How to Get Rid of Gallstones (Including Gallbladder Cleanse & Flush)

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How to Get Rid of Gallstones (Including Gallbladder Cleanse & Flush)

Getting rid of gallstones naturally can help prevent intense upper right abdominal pain and avoid the need for surgery. Gallstones are hard pebble-like deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder. Natural remedies for gallstones can include ingredients like apple cider vinegar,  lemon juice, dandelion, artichoke, or milk thistle.

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Many people also recommend a gallbladder cleanse to help flush solid particles from the gallbladder and biliary system. Flushing your gallbladder can help to quickly alleviate the pain from a gallbladder attack and may prevent the need for a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

In this article, you will learn why gallstones form and about the best types of natural treatments for gallstones. You will also find gallstone flush recipes that may help you pass the gallstones naturally.

Gallbladder Function and Location

PubMed Health states that the gallbladder is a small sac in the shape of a pear that is about 7 – 10 cm in length. It is located just below the liver in your right upper abdomen.

The gallbladder stores digestive bile which is produced by the liver. When you eat fatty foods, the gallbladder releases bile – a mixture of salts, cholesterol, and bile pigments – to the small intestine.1

The function of your gallbladder is to store and release the digestive bile to help with the digestion of fats. The gallbladder can hold up to 70 or 80 ml (2.3 or 2.7 fl. oz.) of bile.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones form when digestive bile fluid forms into hard deposits. The medical name for gallstones is cholelithiasis.

The Nigerian Journal of Surgery says that gallstones can range in size from tiny grains to the size of a golf ball. Gallstones are made up of cholesterol, calcium salts, bilirubin, and protein. There are 2 types of gallstones:2

Cholesterol stones. These types of gallstones are composed mainly of cholesterol and are yellow in color. The cholesterol gallstones form when there is a high concentration of cholesterol in bile. Cholesterol stones are the most common type of gallstones.

Pigment stones. Gallstones that contain mostly bilirubin are called pigment stones. Pigment gallstones form when red blood cells are being destroyed too quickly.

Both types of gallstones can cause excruciating upper right side abdominal pain if they get stuck in your bile duct.

Gallstone Symptoms

In many cases, gallstones don’t show any symptoms at all and may only be discovered during a routine scan. If the gallstones move and block a bile duct or if they become very large, they can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, referred to as a gallbladder attack.

The journal Bailliere’s Clinical Gastroenterology says that the symptoms of gallstones (cholelithiasis) include the following:3

Sudden, severe abdominal pain. The pain usually comes on without warning and can be excruciatingly painful. The cramping right-sided abdominal pain usually peaks within the first hour. It then can become a dull abdominal ache that lasts a few days.

Pain between the shoulder blades. The pain from the upper abdomen can spread and cause a sore right shoulder blade or pain in the upper middle back.

Chest pain. For some people, a gallbladder attack can cause pain that feels like a heart attack. In fact, the journal Gut says that cholelithiasis is a reason for non-related heart pain.4

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Indigestion. Another symptom of gallstone pain is a burning sensation in your chest. This can be caused by either bile reflux or acid reflux.

Changes in stool and urine color. Blockages of the bile duct can result in very dark colored urine or clay-colored stool.

Cholecystitis. Large gallstones can result in gallbladder inflammation, called cholecystitis.

Can You Treat Gallstones Without Surgery?

If you suffer recurring gallbladder attacks, your doctor may recommend a cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal. However, even laparoscopic gallbladder removal is still an invasive procedure. Therefore, many people want to know if you can treat gallstones without surgery.

Some natural treatments have helped to treat gallstones without the need for surgery. For some people, a gallstone cleanse has helped to pass the gallstones naturally. Other have used various supplements and other natural remedies to dissolve gallstones naturally.

In some cases, people have avoided the need for gallbladder surgery by making changes to their diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

How to Get Rid of Gallstones Naturally

Let’s look in more detail at what scientific research says about natural gallstone remedies and their effectiveness.

