People over 40 and especially women are prone to developing gallstone disease. This condition is also more likely to occur if the person is of North American, South American, or European descent. People with raised levels of melatonin are protected against gallstone disease, since melatonin decreases the secretion of cholesterol from the gallbladder and increases the conversion of cholesterol into bile.
Researchers believe that gallstones are caused by a combination of various factors, including:
- Body weight – increased body weight usually increases the levels of blood cholesterol which in turn increases its secretion by the gallbladder. This increases the concentration of cholesterol within the bile, causing cholesterol crystals to form and grow.
- Gallbladder motility – this factor determines how well can the gallbladder contract. Hypotonic gallbladder can cause the bile to remain in the gallbladder for a long period of time, creating the perfect conditions for the formation of the gallstones.
- Body chemistry – as mentioned above, ethnicity plays a major role in the development of gallstones, since melatonin (levels of which are different depending on the race) plays an important role in preventing gallstones.
- Diet – this point has been currently put under question, since latest studies suggest that diet has little to do with the levels of blood cholesterol. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the content of cholesterol within the diet has no significant effect on the formation of gallstones. However, what can increase the chances of gallstone disease is rapid weight loss, eating only 2-3 times per day, and constipation (since all these factors affect the motility of the gallbladder). Moreover, deficiency of nutrients including vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and folate can also be contributing factors. On the other hand, whole-grained bread (as well as other food rich in insoluble fibers) and wine help reduce the risk of gallstones.
- A number of conditions, which include hemolytic anemia, erythropoieticprotoporphyria, biliary tract infections, and cirrhosis, increase the chances of pigment stone formation.
- Proton pump inhibitors (medicines used for treating gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, etc.) inhibit the motility of gallbladder, which can result in gallstone formation.
However, if the person doesn’t fall under any of these risk factors, there is still a chance that he or she might develop gallstone disease.