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Gallstones Causes: How Do You Get Gallstones?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 12, 2022

Gallstones Causes: How Do You Get Gallstones?

Gallstones are “stones” or a buildup of minerals that develop in the gallbladder. Having gallstones causes severe pain and discomfort because these stones can block the bile duct and cause swelling and inflammation.

But how exactly do these stones develop in the gallbladder, and who are most at risk for this illness?

gallstones causes

Gallstones Causes: Why Do People Get Gallstones?

A number of things can cause a person to develop gallstones. Here are some of the most common causes:

1. High Levels of Cholesterol

Cholesterol has two main sources in your body. First is from the food you eat, and second is cholesterol produced by the liver.

If you have too much cholesterol in your body, your liver tries to dispose of it by producing bile, which is then deposited in your gallbladder. However, too much cholesterol in the bile can develop into cholesterol gallstones.

Just like regular gallstones, cholesterol stones can block the ducts of the gallbladder, and cause inflammation and severe pain.

2. The Gallbladder Does Not Empty

Another possible cause of gallstones is when the gallbladder does not effectively empty itself of bile. What usually happens is that the gallbladder stores bile that is released by the liver.

Whenever the body needs bile to aid in digestion, the gallbladder releases the bile into the intestine. However, if the gallbladder fails to completely empty itself of bile, it can slowly start to build up in the gallbladder. Over time, this buildup of bile can develop into gallstones.

3. Sudden Weight Loss

Losing weight too quickly can also be a possible cause of gallstones. What happens is that when you lose weight too fast, your body metabolizes all of the fat you lost.

Your liver then compensates and releases the extra cholesterol along with bile into your gallbladder. However, if there are too much bile and cholesterol, the gallbladder can sometimes not empty itself completely. This results in a buildup that can lead to gallstones. This usually happens in people who undergo surgery in order to lose weight, or for people who’ve abruptly changed their diet and lost a lot of weight in a short span of time.

gallstones causes

Who Is at Risk of Gallstones?

There are a number of things that can increase a person’s risk for gallstones. Here are some of the risk factors:

  • People who are overweight or obese
  • Women have a higher risk
  • If you are over 40
  • People with diabetes
  • People with Crohn’s disease
  • Having a high fat, high cholesterol diet
  • Taking certain oral contraceptives
  • Having a blood disorder

All of these things can contribute to a person’s risk of developing gallstones.

What Can You Do About Avoiding Gallstones Causes?

Maintaining a healthy weight is helpful in preventing gallstones. Here are some other things to remember:

1. Eat Healthily

First off, be sure to eat healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables should be a top priority, with meat and fats only eaten in small amounts. Limit intake of saturated fats and make sure you have adequate calcium and fiber in your diet.

The reason behind this is that your body already produces the cholesterol that it needs. Eating too many fatty foods and foods high in cholesterol can offset the natural balance of cholesterol in your body and can lead to gallstones, and even more serious illnesses such as a stroke or a heart attack.

Finally, don’t forget to have a regular meal schedule.

2. Exercise

Being obese or overweight is a known risk factor for gallstones. This is why it would be a good idea to engage in daily exercise to help keep your weight within a healthy range.

Exercise also helps keep your body strong and increases the levels of good cholesterol in your body.

3. Avoid Sudden Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight, be sure to avoid overdoing it. Losing too much weight can cause health problems, including gallstones, so it would be best to keep your weight loss slow and steady. Always consult your doctor for any drastic changes to your diet or exercise regimen.

Key Takeaways

Keeping your body strong and healthy is one of the best ways to prevent gallstones. Knowing the possible causes of gallstones also helps you avoid habits that can increase your risk of developing stones.

Learn more about Digestive Health here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 12, 2022

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