Gall Bladder & Gallstones

Archived Q&A and Reviews

2010 - 2012 Discussions

Gallbladder problems - is surgery the only option?

Feb 2012

About 3 months ago I started having pain on my upper right abdomen. I also have been suffering from chronic diarrhea. I also had a bout of ''gastroenteritis'' that I now think may actually have been me passing a gallstone. My doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound that came out totally normal. He has now referred me to a gastroenterologist, who I haven't seen yet because they couldn't make an appointment for me until late February. Meanwhile I have no pain but chronic diarrhea. Fatty foods are a huge trigger. I am almost certain it is my gallbladder but have yet to have that confirmed by a medical professional. I've done a little research on the web but there is almost no information out there about ways to treat this problem! It seems like the only solution out there is to remove it. I'd like to find out what other people's experiences have been with gallbladder issues. Is removal inevitable, and is it better to do it now while things are somewhat OK, or should I wait until another attack puts me in the ER and they can say it is definitely my gallbladder? Has anyone had any luck with treatment through diet, or herbs, or anything else? If you have had luck with alternative treatment, can you recommend a professional who could help me? I am just really frustrated that the medical professionals I've seen so far have been really unhelpful as far as telling me anything at all that I can do to treat this problem. If removal is inevitable and is the best treatment I can accept that, but first I want to find out if there are any other options even out there. Prefer to keep all my internal organs

My husband and I have been going to ACCHS, in Oakland for Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture, for years. We have had our share of health problems, and he has had gall bladder issues. Regular acupuncture and taking the prescribed herbal formulas has helped us avoid surgeries, and improved our health tremendously in our middle-life years. This is a school where graduating students are supervised by excellent practicing acupuncture physicians, which makes seeing the acupuncturist regularly (*important*) affordable for us. anon
The gallbladder's job is to concentrate the bile, a product of the liver's detoxification processes, to 8 times stronger. As it leaves the gallbladder (GB) when our gsstrointestinal tract senses we have eaten fat, bile is our own ''detergent'' to particalize dietary fats so our pancreatic lipase can have contact with a greater surface area and further break them down. Interestingly, bile is NOT needed for short and medium chain fatty acids (as in butter, coconut oil, palm oil, schmaltz, tallow) but is needed for the longer chain fatty acids (as in olive, fish, flax, and seed oils like corn, canola, safflower, sunflower).

Some reasons the gall bladder malfunctions include: stress! (uses up the minerals that particalize the cholesterol in the bile, keeping it fluid), excess sugars, transfats, alcohol, lack of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, etc.

A few years ago, my husband had a gall bladder attack that landed him in the ER at 3 am. Once the heart attack was ruled out, they offered him GB surgery. I encouraged him to get a second opinion from his regular MD. In addition I suggested he take choline, a supplement. He also made some dietary changes. And, good news, he still has his GB.

I wrote a paper on the gall bladder and the following is excerpted from it:

A cleansing, high fiber, low fat (temporary), hypo-allergenic, alkaline diet, with seventy-five percent raw fruits and vegetables will mitigate gallstones and improve biliary flow. Foods especially therapeutic are apples, cabbage family, dandelion greens, chicory, pears, parsnips, beets (roots and tops), seaweed, lemons/limes, radishes, and turmeric [Pitchford, p. 283, and Monte, p. 525]. The addition of two good oils, olive and flax seed, and the omission of bad fats (heated to high temperatures, trans and hydrogenated fats), will promote better cholesterol metabolism and balance in the bile [Pitchford, p. 283, Monte, 189]. Nori

I just want to caution you against making a quick self-diagnosis of gallbladder disease. Since the ultrasound came back ok, there's no reason to assume it must be your gallbladder. There are so many things that can cause the symptoms you describe. (But to answer your question, from what I know, removal is considered the best option from a western med stand point. However, I do know someone who successfully treated his gallbladder issues with chinese herbs and acupuncture.)

About 6 yrs ago, I got really sick; stomach pain, couldn't eat, huge weight loss, etc. Saw like 7 different GI drs. None of them could figure out what was wrong or do anything to help me. What I learned from the experience is that western medicine has a lot to offer in certain areas, but when it comes to intestinal/digestive issues, we know relatively little.

I'm not trying to discourage you. Get all the tests done that you can and see if they can figure out whats going on. But if they don't, be prepared to change your diet yourself, learn how to take stress out of your life, figure out on your own how to manage your digestive issues. Listen to your body. (eg, if fatty food triggers it, don't eat fatty food!) be nice to your gut

In my mother's extended family, 6 different people have had their gallbladders removed. 5 of those 6 were later diagnosed with celiac disease(gluten intolerance). The sixth just had surgery last month, so I believe that diagnosis is around the corner. Doctor's seem extremely poor at finding this condition - and these family members live in big cities with great medical care.

I would suggest asking for a test and then putting yourself on a gluten free diet (for a solid month) seeing if anything changes. Wishing you well

Dr. Ju Chun Ou in Oakland helped me keep my gallbladder. She did accupuncture and prescribed dried hawthorn apple- like things for tea. I'm so happy I found her! Good luck. Still got my parts

Issues after gall bladder surgery?

Feb 2012

To be brief: I have been battling it out with my gallbladder for almost a year. Ultrasound shows stones (no info on size or number). I had my first attack in July and have been treating the issue with an extremely modified diet (low fat/high fiber/mostly vegan/no gluten or dairy/anti- inflammatory), herbs, and acupuncture. Still have side pain, ended up having another several attacks after a stomach flu last month. I am seeing a naturopath who is awesome and helping, but the constant fear of eating, the stomach aches and loose stool, the occasional nausea and side pain, and the impact this is having on my life is getting rough. On the upside, I have lost a lot of weight, but it has been very quickly and therefore hard on my gallbladder. I am just maintaining now, as long as I am very strict I am OK-ish. My fear is what my digestive system might be like if I decide to have my gallbladder removed. I am not interested in flushes. I am interested in hearing from those who have had the surgery and whether you had any long term issues. The surgeon told me most of the people who have issues afterwards go back to eating whatever they want (which they can't) and cause their own issues but he also said that some of the digestive system sensitivities I have been having can't possibly be gallbladder related- which I know isn't exactly true. Others have experienced what I have. I am just trying to make the best decision possible and would like to hear from those who have been through this too! Wish I was the other kind of stoned

Google for the name Derrick Pawo. He helped my husband's nephew who has been suffering from gallbladder stones for years, never knowing what was wrong with him. Derrick (very gifted ayurvedic doctor) diagnosed him instantly and correctly and, from what I remember, prescribed him a daily large intake of organic olive oil (do not just do that, contact Derrick to see what you exactly need). This broke down the stone, and as Derrick said, the nephew was passing hundreds and hundreds of little stones over the next few months and regained his energy/life back. Anonymous
I had a very long struggle which began with the gallstone attacks WHILE PREGNANT and then continued for the following year. One night it became an excruciating amount of pain that I ended up in the ER. The doctors explained that somehow a stone had managed to escape the gallbladder and traveled down to the pancreas, blocking it and causing a major infection, resulting with pancreatitis. This happened despite maintaining a very low fat/low sodium/high fiber/whole wheat diet. I was forced to go on a IV diet for one week while in the hospital and was kept on a dilaudid drip for the pain the entire time as well so that the pancreas could swell down and allow the doctors to remove it.

