How a Gall Bladder Attack Helped Me Lose Weight

gall bladderThe backstory
I’m about the same height as Danny DeVito. He’s MUCH, MUCH wider than I am, but you get the picture. I’m only five-feet-zero-inches. Every extra ounce on me looks like ten extra pounds on a normal sized human. There’s no place for any extra weight to hide. A lifetime of dieting and starvation adds up to one screwed up metabolism, that’s for sure. I’ve been a vegetarian (pescatarian) since I was in high school. I’m the undisputed queen of counting calories, fat grams, carbs, and protein. I don’t smoke, don’t drink (a lot), don’t drink sodas, don’t eat processed foods, don’t eat fried foods except once in a while. We eat a lot of brown rice, beans, lentils, tofu, and veggies. I make broiled, grilled, or seared ahi and salmon. Most of the time all of our desserts and breads are home baked. I have a terrible time losing any weight at all. It just doesn’t go away, no matter how much I work out, go to Boot Camp, walk, lift weights, or use my elliptical. We turned our third bedroom into an office/craft/workout room with an elliptical, weights, rubber bands, jump rope, and a big ball. When I used to teach aerobics, my class combined high intensity aerobics with core training and weights. I’ve got all the tools to know how to effectively burn calories and build lean muscle, but it just wasn’t working on ME!

Health history and numbers
My cholesterol is textbook perfect. My blood pressure is normally 105/60-ish, resting heartrate about 60. The only medical problems I have is asthma, allergies, and a bit of a sluggish thyroid. I use Advair for the asthma and .50 mcg Synthroid for hypothyroidism.

Except for a lot of sore throats, I’ve never really been sick. A few months ago, I got a super bad stomach ache, like the worst one ever, I mean like rolling on the floor and moaning, that kind of pain. It’s a good thing the captain was here, ‘cos I thought it was almost ER time. With a mom who was an RN, I immediately imagined my abdomen separated into four equal quadrants. If you’re in the medical field, you know what I mean. I knew that pain in the lower right quadrant could have meant appendicitis. My pain was in my upper right quadrant near my ribs. It was tender to the touch. I thought I exhibited all the signs of a classic gall bladder attack. I made an appointment with my doctor and he agreed with my tentative diagnosis and suggested an ultrasound to be sure. The US revealed a healthy liver, pancreas, kidney, and bile ducts, but there was either a cyst or one small 4.5 mm stone in my gall bladder that seemed to be the cause of my pain. Removal of my gall bladder is not a good option for me; I like to work on things homeopathically first. My doc suggested I keep a food diary and figure out which foods cause a problem and eliminate or avoid them. That was a great idea. As Dr. Oz says, “Do you think that’s something you can do?” I learned that peanut butter, cheese, chocolate, and alcohol are my trigger foods. What a load of crap! Those are the things I love the most. I love to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar. I love chunks and chunks of cheese.


I’d like to take a bath in this chocolate.

Can you imagine not being able to eat chocolate? It’s just not fair! What did I ever do to deserve the “no chocolate” karma?? It was kind of fun to sample a variety of alcoholic beverages to determine which ones are off limits. I can now cross gin off my list–no more Tanqueray martinis or gin and tonics. Vodka is OK, but only about two ounces. That’s hardly worth it! Chardonnay and champagne pass the test, not so much red wines.

Silver lining: losing weight!
My last “attack” was in April. After that, I eliminated all fats from my diet except for olive oil. In case you didn’t know, dietary fats are a causal factor in a lot of gall bladder situations. It definitely is my problem. I have had no cheese, no peanut butter, and no chocolate. Not only have I been symptom free since then, that stubborn weight is falling off. It’s not like I had a lot to lose-but even five pounds makes a huge difference in the way clothes fit. I dropped two sizes in Joe’s Jeans. (I won’t divulge the specifics, but trust me, it made my day.)

joes jeans

This is NOT me, well, maybe in my head it is…

I’m certainly not recommending that an inflamed gall bladder should be a weight loss tip. What I’m saying is that I learned that reducing or eliminating the fat in my diet helped me shed those last few stubborn pounds and it might work for you, too.

The Mayo Clinic says:

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that’s released into your small intestine.

Gallstones range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people develop just one gallstone, while others develop many gallstones at the same time.

Cholecystitis (ko-luh-sis-TIE-tis) is inflammation of the gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that’s released into your small intestine.

In most cases, cholecystitis is caused by gallstones that block the tube leading out of your gallbladder. This results in a buildup of bile that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems and tumors. Cholecystitis signs and symptoms usually occur after a meal, particularly a large meal or a meal high in fat.

If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious complications, such as a gallbladder that becomes enlarged or that ruptures. Once diagnosed, cholecystitis requires a hospital stay. Treatment for cholecystitis often eventually includes gallbladder removal.

Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may include:

  • Severe, steady pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
  • Pain that radiates from your abdomen to your right shoulder or back
  • Tenderness over your abdomen when it’s touched
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Abdominal bloating

The following factors may increase your risk of cholecystitis:

Gallstones. Most cases of cholecystitis are linked to gallstones. If you have gallstones, you’re at high risk of developing cholecystitis.
Being female. Women have a greater risk of gallstones than men do. This makes women more likely to develop cholecystitis.
Increasing age. As you get older, your risk of gallstones increases, as does your risk of cholecystitis.

