfa, ginger, catnip, peppermint.
    This is a recipe of fresh juice I found: carrot, radish, prune, black cherry, celery, beet, cucumber and parsley; try one week cure every month.
    Eliminate dairy, white flour and sugars; lower salt and much of animal protein, cook at home; broil, bake, boil
    I hope this helps, Daniela

  34. I had my gallbladder removed 16 years ago. Since that time, no matter what I eat, I suffer from dry itchy skin (especially on my limbs) and other skin issues such as acne. Plus, brain fog — where I almost always feel like I am a bit drunk — and IBS. Thankfully, a whole food plant-based diet has all but removed my IBS symptoms. But, my skin remains dry and itchy with acne (and many other skin eruptions) along with the brain fog and other health related issues I am probably forgetting to mention right now. Note that I have been eating a Nutritarian style WFPBD for over five years. Moreover, I supplement my diet with DHA/EPA, b12, and vitamin D. I am at my wit’s end with all this and have no idea where to go. Thus, I am hoping someone here can point me in the right direction.

    1. First, Randy, asa volunteer moderator for this website, I congratulate you on eating WFPB for 16 years. While it might seem that the removal of your gall bladder triggered your symptoms neither the dry, itchy skin nor any changes affecting your thinking are an expected or even rare consequence of gall bladder surgery, as you are probably aware. not look towards diet or gall bladder surgery for probable cause.
      The “brain fog” you describe definitely needs to be investigated. Have you been evaluated by your doctor or even better a specialist who deals with cognition? Not thinking clearly is serious and should be evaluated, looking to potential other causes- medications? severe chronic sleep deprivation? environmental exposures, etc. It’s remotely possible you are eating something you’ve become allergic to . If so doing an elimination diet removing any foods you might suspect one at a time could possibly lead to an answer, although since you are eating WFPB yo’ve already eliminated the most common allergens. Again while you could experiment with your diet I would not delay seeing medical evaluation for the “brain fog.”

      As far as the dry itchy skin, there are basic steps you could try as outlined here in these two Nutrition Facts videos and two basic guides to dry itchy skin treatment:

      I suspect you’ve tried all these measures and if so again I’d recommend evaluation and possible treatment by a dermatologist to zero in on cause.
      I hope 2018 will bring you some answers and better control of these worrisome symptoms.

      1. Thanks for your response Joan. Years ago I went to the doctor about my brain fog. They ran a few tests, I don’t remember what they did, and found nothing. Basically, they told me if I had had it for years, which I had, and I hadn’t yet died, which I hadn’t, then there was nothing for me to worry about. As for my various skin issues, I have seen a Dermatologist, several in fact, and all they ever do is give me various topical lotions. All doctors, by the way, hint that it’s my “vegan diet” that most likely is causing all my issues. Thus I had pretty much given up until I just recently Googled “Gallbladder dry skin” and came up with a treasure trove of links all talking about the various health issues one might face if they have their gallbladder removed. Then I looked to see what Dr. Greger had to say about the subject and found this video. Which is why I posted my comment/question above. Ultimately, I just don’t know what to do. I wish Dr. Greger saw patients. I bet he’d know what I should do!

  35. Hi this is Dr. Daniela Sozanski, PhD in Naturopathy in Atlanta GA and Moderator for Nutritionfacts.
    Great job on the WPBD over the 5 years. Sometime however you may need focused nutrition. I am suspecting you may not intake sufficient vitamin E (remember the alpha tocopherol available in the stores will not help, you need the combined tocopherols alpha, beta and particularly gamma), which certain individuals cannot quite intake sufficiently from plants; next you may need some vitamin A, so load up on plants rich in carotenoids, such as beta carotene, lutein and astaxanthin; you may also need vitamin A supplementation as you may be one of the few with limited capacity to convert the carotenoids into vitamin A in the body. There are precautions with the administration of vitamin A supplementation, related to existing health condition, of which in your case I am not privy. I suggest you work with a Naturopath to go over your history and make an educated decision to supplement or not.
    Then, you may not have sufficient intake of fatty acids, and I suggest you go higher in in your supplementation and/or start a flax seed regimen with 2 table spoons of fresh ground flax seed daily. Flax seed oil not recommended. In addition, topically you may try a niacinamide lotion, as it aids production of lipids in the stratum corneum of the epidermis. Please discuss all of these suggestions with a Naturopath or physician before deciding to pursue. I hope this helps, let me know how it works, Daniela

  36. I took Ursodiol (ursodeoxycholic acid, 1000 mg/day) and reduced my gallstones from 9mm to 2mm in less than a year. By now they may be gone. Coupled with a vegan diet (including turmeric) I don’t expect them to come back. I have not had an attack for nearly two years.

  37. Hi. I’m wondering if any foods help dissolve gallstones. Maybe pectin, pear juice, apples, apple cider vinegar?

    I had a big gallstone attack in 2006, got sonogram/xrays and was scheduled for surgery a week later.
    Well, I started feeling better before the surgery and cancelled it.

