Digestive Disorders: Gallbladder

Digestive Disorders: Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small sac that lies just under the liver.   Its main purpose is to store the bile, or a liquid made by the liver that helps you dissolve fats. Bile travels from the gallbladder through the cystic duct and the common bile duct and is secreted into the small intestine to help you digest your food.

Gall bladderThis little gland just does its job without any care until you have pain that suddenly develops in the upper belly and spreads to the back or shoulder. It is almost impossible to get comfortable and at times the only relief you find is lying on the ground in the fetal position. You might even wake up in the idle of the night with severe pain and it hurts to breathe.   A check in the emergency room or an appointment with your primary care physician reveals gallstones or small cholesterol/pigment substances that form impassable ” “stones.” 


Gallstones are solid materials that form in the gallbladder. Cholesterol and pigment in the bile form hard particles and ” “stones”  can be small or almost as large as your finger. Two types of gallstones are cholesterol stones or pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are generally yellowish and are the main stones that cause problems. Your gallbladder can also form pigment stones that are small and dark and are made up of bilirubin or the pigments that are produced when heme breaks down. A as note, heme is a by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells.

Gallstones can be cause by genetics, body weight, a diseased gallbladder or diet.   Gallstones form when the substances that make up bile are out of balance or the gallbladder fails to empty properly.

  • If family member has gallstones, you are at risk of developing stones.
  • One of the biggest risk factors is obesity. A rise in cholesterol plus fat squeezing the gallbladder will contribute to stones.
  • Estrogen can also cause an increase in cholesterol and reduced motility.   Watch out if you are pregnant; take birt