Sludge in the gallbladder is a relatively common condition. Sludge is basically really dense bile that collects in the gallbladder. The sludge is made of microscopic particles of cholesterol and pigment embedded in mucus. These microscopic particles form when water is removed from the bile and mucus from the lining of the gallbladder mixes with bile and cholesterol
Sludge forms in the gallbladder when bile is not being passed out of the gallbladder as often as it should be. This can happen when a person is
- pregnant (pregnancy slows down the digestive system)
- dieting and fasting (there’s not enough food going through the digestive tract)
- going through parenteral nutrition or getting his nutrients intravenously (no food is going through the digestive tract.)
This is because the liver is producing more bile than the body needs at that time. The gallbladder has to concentrate the bile in order to store most of what the liver produces. Fortunately, the body has natural processes that help remove gallbladder sludge. That’s why most people who have gallbladder sludge don’t know that they have it and don’t experience any symptoms.
However, when gallbladder sludge happens repeatedly and the sludge persists in the gallbladder, it can lead to complications. The sludge in the gallbladder will start to produce symptoms once a person experiences these complications.
Complications of Gallbladder Sludge
- Gallbladder stones. The most common complication of gallbladder sludge is the formation of gallstones. The microscopic bile and cholesterol particles can combine to form a cholesterol stone. As the gallbladder tries to remove the sludge, larger particles could get stuck in the bile duct. These particles could precipitate the formation of primary bile duct stones. Gallstones can produce symptoms like severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, belching, fever, sweating, and chills.
- Acute acalculous cholecystitis. Sludge could irritate the gallbladder which may lead to inflammation. This can produce symptoms like pain after eating greasy foods, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belching, and low grade fever.
Gallbladder sludge can be diagnosed though ultrasound. The good thing about gallbladder sludge is they’re easier to treat and prevent compared to gallstones and cholecystitis. You can easily prevent and treat gallbladder sludge by:
- Sticking to a healthy diet plan. Yo-yo dieting can cause the formation of gallbladder sludge. You can still lose weight and prevent gallbladder sludge by sticking to a healthy diet plan. A healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole fiber can give you all the nutrients and calories you need without the extra fat or carbohydrates. Eat just enough to meet the number of calories you need in a day and exercise regularly to burn off any excess calories.
- Cutting back on greasy foods. Too much fat and cholesterol can lead to the formation of cholesterol particles that make up gallbladder sludge. Limit your intake of cholesterol and fat by cutting back on greasy foods. Instead of frying your foods, go for boiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled foods instead.
- Don’t skip your meals. Eating small, frequent meals regularly empties the gallbladder. This prevents the formation of gallbladder sludge and helps speed up digestion and metabolism. Five to six small meals per day are enough to keep you from getting hungry and can help you lose weight.
Sludge in the gallbladder isn’t a serious medical problem but it should be taken seriously. If you’re diagnosed with gallbladder sludge, take all the necessary steps to treat it now and prevent it from recurring. Getting rid of sludge in the gallbladder now can prevent gallstones and gallbladder inflammation in the future.
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