Most cases of gallstones don't cause any symptoms. But if a gallstone blocks one of the bile ducts, it can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain, known as biliary colic. Other symptoms may develop if the blockage is more severe or develops in another part of the digestive system. Stones may be formed in the gallbladder due to precipitation of solids from the bile which is stored in this organ. The commonest form of stone is formed of solidified cholesterol.

Gallstones can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain that usually lasts one to five hours (although it can sometimes last just a few minutes). The pain can be felt:

  • in the centre of your abdomen (tummy)
  • just under the ribs on your right-handside it may spread from here to your side or shoulder blade
The pain is constant and isn't relieved when you go to the toilet, pass wind or are sick. It's sometimes triggered by eating fatty foods, but may occur at any time of day and it may wake you up during the night. Biliary colic doesn't happen often. After an episode of pain, it may be several weeks or months before you experience another episode. Some people also have periods where they sweat excessively and feel sick or vomit. When gallstones cause episodes of biliary colic, it is known as 'uncomplicated gallstone disease'.

In a small number of people, gallstones can cause more serious problems if they obstruct the flow of bile for longer periods or move into other organs (such as the pancreas or small bowel). If this happens, you may develop: a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above more persistent pain, a rapid heartbeat, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), itchy skin, diarrhoea, chills or shivering attacks, confusion, a loss of appetite, Doctors refer to this more severe condition as 'complicated gallstone disease'.

Treatment is mainly through diet, and surgery may be necessary in severe cases, but massage over the area of the gall-bladder (below the liver in the right-hand side of the diaphragm) can help to reduce pain. Lavender and Rosemary are the two oils that have been found the most helpful.

Rosemary is also valuable for inflammation of the gall bladder, the other most common disorder of this organ. All fats must be excluded from the diet while any inflammation is present, and in the long term kept to a minimum, with vegetable fats preferred to those of animal origin.

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