I was concerned about how it would affect my health and how to eat afterwards. I attempted to qrill the doctors about it, who unfortunately could not supplement me with much, or any information, actually, than what I already knew.

Having said that, I've discovered that eating ANYTHING dairy will lead to very loose stools and bowel movements within the next 5 minutes to a few hours (depending on the amount of fat/dairy I had ie: with cereal, coffee or if it was cooked and mixed with other food) so I have to be sure to be near an acessible bathroom; otherwise I STAY AWAY from milk. Cooked milk and food with cheese seem to stay down longer and much better however still contribute somewhat to having soft stools and at least once a day if not more. I still struggle to find a perfect balance while living gallbladder-less. It is however a HUGE relief not eating in fear anymore and am so grateful I don't have these attacks anymore! I would still have it removed in an instant even knowing this. On the plus side, I have lost about 50lbs and am eating much healthier on a daily basis knowing that my body has limits to stay within now.

I still want to find out about more nutritional information regarding living without a gallbladder. My only concern is the question of whether my body loses the nutritional value from foods if I have quick bowel movements since the body just 'rejects it', or if it is so minimal that it isn't something to worry about?

Please do share your experience, once you decide, and resources if you come across any. Its either sparse or I've been looking in the wrong places! Gallbladder-less and happy! anon

Hi, I can't give you advice about a doctor, but, I heard you loud and clear that you are not interested in flushes. I hope you don't mind if I tell you my experience? I was using Dr. Bernard Jensen's method of colon cleansing with a colonic board, and read his book, Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Maintenance. This would be a good reference for affirming your experience with your health maintenance diet that you described, because it outlines the needs of proper digestion. Tissues refer to organs and surrounding muscles, etc. At that time I was working for a Chiropractic office on the East Coast, and one of the patients who came to me for massage in that office was a Chiropractor himself, with a skin problem. He listened to what I was up to, and he gave me a prescription for a gall bladder flush. I was very surprised to hear a medical doctor prescribe an alternative method, but I took his advice, and tried the flush. I had completed about 6 months of the Jensen program with good results as far as cleansing my body. I have a copy of the gall bladder flush if you are interested now. It is a week long program of following the information, and at the end of the week it changes to what to do the day that you will eliminate the gall stones. That night at 3 am, I awoke and in the proper method of things, I eliminated a sack of small gallstones. There was no pain, some nausea. I had suffered from occasional bouts of nausea since I was a child, and at this time I was 55 years old. After the gall bladder flush, I no longer experience nausea when I am upset in any way. This same flush is now also available on the Internet, but I am not the one who put it there. I may have saved the URL in my notes. Suzanne C.
Hi there fellow GB suferer- I feel your pain! 3 years ago this week, I finally bit the bullet and had my gall bladder removed after close to 9 months of misery and extensive conservative care, including supplements, diet, acupuncture. I too lost a lot of weight which was ok because i was too heavy anyway, but it got to the point that i was miserable all of the time with a low- grade nausea and lack of energy which was truly alarming. Nothing tasted good and i was getting sort of depressed. I was in my early 50's at the time and have always felt tip- top well. I also had 2 terrible gallstone attacks, one of which transported me to the ER. I spoke to a GI specialist and a surgeon, and the big issue is the potential for infection with an inflamed gall bladder which can REALLY make you sick. The potential for a really bad infection is what helped me decide on surgery.

I felt better immediately post op and used about 5 of the Vicodin i was given by my excellent surgeon. The big post op pain is around your shoulders from an arthroscopic procedure because you get pumped full of gas for good visualization of all the internal structures and what doesnt get out interferes with the nerves at the top of the diaphragm and your upper back and shoulders feel wrenched- get up and walk and that's gone within 48 hours. My energy bounced back fast and i went back to my work within a week. I still have some problems digesting really fatty or spicy foods (eg, crisp duck, falafel, fried chicken, alas)which still tend to pass through me very quickly, but that's ok- my cholesterol is nice and low and ive kept some (but not all) of the weight off. Everything else is fine from a digestive standpoint.

I hope this info helps, and please feel free to contact me. stone free & happy!

Hi there, First, I'm so sorry you're suffering from gallstones. Honestly, the gallstone attacks I endured were the most painful thing I've ever experienced. And to top it off, I developed them when I was pregnant (I later learned that is not all that uncommon as supposedly, a rapid influx of hormones can sometimes cause the stones).

I think it's really smart that you've tried to control the attacks yourself - I wish I had. After the OB finally took me seriously and we saw the stones (15!) on an ultrasound, she sent me immediately to a surgeon. I honestly didn't think I had much choice, as everyone I'd known who had gallstones (including my sister) had their gallbladder removed.

But since I would soon be giving birth, it was decided to wait on the surgery. A few weeks after my daughter's birth, the attacks became incapacitating so I went to a GI doc who performed a procedure called and ERCP (I think), where essentially, they scrape out what they call ''sludge'' (nice term, huh?) from the ducts around the gallbladder. Unfortunately, the attacks didn't stop so I had my gallbladder removed a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, there were some complications. Three days post-surgery I was vomiting and in excruciating pain. I went to the ER and was told I had severe pancreatitis and had to be admitted. I was heartbroken as we had a newborn at home.

The surgeon blamed the GI doc and the GI doc blamed the surgeon. Frankly, I didn't care who f-ed up, I just wanted to be fixed! They ended up doing another ERCP and then a sphincterotomy (thankfully, not on THAT sphincter, apparently, we have three spinnters in our bodies - who knew?)