    A friend recommended drinking pear juice and that helped, as well as eating only the blandest foods for a while. If I ate something with too much fat in it, the pear juice could calm my gallbladder down. It stopped an attack within 15 minutes. But I realized I needed to quit eating stuff that triggered it in the first place.

    I still have my gallbladder today. I would like to keep it, but worry about stones accumulating.

    Last Aug 2017 I realized I was fat! I decided to eliminate almost all meat and try to eat more veggies and fruit. I watched Dr Greger’s videos. I lost 5 pounds a month, basically 40 pounds total then leveled out.

    I’m not full vegan but am working on it. (still have some white meat/turkey not much) but eliminated milk, cheese, white bread etc.

    I drink a little beet juice in the morning, eat an apple a day, eat way more veggies and fruit than I ever did, and feel really good.

    I bought Dr Greger’s book “How Not to Die” and read a little of it every day.

  38. Hello. How many times a day do I need to eat if I have cholecystitis and gallbladder sludge?
    How about intermittent fasting? I eat three times a day with a break of 16 hours.
    My doctor insists on six meals a time and adding vegetable oil to food (min 15 grams), because it claims that the nut is not enough and without oil disease worsen.

    1. Fasting can both trigger gallstone formation and cholecystitis. When the gallbladder is forced to empty regularly throughout the day, fewer stones form. There are observations that non animal oils cause gallbladder emptying, but on the other hand oil contributes to obesity, which is primary risk factor for gallstone disease. Changing to a whole food plant based diet with gradual weight loss (1-2 pounds weekly), and frequent meals are healthy ways of preventing gallstone attacks.

  39. Hi “Poll”.

    Add oil to your food? All I can say is that oil and other saturated fats trigger gallbladder attacks in me.

    After all, gallstones are made of cholesterol created when you make your liver work overtime trying to clean up after the oils/fats you consume.

    I quit having attacks when I cut out as much as possible saturated fats from meat, dairy, processed foods (things in bag or box).
    I drink pear juice for the pectin and lots more whole plant foods.

    ” The gallbladder acts as a reservoir for bile, a substance produced by the liver which helps the body digest fat. It’s believed that high-fat diets contribute to the bile becoming over-saturated, causing gallstones to form.”

    1. Hi, Laura Roslin. Thanks for the reply. I only eat whole nuts. After I eat the nut butter I feel nauseous. I’ve been following Joel Fuhrmann’s diet for almost a year. Yesterday my doctor told me to add vegetable oil, I do not follow these instructions and do not eat vegetable oils. Dr. Fuhrman says to eat no more than 1 ounce of nuts in case of gallbladder disease. The standard recommendations of Joel Furman is 3 times a day. In the book of Michael Greger and the books of Joel Fuhrman, I did not find any information about the frequency of meals in case of gallbladder disease. I’m confused.

      1. Nut butter – It’s high in fat and it’s like glue, very little fiber.
        I eat very little nut butter. You don’t need it. Sometimes I’ll put a little on celery, but the celery has fiber which helps digest it all.
        Anyone with gall stones should eat as little nut butter as possible.

        I eat some almonds or walnuts now and then if I need an easy snack. Not a meal of them just a snack. But if they make you hurt don’t eat them!
        Some nuts are super high in saturated fat, like cashews and are not good for you.

        How often to eat? Eat when you’re hungry. I eat three meals a day, when I’m hungry. I aim for mostly plant based meals. I snack too but only healthy stuff.
        Fiber is important, and it’s in greens and in things like whole wheat sprouted bread.
        See Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist – try to eat some of these things every day – but if something on the list makes you feel bad, don’t eat it.

        Gallstones are caused by eating too much oils and fats. Red meat, pork, fried foods, pies (the crust is at least half saturated fat). Stay way from these.
        I dropped cows milk and switched to soy milk but then found that so much of store bought was super high in phosphorous so switched to almond milk – it has very little. (Read the labels)

        I learned I had gallstones back 13 years ago. I didn’t want surgery so I changed what I eat.

        If I eat high fat foods like pie, red meat, fried chicken – BAM! it would trigger an attack. Eating high fat foods puts your liver into overdrive and creates cholesterol which turns to stones in your gallbladder.

        So read “How Not To Die” by Dr Greger, it helps you understand how what you eat affects you.

        Check out some good vegan cookbooks.

        Go to the library and check out “Vegan for Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and In-Between”
        by America’s Test Kitchen.. See if you like it. Or something similar. Make sure it says Vegan or “Plant based” not vegetarian.

        If you are a lousy cook there’s some good vegan frozen meals by Amy’s that can help augment your diet.

        I admit, I cheat, I do eat some turkey or chicken but never fried. Cooked in crock pot – moist heat.

        There’s lots of delicious stuff to eat that is plant based.

        Important – I always keep pear juice and beet juice stocked at all times. I drink some pear juice every week, the pectin in it helps keep your gallbladder from being gummed up.
        It can help ward off attacks. I think pear juice is what helped me to avoid surgery.
        Beet juice expands blood vessels and can also help stop an attack if you’re in the middle of one. Or pear juice.

