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Gallstones, do you know that women are more at risk?

January 1, 2018

We discuss this with Dr. Stefano Bona, Head of the General Surgery and Day Surgery section of the Humanitas General Surgery and Digestive Surgery Unit.


Gallstones of the gall bladder are the “pebbles” that can be formed in the sack that collects the bile, produced by the liver, which is involved in the digestion of fats introduced with food. There are several risk factors that increase their formation. Some of these risk factors are modifiable and relate to the lifestyle, while others, like gender, cannot be changed. In women, for example, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy are factors that tend to increase the risk of developing gallstones as well as the intake of oral contraceptives based on estrogen-progestin hormones. When you add other factors, such as overweight, especially at the abdominal level, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, too rapid loss of weight, or fasting, the risk of developing gallbladder stones increases in both women and men. In particular, obese people have higher levels of cholesterol that the gallbladder fails to dissolve and therefore “solidifies” into “pebbles” that can cause inflammation of the gallbladder, bile ducts and the liver. They manifest with symptoms such as nausea and abdominal pain, but their presence can also be asymptomatic. In order to prevent gallstones and reduce the risk of developing them, it may be useful to eat foods rich in vitamin C and exercise. Drinking plenty of water, which is helpful for kidney stones, is irrelevant for gallstones.

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