Very long, drawn out story short - I now have to take a medication called Cholestyramine (powder you put in water) every other day or I have painful cramps and diarrhea.

I recognize that my situation is probably rare but I'm annoyed that no one ever mentioned alternatives and that the surgeon/GI doc downplayed the risks.

I'm sorry if this has freaked you out. People have the surgery all the time with no problem but I couldn't help share my story. Wishing you the best. Lisa P.S. For what it's worth, the surgery itself is not that big of a deal as they do it laproscopically and pull the gallbladder out through your belly button! Weird but leaves only the tiniest of scars! LisaB

I know this won't be a popular opinion, but I am not sure what anyone would think acupuncture or a naturopath has to do with gallbladder function. That being said, I had my gallbladder removed about 10 years ago, and I have never missed it. If you have had ultrasound, I would think they should be able to tell you how many and what size your stones are. I am very glad I had the surgery and did not have to spend one more minute in fear of a debilitating gallstone attack. gall bladder free
If I were you, I'd try to get a 2nd opinion (and 3rd, and 4th) before deciding on the surgery. My Mom had her gallbladder removed because of gallstones, and was later told by other doctors that this had been unnecessary, and contributed to development of pancreatitis, which is a highly unpleasant condition to live with. Without a gallbladder, there is no storage of bile in the body, so the liver has to work harder to supply bile for digestion on demand, and the pancreas also has to step up production of digestive enzymes, and over time pancreatitis may develop. Ask the doctors about your chances of getting pancreatitis if you choose to have the surgery, and if you don't. Other side effects of the surgery may include PCS (up to 40% cases) and chronic diarrhea (up to 20% cases). Find out what your prognosis is without surgery, and weigh the risks... I'd investigate alternatives first. Good luck.

Gall Bladder Surgery - Surgeon Recommendations

Aug 2011

Hello, I'm looking for a recommendation for a surgeon who is skilled at gall bladder removal surgery. My insurance plan is Blue Cross HMO. The recommendations in the BPN digest are several years old, so I am looking for someone with relatively recent experience with this. Thanks in advance.

Bruce Moorstein removed my gall bladder and he was great all around! Don't have his number handy but he is listed. Good luck

Alternative Doctor for Gall Bladder Problems

March 2011

I will probably need surgery some day but for right now, I'd like to try and control it thru alternative remedies. I need to find a doctor or medical person, who has experience with gall bladder issues. Anyone know one they would recommend? Thank You.

Dr Jennifer Lanett is a Berkeley Chiropractor who also does enzyme nutrition. She does a thorough digestive health workup to support systems that are sluggish. I recommend her if you have gallbladder concerns or congestive liver issues as the program I am on has helped a lot! 510-644-4414 She is also very kind and a great listener. Sara

2007 - 2009 Discussions

Teenage daughter has a large gallstone

Oct 2009

I just got a call from my daughters doctor and she told me that my daughter has a large gall stone. I am so worried. What does this mean, what causes this, how can it be treated, is surgery the only option? The doctor said she will refer us to a specialist. My daughter is seventeen and suffers from Polycystic ovarian syndrome. she was just put on the pill for a year to see if her periods will regulate. Any answers will help a lot. Worried Mother.

About a decade or so ago I experienced my first gallstone 'attack'. It was very painful. I went to my doctor and got the diagnosis. She recommended surgery to remove my gall bladder. She said that I didn't need my gall bladder, and that it was likely that the single gallstone I had would only get larger in time. I changed my diet - no more fried foods, much less fat, but I experienced two more painful attacks.

When the 4th one struck, the pain never went away. I finally went to the emergency room, and the following day had my gall bladder removed. The stone had become stuck in the bile duct, and the tissue of the gall bladder had died. In other words, by waiting, I ended up with an infection and spent three days in the hospital.

I did not want to have the surgery, but now I wish that I had had it sooner. Had I been camping or traveling where I couldn't have gotten medical treatment, I could have died from the infection.

That said, I don't know what current treatment options are, so check with your doctor. There may be a new treatment. Any surgery is 'serious' in my book, which is why I avoided it. The gall bladder can be removed laparoscopically, so the recovery time is pretty short - a week or two.

One thing I learned was that becoming even slightly dehydrated can trigger a gallstone attack, so if you and your daughter decide against surgery, be sure that she carries water with her wherever she goes. anon

I have gallstones - surgery?

June 2009

My ultrasound showed gallstones and my doctor just referred me directly to a surgeon without giving me any more information. Are there alternatives to surgery? What questions should I be asking? Anonymous

Do you have any symptoms of gallstones? I had an ultrasound six years ago (to check on possible fibroids in my uterus) and they found gallstones. I have had no symptoms, so I haven't done anything about them. I wouldn't rush into surgery if they're not bothering you. Lumpy but asymptomatic

Doctors recommending I have gallbladder removed

Oct 2008

I recently discovered that I have gallstones, and doctors are recommending I have my gallbladder removed. For anyone who has had this surgery, do you have any regrets, complications, etc.? Also, does anyone have any feedback (positive or negative) on Dr. Barry Gardiner in San Ramon? Thank you. anon

I had my gall bladder removed about 4 years ago by Dr. Gardiner, and I feel it was the right choice. I had only suffered one attack, but that was enough for me! It turned out I had a 4cm gallstone. Dr. Gardiner was great and he is considered one of the best for this type of laproscopic surgery. The only difficulty I had was pain the second night after I was sent home that I did not realize (until after a trip to the emergency room) was actually just severe gas! I have had no further issues from not having a gall bladder. gall bladder (and pain) free!
I had my gallbladder taken out due to polyps. It was an easy surgery - in and out the same day and done by ''key hole'' surgery. I have four tiny scars, that's it. There was really no pain afterwards. The only common thing after getting one's gallbladder out is that if you eat a meal high in fat you're sure to get one whopping bout of diarrhea the next day. anon
Two years ago, when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child, Dr. Barry Gardiner removed my gallbladder laparoscopically. I would not hesitate to get the procedure done, particularly if Dr. Gardiner is your physician. He is an excellent surgeon, careful, attentive, and a nice person to boot. I stayed only one night in the hospital and was able to resume all normal activities within 72 hours. I had trouble with gallstones one and off for several years, and my only regret is that I did not have my gall bladder removed earlier. I can vouch for the fact that the gall bladder attacks were far worse than labor. Good luck! Been there
I had my gallbladder removed five years ago when I was 40 years old by Dr. Michael deBloisblanc at John Muir Hospital. He told me I would likely never notice the difference and thus far that has been the case. It is my understanding that the liver, over time, delivers more bile directly to the stomach once the gallbladder is gone in order to compensate. Regardless, I have never felt any different than prior or experienced any perceived side effects. Of course, the brutal pain from the stones is long gone now. And I even have the entire endoscopic surgery on a VHS tape. But I can't get anyone to watch it with me. :)
My mother just had her gallbladder removed after having two very serious gallstone attacks that nearly killed her. The first attack hospitalized her for three weeks and almost killed her pancreas which would have been fatal. The second attack (as she did not get the gallbladder removed was a short (only three days) hospital stay. Needless to say after the second attack she had it removed after she recovered from the second attack. You cannot have the gallbladder removed if you are in the middle of a blockage attack.