        If you are feeling sick right now then you should immediately go to eating the mildest of foods for now. When I first found out I had stones I stopped eating most stuff and only ate like Cream of Wheat and drank water for days. Till I felt better. Then I gradually added in foods that had very little or almost no fat.

        Yes we need some fat but read How Not To Die to understand what are healthy fats. Or watch the videos.

        What we eat can cause disease, what we choose to eat can reverse it.

        About once a week I eat what I call “trash food” maybe it’s something not really plant based but I do NOT eat fried foods or pie anymore.

        There are vegan types deserts and brownies you can make that have lots of fiber, so there are options. And they aren’t all that difficult.

        So change what you eat, eat when you’re hungry, and do read How Not To Die.

        I currently don’t take any medicines and I’m almost 60 years old. I mow my yard etc.

    2. I’m glad to read you are skeptical of nutrition advice that runs counter to what research tells us, as in advice to eat oil to prevent gall bladder disease. Thanks for sharing how well you’re doing once you restricted the harmful saturated fats. Here’s to your continued good health!

  40. My husband has been vegan for six years. He has recently been having excruciating pain that has me bringing hime to the emergency room. This time they found a large gall stone that they are suggesting removal of the gall bladder. His bloodwork looks good, there is no infection and they feel he does not require emergency surgery. Yet, he is still in excruciating pain and I can’t get an appointment with a doctor for another week. We eat whole food plant based diets. Because he is very lean, I do use nuts and avocados quite often int the meals I feed him. As well, I had been given him home made fresh ginger and Turmeric along with pepper chai this month. I do believe this is probably what caused so many attacks this month after not having a problem in the last 3 years and 3 years before that. He is in so much pain and the pain meds don’t seem to help We are not a fan of pain meds. When he had hip replacement surgery, he did not have to take the pain meds they prescribed. The ER has prescribed a healthy low fat diet. He already eats a healthy low fat diet. Im nervous about putting him on a fast as he is already very thin. I don’t know what else to do.

    1. Avoid nuts. Someone with gallstones should be very careful about eating nuts as they are high in fat!
      I would say avoid them completely for awhile, and only if your husband can go like a year without an attack he could have a few, not a lot.

      Avoid Tumeric. It can trigger gallstone attacks:

      Per Dr Greger: Just because something is natural and plant-based doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Those who are pregnant, have gallstones, or are susceptible to kidney stones may want to moderate their turmeric consumption.

      Per WebMd: “Risks. Pregnant women should not use turmeric supplements. Talk to a doctor before using turmeric supplements regularly if you have any medical conditions, including gallbladder or kidney disease, bleeding disorders, diabetes, or immunity problems. Since turmeric can potentially increase bleeding, stop taking it at least two weeks before any surgery.”

      Be careful about supplements, they are medicine. They could be making your husband sicker.

      The best thing is to avoid fatty foods. Read the label. Avoid cheese, pies, white bread, red meat, potato chips, crackers, basically processed foods or things that come in a box.

      Read Dr Greger’s book Nutrition Facts.
      Fatty foods force the liver to make cholestrol, and when there’s too much it creates gallstones.

      To alleviate symptoms, switch to super mild diet (for me it was creme of wheat) and gradually re-introduce foods as tolerated.
      For quick relief, drink some pear juice, it has lots of pectin. It can help alleviate an attack usually within about 15 minutes.
      if it doesn’t, then the attack is pretty bad.

      Food causes gallstones. Some supplements can make it worse. When I got sick I quit taking any supplements and that helped.
      Over the counter meds can make it worse too.

      You don’t have to go full blown vegan, just cut out high fat foods which are like glue to your liver and gallbladder.
      Get some pectin in the diet every day.

      1. Hi Laura and thanks for the reply. After researching and putting together timelines, I feel pretty confident I got it figured out. My husband has been strict vegan for 6 years. When he went vegan, he lost 12 pounds in two weeks and his cholesterol dropped 20 points. That’s when he had his 1st attack and went to the ER. I’m pretty sure they never looked at the gall balder as he doesn’t fit the typical gall stone profile. They did bloodwork, checked for allergies, and various other organs. Sent him home drugged up and it seemed to clear up. 3 years later he has an attack and probably because I cook a lot of Indian food with turmeric. Back to ER, they make sure he doesn’t have an infection, blood work, kidney and liver function good, give him pain pills and send him away telling him probably food poisoning. 3 more years pass and now has several attacks this September. 3rd emergency visit, finally does an imaging of gall bladder and ultrasound. They find one large gallstone not infected. Advises gall bladder removal and he is scheduled to talk to a surgeon this Monday. He has a very healthy WFPB diet. I’ve had amazing results using Turmeric to fight osteoarthritis in my knee. We are both athletes and he would like to continue turmeric. Thinking if he has the surgery, the turmeric shouldn’t cause a problem if there is no gall bladder to contract.

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