Cholecystitis is a potentially dangerous health condition attributed to inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ found under the liver, and stores bile to be secreted into the intestines.
There are a range of symptoms of cholecystitis, but its defining symptom is a sharp, excruciating pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, and up the right arm. The pain can be aggravated by deep breathing, and is persistent. Other symptoms include:
- Bulging abdomen
Cholecystitis occurs due to a blockage in the cystic duct, the duct joining the gallbladder to the common bile duct, usually from gallstones or biliary sludge. As the bile can no longer leave the gallbladder, pressure is increased causing inflammation and sometimes causes infection.
Gallstones are the result of irregular ratios of cholesterol or bilirubin, and bile salts, in the gallbladder.
Risk factors of gallstones include:
- Women: especially those on the combined pill, high oestrogen therapy or post-pregnancy
- Overweight or obese people
- People over 40 years old
- People who have recently lost a lot of weight
- People with Crohn’s, cirrhosis, or IBS
- People with a family history of gallstones
If you’ve been diagnosed with acute cholecystitis, it is very likely that you will need surgery to remove your gallbladder. This is done either laparoscopically, through the use of a number of small incisions into your abdomen, or through open surgery.
If your cholecystitis did not require surgery and currently isn’t causing any problems, it is important that you change your lifestyle in order to ensure it doesn’t come back. The best way to prevent cholecystitis is to stop the formation of gallstones. This is achieved through diet and exercise.
Focus on eating a nutritious diet which is high in unsaturated fats (from fish, nuts and seeds), with a moderate protein consumption (from lean meats, fish, dairy, peas and beans), a lower consumption of carbohydrates (ensuring carbs that are consumed are from whole grains) and eating large quantities of fruit and veg. Cut out simple carbs. White flower products such as bread, rice and pasta, and sugar-based products like chocolate, sweets and soft drinks, should be avoided, or treated as occasional luxuries.