Gallstones & gallbladder attacks

July 2008

I have been having gallbladder attacks, as well as a rash of other health problems (back blow-outs, three periods in six weeks, stomach flu). I had two Emergency Room visits in two weeks, after a lifetime of never having been to the hospital for anything. I'm really frustrated with how hard it is to get ahead of all of these health issues right now. Normally, I'm pretty healthy, so this has been a crazy time for me to have one thing after another going wrong. My daughter is almost 13 months old and I stay at home with her, so I've been having to rely on family a lot to help out, which has been great in the sense of feeling supported by them. But I also feel overwhelmed at the idea that I can't do this mothering somehow I'm letting her and myself down by not being healthy. And like maybe making and feeding a baby has worn my body out and that's why all of these things are happening. As for the gallbladder issue, the doctor recommends removal and my acupuncturist recommends diet changes and herbal treatment. I've been trying to sort out my options, and its really confusing to figure it out when there are so many conflicting opinions out there. I feel like I'm getting good treatment for the other health issues I mentioned, but the gall bladder thing is confounding. My questions are: Has anyone dealt with gallstones and gallbladder attacks and what treatment did you use? Has anyone said no to gallbladder removal and had success with alternative treatments? And, finally, has anyone felt like the first year of motherhood has taken a big toll on their body?

I had my first gallbladder attack about 12 years ago - after spending Thanksgiving at my mom's house. After I got the diagnosis, I eliminated fried foods, fatty foods, etc. A few years later I had another attack after a two-day trip to Disneyland. A few years later I had another attack after a three-day camping trip. After that one, I was told that I probably had become slightly dehydrated on the camping trip and that caused the attack.

After the first attack, my doctor recommended surgery, but I resisted... When I had my fourth attack, the pain did not subside after six hours. I went to the emergency room, waited six hours to be seen, and was then admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery. Necrosis of the gallbladder had set in before the surgery.

If you are traveling or camping, and the gallbladder attack does not subside after six hours, you may need emergency surgery, but not have a hospital handy. I am a single parent, so I thought twice about traveling before I had my gallbladder removed, i.e., what would happen to my daughter if I had to be hospitalized while traveling?

Since my father and one of his sisters also had gallbladder attacks and had their gallbladders removed, I think there may be a genetic component. Diet and exercise didn't make the difference in my case, though it may in yours. Or you may not have any gallbladder attacks after your other health issues are addressed. Talk to your doctor about non-surgical options (are there meds to dissolve them? ultrasound treatments to destroy them?). Find out whether you have one big gallstone or many small ones (an ultrasound will show this). Small stones can pass through the bile duct, but big ones can become lodged.

But if after you other health issues are resolved, you continue to have gallbladder attacks, then consider surgery. It's performed laprascopically, i.e., is not a major surgery. Check out the other BPN posts as well. anonymous

I am a 33 year old mom of 14 month old twins who had her gall bladder removed a few years ago after about a year of pain and gas and not knowing what was wrong then emergency room and surgery.

If I had known then what I found out afterwards, I would have explored the option of removing the stones without removing the bladder. Apparently not all doctors are as experienced in this procedure and don't necessarily mention it, but there are doctors at Alta Bates who are skilled at this particular procedure.

Don't know about acupuncture or herbs, but would have loved that option if it hadn't become an emergency before we figured out what was going on.

You may already know this, but it is extremely common for women to get gall stones when they're pregnant (something to do with the estrogen--i actually got them as a side effect of birth control pills).

As for being a new mom and stressed out and guilty--just know that your child is so lucky to have all of the love and we new parents will feel guilty even if we're doing all we can, which considering your health it sounds like you are and then some. what a nice thing that family has a good excuse to do what every family should get the opportunity to do. what a gift for your child to have these relationships now.

Take care and good luck.

Surgery for gallstones?

Feb 2008

I've recently been diagnosed with a 3 cm gallstone after becoming very ill during the holidays. Since the diagnosis I've eliminated red meat from my diet and fatty foods to prevent further attacks and it's working. My doctor has recommended I have my gallbladder removed as there are too many risks in keeping it. I'm just wondering if any one has had a similar experience, if you had the surgery and if you suffered any consequences because of it. It's really hard to go under the knife when you feel healthy, but I certainly don't want to have another attack and it would be nice not to have to worry about eating the wrong thing. Should I seek a second opinion? Do any of you have gallstones but have decided to live with them without having surgery? Missing a good steak. anon

Ugh...gallstones! After an excruciating first attack when I was 7 month's pregnant, I was diagnosed with gallstones. Of course, since I was pregnant, the GI doc told me I'd need to wait until after I delivered but that I should get it removed because once my body starts making these little bastards (sorry, the pain is still oh so clear in my mind), it'll continue to make them.

I did a little research to see if I could live with them - and then some more about the actual surgery and decided to go ahead with it. The surgery is actually relatively easy (for the patient anyway). As I'm sure you've learned, they now do it laproscopically so all you're left with is a few tiny marks on your abdomen. I stayed one night in the hospital and had almost no pain. BUT...I guess I'm one of the unlucky few who after removal of the gallbladder experience chronic diarrhea...ugh. Fortunately, I can control it by taking this powder every other morning and supposedly, when my body finally ''gets it'' that I don't have a gallbladder anymore, I won't need it.