Apple juice with apple cider vinegar

There is some limited evidence that consuming apple juice and apple cider vinegar can help to get rid of gallstones without surgery.

The journal The Lancet published a letter from a doctor on the benefits of drinking large quantities of apple juice. One woman treated the symptoms of gallstones by drinking 1 liter of apple juice for a week. On the last day, she consumed 1 cup of olive oil. The next day, she naturally passed a few cholesterol gallstones.5

Apples and apple cider vinegar also contain pectin, which has been linked to treating gallstones. One clinical trial showed that pectin helped to treat gallstones and put gallstone disease into regression.6

At the end of this article, you can find a gallstone flush recipe using apple juice and apple cider vinegar (ACV).

Lemon juice

The journal Alternative Medicine Review reported that a compound in lemons can help to dissolve gallstones. D-limonene is a compound found in the rind and juice of citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, and oranges.

Researchers have found that D-limonene can help to treat cholesterol-containing gallstones and get rid of them naturally.7

Gallbladder cleanse

Many people have found that a gallbladder flush can help to get rid of gallstones by helping to pass them naturally. Flushing the gallbladder usually requires drinking a combination of olive oil, Epsom salt, and fruit or citric juices to help break up gallstones. This should stimulate the gallbladder to pass the gallstones in stool.

Natural Treatments for Gallstones

There is some evidence that some natural herbs and home remedies can help to improve the function of the gallbladder and reduce the frequency of gallbladder symptoms.

Before using some of these natural remedies for treating gallstones, you should speak to a qualified medical person or qualified medical herbalist.

Dandelion

Dandelion extract is used to treat various gallbladder disorders, including gallstones. The journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology reported that dandelion is used in many cultures as a natural treatment for gallstones and to help stimulate bile production.8

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The journal The Review of Diabetic Studies says that dandelion extracts have bitter compounds that dilute the concentration of bile and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gallbladder.9

Milk thistle

Milk thistle is another bitter herb that can help address many gallbladder problems and may get rid of gallstones naturally.

According to the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin. This is used as a dietary supplement to help treat many gallbladder and biliary conditions.9 PubMed Health says that many homeopathic practitioners use milk thistle extracts to get rid of gallstones.10

Gold coin grass (Lysimachiae Herba)

A study published in 2015 into the therapeutic properties of gold coin grass reported that it can help treat gallstones and kidney stones. In many cases, gold coin grass can also help prevent the formation of cholesterol gallstones.11

Artichoke

Artichoke leaf extracts can help to increase bile production that decreases the concentration of cholesterol buildups in the gallbladder.

A study from 2013 reported that clinical trials on the properties of artichoke have found that artichoke leaf extracts are beneficial for the gallbladder and liver. Artichoke leaves have a choleretic action (increases bile production) that can help to reduce the level of solids in the gallbladder.26

Home Remedies to Treat Gallstones

There are other herbs that have healing and protective properties that can help to keep your gallbladder functioning properly. These natural remedies for gallstones can help you pass them or prevent recurring gallbladder attacks.

Turmeric

You can use turmeric as part of a gallbladder diet to help reduce the frequency of gallstone pain and discomfort.

The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that turmeric extracts can help to contract the gallbladder which stimulates bile flow.13 Because turmeric also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to reduce gallbladder pain and abdominal cramping.14

The journal Surgical Endoscopy also reported that the anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric can reduce pain after a laparoscopic gallbladder operation.15

Peppermint

Peppermint can help bile pass through your biliary system easier and may help reduce abdominal pain caused by gallbladder issues.

According to the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, a mixture of peppermint oil and caraway oil has a soothing effect on the gallbladder. Taking 90 mg peppermint oil and 50 mg caraway oil helped empty the gallbladder quicker and stimulate bile flow.16

Other Treatments for Gallstones

Let’s look at some other ways – natural and traditional – to treat gallstones and stop their symptoms causing discomfort.

