What are Gallstones

Gallstones are solidified pieces of bile (digestive fluid) that form in your gallbladder. Bile is made in the liver, and the gallbladder is responsible for storing and releasing the fluid to help with digestion.


Gallstone symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen (often after eating high fat foods)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dark colored pee
  • Stomach pain
  • Burping more often
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain, between the shoulder blades
  • Pain in the right shoulder


The exact cause of gallstones is unclear, but the most common explanations include:

  • Too much cholesterol in the bile
  • Too much bilirubin in the bile (possibly due to liver damage or blood disorders)
  • Gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly


The most common ways to diagnose gallstones are:

  • Physical examination
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Blood test
  • Gallbladder radionuclide scan
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)


Common ways to help prevent gallstones from forming include:

  • Reducing consumption of fatty or fried foods
  • Adding more fiber to your diet
  • Reduce amount of caffeine, dairy, and sugary foods
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day
  • Drink lots of water


The most common way to treat gallstones that are causing pain is through surgery; in rarer cases, medication may be sufficient.

A doctor can recommend the best way to treat painful gallstones.

When to See a Medical Doctor

If you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones, especially pain, speak to a doctor. They can help plan a strategy for preventing and treating gallstones, and make sure any changes to your diet are done the right way.