Anyway, I'm sure if you decide to have the surgery you'll be fine - guess I was just unlucky. I did lose a lot of weight on the ''gallbladder diet'' before I had the surgery but man, did I miss pizza... Best of luck to you. lisa

If I would have gotten a proper diagnosis when I first had gallstones and knew then what I know now I would have had my Gallbladder removed immediately! I suffered tremendously and unnecessarily for years w/ fleeting severe pain and by the time I had to have my gallbladder removed I ended up with two separate surgeries which required months of recuperation. My gallstone blocked my pancreatic duct which resulted in some very serious problems such as other organs starting to fail and the formation of a pancreatic cyst! Undergoing a simple laproscopic operation to remove the gallbladder which would have resulted in a life without excruciating pain and long-term affects years later would have been a welcome alternative! Don't assume having gallstones is merely a nuisance. Been there
I had surgery to remove my gall bladder about 5 years ago. I had one gall stone attack, and that was enough for me. I could not stand worrying about what I ate all the time and waiting for another one (ironically, I had the attack after losing about 25 lbs on Weight Watchers, which did not seem fair!). It turned out that I had a 4cm gall stone. I have never had another issue with my gall bladder (or lack thereof), and do not regret having the surgery. Good luck with your decision! Claire
I had my gall bladder out after deliberating a bunch. I can't say whether I would have been happy had I kept it, but I can tell you about my experiences since. It was explained to me that the inability to store bile for high-demand times (high-fat meals, etc.) causes a response to fats much like the response to olestra - no digestion of the fat, and therefore loose stools. I have certainly had this side effect, and notice that when I eat a low-fat diet I am fine. Large, fatty meals give me bathroom emergencies the next day.

I have had no other problems, and happily no more nasty abdominal pain. I'm certainly better off with a low-fat diet, but that doesn't really answer your steak craving, now, does it? bladderless

You might want to consider a 2nd opinion with a great acupuncturist named John Nieters in Alameda. He worked with me on my gallbladder and said that gallbladders are often removed too quickly, when diet and herbs can really help. anon
Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the chance of future gallstone problems safely and naturally. A high-fiber diet with lots of beets is also recommended. (Delicious soluble-fiber supplements are available at any drugstore.) And, even a small amount of exercise every week will reduce the risk of gallstone problems further. Once you have attained a healthy weight, an occasional steak should not be a problem.

Alternatives to gallbladder surgery?

April 2007

I was recently diagnosed as having a 1 cm gallstone and was told that gallbladder removal through surgery, although not crucial at this point, is a very common solution. I opted not to have surgery, and am wondering if anyone has been successful with diet/nutritionist advice for treating gallstones. I would also appreciate hearing from people who have been treated with traditional chinese medicine, homeopathy or any other so called alternative medicine. Thanks! D.

Pick up a copy of Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (published in Berkeley by North Atlantic Press). He outlines the popular gallstone cleanse with apples - you could also look it up online, I think Hulda Clark had a version too. I haven't done it yet, but I know a lot of people who have (even ones who kept their stones in a jar to show off - yeech!). Jennifer
Homeopathy was very helpful in treating my gallstones. I had a fairly severe case with frequent trips to the ER for unbareable pain. Surgery was recommended, but I was pregnant at the time and wanted to avoid anesthesia. My homeopath gave me a constitutional remedy and a remedy to take during pain episodes. I took the emergency remedy during pain episodes and was then able to avoid the ER. My last sono showed no stones. My homeopath is very skilled, she is also a nurse. Her prices are reasonable, her practice is in San Francisco but she often makes home visits in Oakland and Berkeley. Her name is Lori Nairne and she can be reached at 415-751-1261. She also cured my son of eczema and sucessfully treated my youngest son's recurrent ear infections. With her help my youngest son was able to stop all of his asthma medications. I highly recommend you give her a try before going to surgery. Kelly
no experience, but wanted to recommend mothering magazine's health and healing forum, for lots of mamas with alternative medicine appreciation and experience. ooh, here's a thread: ''gallbladder probs- can they be dealt with naturally?'' with 42 posts. t=386539=gallstones if you register, you can use the search function to find things in the forum. otherwise you can lurk as a guest. good luck. anon

Polyps in gallbladder

Feb 2007

After an ultrasound for side abdominal pain, I've been told I have polyps in my gallbladder. Apparently polyps in the gallbladder are quite rare and are normally benign. But the nurse told me, and I confirmed this w/ research on the internet, that polyps over 10 mm are usually malignant and the gallbladder is usually taken out as a precaution. One of my 3 polyps is 11 mm. I am going to have a consultation with a general surgeon, but in the meantime was wondering if anyone has had any experience with this. I do not have gallstones and am in my early 40's. trying not to be nervous

Gallbladder surgery these days is a pretty easy surgery - usually laparoscopic with three little incisions that heal quickly. If it were me, I'd just have the gallbladder taken out. Then they can send it to pathology and make sure it's 2 cents. Doctor Nancy

2004 - 2006 Discussions

Distended gallbladder

August 2005

I have been feeling pressure (not pain) under my ribs on my right side for some time now. It comes and goes and has on two occasions been painful. It is the same feeling as when I was pregnant and the baby would stick his foot up there while stretching. I have had an ultrasound to check for gallbladder stones and it was negative, but the result said ''physiologically distended gallbladder''. I have searched the internet and have found nothing very informative. I asked my doctor what that meant and she simply shrugged. I am concerned. The feeling is uncomfortable. Sometimes very uncomfortable. I'm worried that it is a precursor to something else. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? If so, did it resolve and how? Is there anything else I can do? My doctor is just not interested. anon