Vegetarian diet

One way that may help avoid having your gallbladder removed because of gallstones is by changing to a vegetarian diet.

Dr. Alan R. Gaby in the journal Alternative Medicine Review reported that women who have gallstones can lower their risk for a gallbladder removal by cutting out meat from their diet. Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables was connected to fewer bouts of gallstone pain.17

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Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help manage the symptoms of gallstones such as inflammation or pain. A study from 2012 found that acupuncture can help to treat abdominal pain and shoulder pain caused by a gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis).18

Medication

To avoid removing the gallbladder as a cure for gallstones, most doctors try to dissolve the stones using medication. PubMed Health reports that some medications for gallstones help to reduce pain and inflammation. If gallstones are small enough, drugs containing ursodeoxycholic acid are prescribed to dissolve gallstones.19

Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy)

In cases of recurring gallbladder attacks, doctors may recommend a complete removal of the gallbladder. The most common way of removing the gallbladder is with a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Please read my other article to find out what you should do after a gallbladder removal.

Gallbladder Cleanse – What is the Gallbladder Flush?

The gallbladder flush combines various natural ingredients to help reduce the size of gallstones and make them easier to pass. Usually, gallbladder cleanse recipes contain a combination of fruit juices, herbs, and natural laxatives to help you pass gallstones in your stool.

Gallbladder Cleanse Recipes

Let’s look at a gallbladder cleanse recipe to treat gallstones naturally and prevent bouts of gallstone pain.

For this, you will need the following:

  • 6 quarts (nearly 6 liters) of pure apple juice
  • Raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Epsom salt. In the cleanse recipe, Epsom salt acts as a laxative to flush the stones quicker.

How to do the gallbladder cleanse:

  1. During the first 6 days, drink 6 fl. oz. (180 ml) apple juice mixed with 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar 5 times each day. (You should drink in total 1-quart per day).
  2. On day 6, fast until 6 pm.
  3. At 6 pm, mix 1 tbsp. Epsom salt with a large glass of water. Drink quickly.
  4. 2 hours later, consume another glass of Epsom salt and water.
  5. At 10 pm, mix 4-oz. (120 ml) olive oil and 4-oz. lemon juice and drink the remedy quickly.
  6. Go to bed, preferably lying on your side.
  7. In the morning, you should pass gallstones in your stool and the small lumps may be visible in the toilet.

Gallbladder cleanse using lemon and olive oil

Drinking lemon juice and olive oil is a popular gallbladder cleanse that many people say helps relieving the symptoms of a gallbladder attack. You can consume this detox drink daily to help keep your liver and gallbladder in good health.

  1. Mix the juice of ½ lemon with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Drink first thing in the morning to help flush toxins from your liver.

The Journal Alternative Medicine Review says that this is a folk remedy that has several versions. One version is to fast for 12 hours and then at 7 p.m., you need to ingest 4 tablespoons of olive oil followed by 1 tablespoon of lemon juice every 15 minutes for a total of 8 treatment cycles. 17

Apple Juice and apple cider vinegar to get rid of gallstone pain

Apple cider vinegar and apple juice is a potent combination that can help quickly reduce the symptoms of a gallbladder attack.

  1. Put 2 tbsp. raw, organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm apple juice.
  2. Drink the remedy to help get rid of abdominal pain caused by gallstones.
  3. Drink every time that you have a bout of gallstone pain.

With this recipe, you can try increasing the dose of apple cider vinegar up to ¼ cup.

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The Journal Alternative Medicine Review mentions another method which consists of apple juice and vegetable juice. According to this version, you need to consume only apple juice and vegetable juice (no food allowed) during the day until 5-6 p.m., and then ingest 18 mL (0.6 oz) of olive oil followed by 9 mL (0.3 oz) of fresh lemon juice every 15 minutes until 8 ounces (240 ml) of oil have been consumed.17

What Does the Research Say about the Gallbladder Flush?

