Is it okay to regularly drink coffee given your gallstone issue?
Well, that’s a fair question to ask considering that coffee is a staple beverage in most homes.
Coffee has also been touted as a
healthy food a superfood even!
Several studies suggest that drinking coffee is good for people suffering from gallstones or those at risk of developing the condition. Have you heard or read about that? Next, you’d be asking the obvious question: Is it alright to drink coffee when I have gallstones?
However, we’d like to exercise more prudence in answering your question. After all, this is your health we’re talking about. We’d look at facts and scientific studies linking coffee to gallstone issues.
Facts about gallstones
- Gallstones form in the gallbladder from hardened bile components, mainly cholesterol. They remain in the bladder or flow with bile and often cause no pain or symptoms.
- When they are too big to pass through the ducts, though, that’s when you start noticing the symptoms.
- Gallstones affect 10%-15% of the US population.
- 80% of gallstone cases are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t cause any symptoms.
- Symptomatic gallstones can either be uncomplicated or complicated. In the first case, it would mean infrequent episodes of abdominal pain. In the latter case, it could mean constant pain, fever, or jaundice, or all of these.
- For severe symptoms, the medical remedy is cholecystectomy or gallstones surgery.
Studies about coffee consumption and gallstones
Researchers studied 46,008 men in the US from 1986 through 1996. The results strongly suggest that men who regularly drink 2 or more cups of coffee every day will have a lower risk of developing symptomatic gallstone disease compared to men who don’t drink coffee.
(A prospective study of coffee consumption and risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in men by Leitzmann M. F. et al, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999)
A similar study was done from 1980 through 2000 involving 80,898 women. Results show that consistently consuming caffeinated coffee may help prevent symptomatic gallstone disease in women.
(Coffee intake is associated with a lower risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in women by Leitzmann M. F. et al, Gastroenterology, 2002)
However, another study shows that there is no definitive basis for the claim that coffee protects against gallstone formation.
(Relation of coffee, green tea, and caffeine intake to gallstone disease in middle-aged Japanese men by Ishizuk H. et al, European Journal of Epidemiology, 2003)
So is coffee good or bad for gallstones?
At this point, the studies are contradictory as to whether coffee is good or bad for people with gallstones. What we do know is that coffee stimulates the release of cholecystokinin (CCK). This hormone triggers the contraction of the gallbladder and relaxes the sphincter of Oddi, which finally causes the release of bile into the intestines.
Coffee’s gallbladder contracting effect can be both good and bad.
Regular bile emptying prevents the stone formation and biliary sludge. However, if you already have stones, constant gallbladder contraction may also dislodge silent stones which can block the ducts and cause a flare-up.
How can I drink coffee without symptoms flaring up?
We consider one cup of brewed coffee, which contains 100-200 mg of caffeine, to be safe. If you’re the type who needs this aromatic brew to wake you up, then surely a cup won’t hurt.
On the other hand, decaffeinated coffee doesn’t induce contraction of the gallbladder. So it’s another option you could shift to.
As to the flare-ups, you’ll have to address that holistically. The symptoms won’t simply go away based on the cups of jo that you consume every day. Instead, do the following:
- Avoid greasy meals.
- Follow a healthy, well-planned menu.
- Exercise moderately.
- Trim extra weight gradually. Avoid repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain, or what is referred to as yo-yo weight loss.
- Consider gallstones surgery.
- Refer to your doctor before making any important health decisions.
A final word about coffee and gallstones
“How can I drink coffee without it bothering me every time I take a cupful?” As we said, you have to face your gallstones problem head-on.
Follow the above tips and cut back on your daily dose of coffee.
Even with its apparent benefits, coffee can cause a host of other health issues. For one, it is known to be addictive. It even causes insomnia and anxiety, which can wreak havoc to your overall wellness.
Further research is required to prove coffee’s therapeutic effects on gallbladder issues. Until then, it’s best to drink moderately and be on the safe side.