Dya think the ligaments or whatever that hold the gallbladder in place were stretched or something during the pregnancy? Here are two people who will take an interest in your case, I'll wager: Leah Statman, a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner in Albany (like Japanese-style acupressure) 525-5080; and Dr. Jim Otis, a neurological chiropractor on Pill Hill 832-6848. Leah has me on a regular regimen of ''gall-bladder flows,'' and Dr. Otis recently helped me raise my ''dropped kidney'' that was giving me back pain. Far fetched, maybe, but it helped right away. Both will probably have dietary suggestions. You might also be interested in the writing of Dr. Hulda Clark (find her on line) who proposes an herbal/mineral regimen for clearing stones from the liver and gallbladder. I haven't tried this yet, but it's almost next on my list. Good luck meg
It's great that you looked at the report and followed up on it with your doctor. I've found more often then not that reading my records gives you a lot of information and a base knowledge to talk to your doctor. I had a very similiar reaction from my family doctor recently. She sent me results without comment that were not normal and required follow-up. What I did was looked my problem up on medline and on some sites that are well respected and got background information to ease my mind. Since this was not the first time that sloppiness had gotten in the way of treatment, at the same time I am looking (again) for another physician. It seems from your e-mail that you recognize the docs reaction is not working for you. You have other options that can be guided by your relationship with the doc. You could discuss your concern about their lack of concern. Maybe gallbladders aren't their speciality or maybe they don't get concerned unless they need to be removed. You have a lot of options. There are specific diet guidelines that a nutritionist may be able to help with. But my feeling is that even if the physician is not personally concerned, they always be willing to take the time to explain your question. It's also helpful to try to gather some info yourself. Good luck. anon
I've had something similar for a few months. Have you also had a liver function test? (it's a blood test)...sounds like you may have given the extent of testing you've had. So....lets assume your organs are all fine. You might have a rib slightly out of alignment. That could cause similar discomfort. You might have overused a muscle...your internal or external oblique ab muslces, the muscles in between your ribs could have been strained somehow. Do you have a chiropractor you really love and trust? I can highly recommend Dr. Charlie Prins on Solano Ave in Albany. 526-6243. It's also possible that you don't have gallstones, but maybe your gallbladder is irritated due to overdoing something in your diet. THe things that can irritate liver and gallbladder are coffee(caffeine), chocolate, SUGAR, high fat foods (too much), refined carbs-white flour anything. Just some ideas for you to work with. I've often found that when there is nothing obvious the medical folks aren't willing to investigate further and just shrug it off. Good luck, june

Questions about gallbladdar surgery

February 2005

The archived Berkeley Parents posts on gallbladder attacks have been a tremendous help. I have some questions not addressed there.

As far as surgery goes, is the laparoscopic operation surgery one for which one should very carefully choose the surgeon? Or are most surgeons going to be just fine at this? (I'll likely be at CPMC or UCSF if that makes a difference.)

Is the surgery typically done under general or regional anasthetic? Do you have to fast and take an enema (yuk) beforehand? Any tips for gas and constipation post-surgery? (I had surgery recently and wish I'd been told about this!)

I'm currently nursing, too, and am wondering if any others out there had surgery while nursing. What sort of pain medication did you take and did it interfere with nursing? What difficulties did you have holding and lifting your baby afterwards and for how long?

A million questions I know--thanks for answers or suggestions to any of them! Stones-no-more

I had laparoscopic gallbladder surgery a few years ago. Many surgeons are not trained in this technique. So the question you need to ask your potential surgeon is ''HOW MANY of these surgeries have you done?'' You don't want to be a guinea pig. I had no problem with gas or constipation afterward, and just minor incisional pain managed with Tylenol. (My surgeon prescribed Vicodin, but I didn't need it) The main complaint I had was just general tiredness and weakness for a week or two, which is to be expected. no more pain
I had the surgery about five years ago and not only was it easy but complication free. I am also familiar with both the hospitals you mentioned and I think any surgeon performing! this laproscopic procedure would be just fine. It is performed under a general and there is some gas in the belly afterwards. I have a very low threshhold for discomfort and I found the recovery to be easy. The key is not to get up and back to your routine right away. Give yourself at least three days with help in the house so that you have to do nothing but gently move from bed to couch. The mistake I made in recovery was to get back to my routine within 48 hours and thus felt really crummy on days 3-6. /deborah
I had laproscopic surgery for gall stones a decade ago. I think by now it's pretty basic, you might want to find out if the surgeon has had any incidences of nicking livers - which can create a lot more problems than the gall stones. I don't remember any gas problems after the surgery. The recovery was very quick.

Regarding nursing, see if you can talk to the anesthesiologist. They have a variety of pain relief measures they can use that won't get passed through the milk (or only in small amounts). I'm sure I took pain meds for a few days after, but no more than after I gave birth (motrin, maybe)! been there

I had gallbladder surgery when my son was 3 1/2 months old, and I was nursing him full-time then. From my research it seemed that any of the typical pain medications I might get would be ok (like Tylenol with codeine etc.), but they also tell you to ''pump and dump'' for I think the first feeding after the surgery itself. Your pediatrician should know, and so should the staff at the hospital. I let the hospital know in advance I'd be pumping and they brought over a hospital pump from the NICU. I had bottles of milk in the fridge at home and frozen, and felt a b! it better about my son having that milk than laced with the pain-killers. Sure, it was ''fine'' (ie not dangerous) for him, but I do think it made him a little woozy! The other thing to think about is that it is a dilemma how much to expose your baby to the hospital setting. I think it tends to depend on the unit where you're recovering (I'd check with the nurses there to see what they think). I had no problem lifting and caring for my son pretty soon after the surgery (done laparoscopically), but certainly in the first couple of days at least I needed help. The best thing is if you can find a surgeon who will push the gas out of your belly, it is the thing that makes you most uncomfortable, I found. It is very important to find the best surgeon you can, I would definitely do some asking around. The reason is that, even though this is a very common procedure, there are of course some common mishaps that can happen.
You should absolutely have your surgery laproscopically. It makes the recovery time much easier and quicker. And absolutely, not every surgeon is created equally! I recommend going to a younger surgeon (in their late 30s early 40s). Lap surgery hasn't been around that long so the older surgeons don't know how to do it and the younger ones were trained right from the start! You should do just fine at either UCSF or CPMC (I get all of my healthcare at UCSF).

They have to use general anesthesia. The only time they can use regional anesthesia is if it is in the pelvic area and below. They will tell you not to eat or drink after midnight. No enemas! That is only for intestinal surgery. Try taking colase right before and after for constipation. It is an over- the-counter stool softener.

In terms of nursing, you can take any medication that is giving to women who have c-sections. Vicodin is usually okay. You may find that you only need motrin, which is harmless. If your baby is heavy, you might not want to lift the child for a couple of weeks until you wounds heal. Dr. M

2003 & Earlier

Surgeon for gallbladdar surgery

Feb 2003

I just found out I have gallstones and will have to have my gallbladder removed. Does anyone know a good surgeon who has a lot of experience doing this kind of laparoscopic surgery (as well as a good track record)? new mom in berkeley