There is much anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of gallbladder cleanse. What does scientific research say about the purported health benefits of flushing the gallbladder?

The journal Alternative Medicine Reviews says that there is minimal scientific evidence that supports the benefits of a gallbladder cleanse. However, doctors do say that some gallbladder cleanse recipes seem to help a number of people.17

Dr. Michael F. Picco from the Mayo Clinic says that there is a laxative effect of the gallbladder cleanse recipes. But, there is little evidence to prove that the lumps in stool are gallbladder stones. Also, some people experience unpleasant side effects from a gallbladder flush.20

Can You Get Rid of Gallstones by Passing Them Naturally?

Advocates of the gallbladder cleanse say that flushing the gallbladder helps to pass gallstones naturally. This helps reduce the frequency of their symptoms and many say that it enable them to avoid a gallbladder removal surgery.

How to Prevent Gallstones

With a few lifestyle choices and changes to your diet, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing gallstones. In the end, this can help prevent the need for a cholecystectomy.

Diet to prevent gallstones

Sticking to a “gallstone diet” includes avoiding fatty and fried foods that can cause cholesterol buildups in the gallbladder. The American Journal of Surgery reports that a gallstone diet should include soluble dietary fiber. This helps to prevent gallstone formation and reduce cholesterol in the biliary tract.21

Maintain a healthy weight

Getting and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce your risk of undergoing gallbladder surgery. A report from 2009 found that obese people are more likely to develop gallstones and require a surgery to remove the gallbladder.17

Moderate amounts of coffee

You can prevent developing gallstones and their associated symptoms by drinking moderate amounts of coffee. According to a research published in the journal BMJ, drinking coffee in moderate amounts can greatly reduce your risk of gallstones. Coffee stimulates the flow of bile and prevents buildups of cholesterol in the gallbladder.22

Avoid rapid weight loss programs

The International Journal of Obesity reports that rapid weight loss or sticking to a very low-calorie diet can lead to gallstones. The study concluded that people who lost weight very quickly were at a 3-times greater risk of developing gallstones than those who lost weight gradually.23

Be physically active

Regular physical activity doesn’t just help to keep your heart healthy and lower blood pressure. The journal Sports Medicine found that exercising regularly also benefits your gallbladder health and can help prevent gallstone disease.24

When to See a Doctor

Just because you have gallstones, doesn’t mean that you need to see a doctor. Many people have asymptomatic gallstones which means that they don’t have any symptoms.

Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that if you start showing signs of gallstones or gallbladder dysfunction, you need to see a doctor. These include:25

Related articles:

Medical Sources

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  4. Gut. 1998 Jul; 43(1): 105–110.
  5. Lancet. 1999 Dec; 354(9196): 2171.
  6. Experientia. 1984 Apr 15;40(4):350-1.
  7. Altern Med Rev.2007 Sep;12(3):259-64.
  8. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Feb 15; 227(1): 125–135.
  9. J Pharm Biomed Anal.2016 Oct 25;130:301-317.
  10. NCBI. Milk Thistle.
  11. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.2015 Jun;40(11):2106-11.
  12. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis.2013 Mar;80(1):17-26.
  13. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr.2002;11(4):314-8.
  14. J Trad Comp Med. 2017 July; 7(3): 339-346.
  15. Surg Endosc.2011 Dec;25(12):3805-10.
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  17. Alt Med Rev. 2009; 14(3): 258-267.
  18. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu.2012 Oct;37(5):398-402.
  19. NCBI. How can gallstones be treated?
  20. MayoClinic. Gallbladder cleanse. A natural remedy for gallstones?
  21. Am J Surg.1999 Apr;177(4):307-10.
  22. BMJ. 1999 Jun 19; 318(7199): 1646.
  23. Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Feb; 38(2): 279–284.
  24. Sports Med.1997 Apr;23(4):218-27.
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