It starts as a faint feeling of discomfort in my abdomen, a deep ache or tightness, and then begins to spread. At the outset, I’ve mistaken it for hunger, but as it progresses, the pain increases. It becomes very clear what is happening. My gallbladder is malfunctioning. The ducts from the gallbladder are blocked, and the pain will soon become quite unbearable.
The most common symptom of biliary sludge — when it causes symptoms — is pain in the abdomen often associated with nausea and vomiting. This occurs when the particles obstruct the ducts leading from the gallbladder to the intestine.
Now, it’s not the worst pain I’ve felt in my life. I can certainly imagine pains that are deeper and more acute. However, it’s a very frustrating pain. My first few attacks, I didn’t even know what it was. I thought it was food poisoning. The nausea that accompanied it made me feel like vomiting might help, but it never did.
I tried a variety of products to lessen the symptoms. Alka Seltzer seemed to be the only one that had any effect.
When I finally talked to a doctor about it, he suggested that a pain reliever like Advil might help. “Take a few Advil when you feel the pain coming on.” So that is what I do now. When that pain starts to come on, I take a few Advil and/or some Alka Seltzer and lie down. Surprisingly it does the trick.
Now these attacks are infrequent. I had several last fall, but I think I’ve only had two this year. The hypothesis that I’m currently working under is that starches in my diet aggravate it. The first few attacks I had were after large meals with lots of rice. I also noticed that the lignans that accompany flax seed oil also irritate it, as do ground flax seeds themselves (the oil without lignans seems to be fine).
I’m now two weeks into a very low carb diet and one of my hopes is that it would improve my gallbladder. I have felt a little better lately. Although, I have occasionally felt a bit of pressure near my gallbladder, it has been faint and less frequent since my diet became mostly meat, eggs and cheese (I also consume a fair amount of walnut and flax seed oil).
But yesterday, I had another attack. It would have been bad if I’d not taken the Advil right away and been able to lie down for an hour. It did pass, but now I’m left with a mystery. What if anything in my diet brought on the attack? Here is what I can remember about my diet in the previous 24 hours:
- The bulk of my diet was meat, eggs and cheese. That morning, I had two eggs and some ham for breakfast.
- I also had some yogurt with a few berries for breakfast. I haven’t had any yogurt for at least a week. It’s always gone down easy before however.
- The night before I had a diet Pepsi. I haven’t had one of those in a while. It doesn’t feel like a likely cause however.
- I had an early lunch consisting of a small piece of grilled chicken, a boars head hot dog and a small sandwich with a slice of salami, some colby cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread. I had also had a single piece of this same bread the night before.
I’m left with several possibilities. One is that the low carb diet is not helping. Perhaps it’s even worsening my gallbladder, and that what you are eating over the medium term (the last few weeks) is more important than what you have eaten in the last 12-24 hours.
Another possibility is that one of the new items in my diet brought on the attack. The most likely candidate was the whole wheat bread. I had decided to add some bread back into my diet and bought the most whole wheatiest bread I could find, from the local health food store. I had one slice on Tuesday night, just after I bought it and another Wednesday morning with my small sandwich.
If it was the bread that set off my gallbladder, that is very alarming. A single piece of wheat bread brought on an attack (maybe two small slices including the one from the night before). This makes me quite sad, I really like dense, grainy breads and hoped that I could reincorporate them once I had lost a few more pounds. If I’m right, I may not be able to ever eat them again, or at least for a very long time.
Of course the other most likely culprit is the low carb regimen in general. Perhaps I’m bound to have more and more of these attacks and that the added fats in my diet are two much for the gallbladder.
Lastly, the medical literature often speak of “rapid weight loss” as a factor in gallbladder sludge. Perhaps I’m doomed to have gallbladder problems as long as I lose weight.
For now, I’m going to keep bread completely out of my diet and see what happens. If it’s the low carb diet doing it, I’ll have another attack sooner rather than later. If it is the bread, then this should help.