I'd call Barry Gardiner, MD. He is affiliated with San Ramon Regional Medical Center He is a superb general surgeon, wonderful person and ''wrote the book'' on state- of- the- art laproscopic gallbladder surgery. There is no one better. gantokal
My husband had his gall bladder taken out this past November by Dr. Catherine Forest at Alta Bates. While she is a very nice woman, and I am confident that most of her procedures go very well and without incident (In fact we know two people who had successful procedures with her), my husband's went very badly. He ended up with a leaking cystic bile duct that took three procedures to repair and was in the hospital for nearly a month recovering. He was incredibly sick and we were very, very worried about him. Like I said, this is likely atypical of her successes over all, but it was a pretty bad experience. Myriam
I had my gallbladder removed laparascopically shortly after the birth of my daughter by surgeon Barry Gardiner, who at that time had an office in Oakland near Summit Hospital (where the operation took place). He is now medical director of San Ramon Regional Medical Center's Minimally Invasive Surgery and Robotic Technology Program. Not sure if that's too far for you, but he's excellent...was very patient in explaining the operation and his followup care was wonderful. Christina
To the new mom- I had my gall bladder removed two years ago. Research found us Robert Fowler, kind of the ''king'' of laproscopic surgery, we were told. He got mine out that way, and it was plugged with a large stone and very bloated and therefor very large. Minimal scarring, minimal fuss. He is in Berkeley, in the Colby Street medical building. Good luck. By the way, my acupuncturist told me later that acupuncture has a good track working with gall stones. Mind blew up overnight, never thought to call her when I was in such acute distress, went right to the doc and hospital. You might consider that first. Can always take it our later if all else fails. purplenini
Barry Gardener/Gardner, M.D. invented the laproscopic technique for taking out the gallbladder, so I would encourage you to go to him. He is located in Oakland as well as having some other offices. He is hugely respected locally as well as national Good luck

Considering gall bladder surgery

Dec 2002

After several years of digestive problems, I've just had an ultrasound and it was discovered I have multiple, but smallish, gallstones. Surgery has been suggested although it would not be a large incision; rather a small incision and use of a long tool. Has anyone had this surgery? Did you feel much better afterward? Any complications or new problems? How was your recovery from the procedure? Many thanks. Amelia

I had my gall bladder removed last January using laproscopic surgery, which sounds like what you are talking about. I had had only one attack, but it was decided that removal was the best treatment (and I am glad I did, as I turned out to have a 4cm gall stone, which would have inevitably caused further problems). The surgery itself was very straightforward, and my only complication (which sent me back to the emergency room two days later) was really due to an extremely painful buildup of gas. I had two friends who had the surgery about the same time, and neither one of them had that problem and both were up and about the next day. Interestingly, both myself and one of my friends had just lost 20-25 pounds on the Weight Watchers program when we started having problems, so I am convinced there is a connection (which does not seem fair!). It has been almost a year since my surgery, and I have not had any further problems and have not had to make any significant dietary changes. Claire
I believe you are referring to laparoscopic surgury to remove your gall bladder. I had this done about six months ago and it was very easy. It was a day procedure so I was home in by the mid-afternoon. I was mildly uncomfortable in the abdomen area for a couple days and I felt completely back to normal within a week. I now have four very small scars.

Gall bladder attacks for me for almost unbearable -- extremely painful and I would never know when they would occur and how long they would last. Since the surgery, I've had no more attacks. Jenn

I had undiagnosed pain for 18 months before my situation became acute and I had to be admitted to the ER because my gall bladder was inflamed, and I had stones. I had laproscopic surgery to remove the gall bladder and have felt much better ever since - my mysterious 1.5-year old pain finally went away. Because the surgery was laproscopic, recovery was really pretty quick and easy - probably not even a week, and the scars are amazingly small. Best of luck! Valerie
I had laproscopic gall bladder surgery when I was 20 weeks pregnant (ugh). I had developed good-sized gall stones and I had one sitting in whatever that duct is called that goes to the liver, so I was told I had to have the surgery in spite of the lousy timing. The surgery went well, recovery was pretty easy (though the first day post-op was, I must say, not that much fun). I was feeling quite good after about a week. I haven't noticed any difference in what I can eat--I adore bacon and other fatty foods and I've had no trouble eating them. It's been almost 2 years and I haven't had any problems. Good luck to you. Gall stones are a drag. Jennifer
I had my gall bladder removed in 1999, after several excruciating gallstone episodes. I also had it removed by ''tube'' with four tiny dot- sized incisions. I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and had a day of incessant vomiting after the surgery, but other than that my recovery was fast and easy. I haven't had an problems since then, and before that I had had what I thought was an ulcer. But it turned out to be related to the gall bladder, because after I had it removed, I never had the ''ulcer'' discomfort again. Anon
Had mine out four yrs ago w/ laser surgery. Quick recovery, minimal scarring. I certainly don't miss the pain -- thought it was worse than labor -- so there's no question I did the right thing. The only residual effects I've noticed are that I'm more susceptible to weight gain from eating fats and for some reason pickles now give me mild indigestion (maybe completely unrelated issue). Good luck w/ your decision
I developed gallstones during pregnancy and I had my gallbladder removed three weeks after having a c-section. Both the surgery and the recovery were really quite simple. You will have three small incisions, including one in your belly button and the biggest hassle will be keeping your incisions dry. Immediately after the surgery I remember feeling like someone was sitting on my chest, but after drinking some hot water and burping, I felt better immediately. I recovered very quickly from the surgery and talked my way out of the hospital that evening...I didn't even have to spend the night. Unfortunately, two weeks later I began having symptoms again, like a gallstone attack. So yes, there can be complications. During the surgery, as they pulled out the gallbladder, a stone or two came lose and lodged in my common bile duct. I had to have a second procedure called an ERCP that unfortunately gave me pancreatitus and a 5 day stay in the hospital. But even given all of my complications, I'm glad I had the surgery. anon
Haven't had the surgery myself, but my sister had the old- fashioned kind and had a long, painful recovery. My sister-in- law had the new kind within the same month(tiny incision, long tools) and was up and around really soon, with no complications. anon
I had this surgery when my babe was just 3 months old because of the intensely painful episodes when a stone gets stuck. The stones developed during my pregnancy, which I understand is not uncommon. I wish we had figured it out earlier, as the overall effect on my digestion was severe and I could hardly eat throughout the pregnancy, gained little weight, and was unspeakably miserable. Getting to your question, the surgery was a breeze. I highly recommend my surgeon, Dr. Katherine Forest. I didn't even spend the night in the hospital and only missed one breastfeeding. I felt better immediately, like my old self, and it was a beautiful transformation. I had forgotten what it was like to feel good and eat with an appetite. I was a little sore for a few days, but didn't even have enough pain to remind me to take my Advil. Good luck! Kim
Two teachers at my daughter's preschool recently had a gall bladder surgery like what you described (small incision, etc.) They both said it was a simple procedure and they had little discomfort. They took only a few days off and were back at work as if nothing had happened. Chris
I had my gall bladder removed almost 4 years ago. It was laproscopic surgery which left 4 small scars, each about 1/2'' long: 3 across my abdomen and 1 across my navel. It was done as outpatient surgery at California Pacific in SF, but I spent the night as the surgery was done in the mid-afternoon.