21 thoughts on “How a Gall Bladder Attack Helped Me Lose Weight

  1. A gall bladder attack is excruciating. Had my operation when I was 23!! I was very, very sick. And it all started the same way as you – always counting calories and messing with my metabolism when I was a teenager! If you can work through it naturally, that is the best!!!


    • wow, 23! how did you deal with it all these years? do you have to watch what you eat? Poor you, I know the pain. I get a twinge when I mess up and eat a truffle, actually one is OK, it’s when I get to 6 that I pay the price! Thank you for sharing your story.

      On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 6:20 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


      • Actually, I had the operation! And then it was all over – no pain! This was years ago and they have come a long way in treatment. It is very possible that I wouldn’t need the operation now. As you said, the best way to address this problem is through natural means. Reduce the fat, and increase the walking/exercise. Glad that you are feeling better.


  2. Look, I hit ‘Like” but really? No! I’m sorry that you are having such a hard time..but to go for so long basically unscathed shows that maybe we aren’t so much alike! Then again…
    about 8 years ago I became suddenly and violently lactose intolerant.I mean I could not eat a cheese nip; even too much so-called non-dairy creamer in my coffee triggered me;(there are dairy derivatives in it).Do you know what it’s like for a half-Italian not to have Parmesan on her pasta? No lasagne or stuffed shells?No normal pizza? No ice cream , milk chocolate…nada? I dropped to so thin, my husband didn’t like it.I rebuilt my tolerance with Lactagen and shot up so much,I have been on the high-side of a roller-coaster for about 6 years.
    My gallbladder doesn’t function well, but it hasn’t hurt ,(I should keep my mouth shut!) I can’t digest some things well, lettuce being one of them.However, just try and keep me from cheese now.


    • I feel for you! Wow, cheese is a problem for lots of reasons. It’s really just 100% dairy fat and must be tough for lots of people to digest. I have tried goat cheese and sheep cheese (feta) and those seem to work OK but I don’t eat pounds of it like I used to. oh well…see you prove my point, you lost weight when you stopped dairy/cheese! I agree, you need some parm on your pasta!

      On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 7:47 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  3. I remember not being able to eat even a half-teaspoon of Becel on whole-wheat toast without triggering a four-hour long brutal attack. Like being kicked by a horse repeatedly the whole time.
    I quickly cut all fat out of my diet waiting for the operation and learned the same thing you did.

    45lbs disappeared while I waited for an operation. It was easy, particularly since I was told that my blood sugar getting too high as well, and I cut out all carbs without decent amounts of natural fiber. Nothing white, no cheese, no fat and no alcohol.

    Over 6 months I lost 75lbs. My body righted itself like a ship that had taken on water; it felt like I found out what it had wanted all my adult life: Less of everything, none of a lot of things. There is no arguing with it; it works really well, and if it’s the kind of extreme transformation I went through you never, ever want to go back.

    There are plenty of tasty alternatives to meat, cheese, white bread and sugar. I would never value those above feeling comfortable looking in a mirror for the first time in so very many years.


    • I found you!! Thanks for sharing your story, wow, 75 lbs is amazing. Did you have the surgery? Oh, that pain is so horrible, isn’t it? Unrelenting. It only takes a couple of those events to want to do anything to avoid them. even giving up cheese, choc, and booze! BTW, what’s Becel??


  4. Wow! I am so impressed that you diagnosed yourself ~ and I’m inspired that you found out what your triggers are without having surgery! So sorry about the triggers though…must be hard b/c those are all my favorites as well! But kudos to you for the weight loss! I’m 5’2″ so I get it! Hugs!


    • Sometimes it’s kinda cute to be small, right? but then we tend to suffer from napoleon complexes (I do), counters are too high…but the weight thing is a life long hassle! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about my little gall bladder “issue”!

      On Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 4:07 AM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


  5. I self diagnosed because I knew my family history. I suffered through two gall-stone attacks (one of which I am very lucky I didn’t end up in the hospital) and a concerned ex-nurse friend telling me all day it was just indigestion. My GP even said I described the pain on the wrong side of the body but with a familial histroy such as mine (grandfather, mother, aunts, cousin) he sent me for the ultra sound and sure enough I had several stones. I was able to have elective removal because the Chief was at sea and I needed it to be when T1 was home on spring break so it was easier for everyone to help take care of the two of them (and me); and I also had a bilateral tubal at the same time. Many people have problems with fats after but I never noticed those issues. I probably should cut more out of my diet (I have familial hypercholesterolism as does T2) and maybe I’d shed a few more pounds. Oh, well.


    • Thank you for sharing your painful experiences! I really hate it when doctors/nurses don’t listen. I’m a very assertive patient. If I ever have a doc that doesn’t listen, that’s it, I get a new one. Glad you had the ultra sound. I wouldn’t have believed cheese and pnut butter was the cause of my inability to lose weight, but there’s no other explanation for it!


      • I ad an experience and a half.I had kidney stones which they could not diagnose because I didn’t scream and cry loudly! They did an IVP (I.V. contrast x-rays) and found the stones….and another complication that I did not know I had in my lungs.So I guess it all worked out, but , sheesh…no , doctors do not listen to patients enough.I tell everyone: “Only YOU know how YOU feel”.


  6. This is one of those times hitting the like button really isn’t what I am feeling about your gallbladder. But I do love the post that you wrote!


    • Thank you, and I know what you mean. Sometimes you wish there was an “I feel your pain” button. Thanks for reading and commenting, you are soo busy with your lovely recipes and gorgeous photography.

      On Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 5:56 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo


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