I could only eat the blandest foods before the surgery and it took about a month before I could eat normally again. I still need to severely limit high-fat foods (for me real ice cream & tortilla chips), but seldom experience the pain of before. As for general recovery, I think I stayed in bed for the next 4 or 5 days but didn't need much pain medication.

The gas they use to expand your abdomen causes most of the after surgery pain. I woke up feeling like someone was standing on my chest so asked for more pain meds. Make sure you get up and pee when you wake up the first time as the IV is just filling your bladder and it can expand beyond your muscle control - not fun. Best wishes.

I had my gall bladder removed a little over a year ago. Before that I had three gall bladder 'attacks' about 18 months apart. After each attack I had an ultrasound that revealed a single gall stone that grew over time. After the first attack, my family doctor advised that I have my gall bladder removed - she said that I 'didn't need it' - but I had never had surgery before, so it seemed like a big deal at the time.

The surgery that I had about a year and a half ago ended up being emergency surgery because the gall stone had become lodged in the bile duct, and the tissue around it was starting to die. I think the four hours I spent in the emergency room before being admitted was the worst part. I was kind of out of it for about five days after the surgery, which I think is not unusual in general. I didn't drive for about a week. I have three small scars, but they are getting smaller or lighter over time. It took several months for my digestion to settled down, but I didn't have any severe diarrhea or anything like that.

The advantage of having the surgery is that you don't have to worry about being stranded somewhere and having a gall bladder attack. The first attack I had was the day before I had to go somewhere on a plane so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to go. The second attack occurred while I was vacationing with my daughter, and I was really worried about what would happen to her if I had to go to the hospital. The third attack occurred just after a two-day camping trip. Recently I talked to someone who has gall stones, and she eats an apple a day and takes a food additive whenever she has a fatty meal. It's a food additive, not a drug. So there are some doctors out there who recommend non-surgery alternatives. You can email me if you have questions.


How do you know if you have gall stones?

Dec 2002

There has been a lot of discussion about gall bladder surgery. Could someone explain what the pain of gall stones feels like and where it is usually localized? It seems most people take a while to determine that gall stones are the problem, so knowing a little more about others experiences might be helpful.

I had one attack and lived in fear of another one before getting my gall bladder out. It came on about an hour after eating some fast food french fries, and I would have to describe it as the worst pain I have ever felt (even including childbirth!). It is an intense, constant, twisting pain in the abdomen, and there is no relief, no matter what position you move into. You may feel like you would feel some relief if you vomit, but you don't necessarily have to, and that may not help. I was lucky, and mine only lasted about 15 minutes; I have had friends whose episodes lasted hours and had to go to the ER. If you believe you have had this type of pain, visit your doctor and they will likely send you for a sonnogram. Claire
I had two episodes where I experienced excrutiating back pain, which I attributed to my pregnancy. After the birth, I experienced two more episodes (a few hours each time) of lower back pain. This time I wrote it off thinking that I had overdown it on one of my walks up Marin Ave in Berkeley, carrying our newborn in the babyfront pack. When it happened yet another time (this was probably all within a 10 month period) I finally went to the doctor who diagnosed it right away as gall bladder, and was quickly confirmed with a subsequent test. Although I had scheduled surgery, these episodes all led up to the big one just prior to surgery when I ended up in the emergency room because the pain became so excuriating that I could no longer take it (having given birth to 2 kids without so much as a whimper, for me to admit that it hurt, is a slight understatement) I ended up with a morphine drip and passing a gall stone (which the ER doctor kept insisting was a rarity). I avoided emergency surgery and opted to follow up with the planned date, some 3 days later. Hindsight is always 20/20 and had I known what I was experiencing, I would have gotten to the doctor sooner and avoided a lot of discomfort!
I was told I had the classic gallstone attacks, so here is the description: The attack would start between 10 - 11 pm and be a tightening behind my right breast. The pain would progress within an hour to be so uncomfortable that I would get out of bed and just walk around the house; there was no position that was comfortable and no pill could ease the pain. The attack would last until 2 or 3 am. I went to the emergency room once where they did an EKG and then decided it was major heartburn, so gave me something for that. I also had a migraine during one attack and was thankful for the sleep that brought on! The frequency of the attacks went from less than once a month to several times a week in about 10 months. Once I saw a doctor about it, the gallstones (actually mostly sludge) were diagnosed by an ultrasound. By that time I was only eating toast and cottage cheese. A friend had a similar sludge-gallstone problem, but resolved it with a regimen of fasting, then lemon juice and olive oil, which was suggested by her doctor. Easier than surgery! Best wishes.
Gall bladder pain typically starts in the mid back and radiates around to the front. When I had the pains several years ago, it was difficult to figure out what was the problem. I was a student at the time and so I figured that I was carrying too many books and that it was making my back hurt. This went on for a very long time. It wasn't until I had a real attack that I realized it wasn't back pain. I had eaten a peanut butter granola bar and that made the pain very intense. As I recall, the doctor said it can start on either side, but mine was on the right side more than the left. Good luck and hope you don't have gall stones! Lori
Although I've never given birth, I can't imagine anything more painful than my gallstone episodes. It usually kicked in around midnight and ended up with me in the Kaiser ER, where a shot of painkiller in the butt brought relief. I also thought vomiting would help, but couldn't. I would describe the pain as having a pipe rammed through your midsection -- just below the sternum. It's not a stomach pain. My doctor said it occurs when you eat something with extra fat and the gall bladder tries to squeeze out bile to help with digestion. When the stone blocks the duct, it hurts (think of a clogged squeeze ketchup bottle and how hard you sometimes have to squeeze to get the stuff out). Because I was a 33-year-old male, I didn't fit the standard ''4F'' profile (female, fertile, fat, 40) and I had to convince Kaiser to do the ultrasound. I had one stone the size of a small foil-wrapped easter egg. My dad had a handful of pea-gravel-sized stones, while my mom's were like aquarium gravel. Yes, it's hereditary. I had the old-style surgery because Kaiser considered the through-the-navel procedure ''experimental'' at the time. I have a 6-inch scar, but it was worth it to avoid the painful attacks. Jon