Gallstones and IBS

side pain from Gallstones

Gallbladder removal is one of the most common surgeries in the United States, but is it always the best solution? Let’s explore the intricate relationship between gallstones and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and discuss why natural treatments, like Chorus, might offer a the best relief.

@crawford_wellness Replying to @katayoneseyes #gallbladder #gallstones gallbladder surgery is one of the most common procedures done in the US (possibly because of our rich diet) with over 1.2 million removals eqch year. While the procedure can be helpful many patients will be diagnosed afterwards with #IBS because of bile acid malabsorption or bile acid #diarrhea . I wish more people knew about the plants which can help this from #traditionalchinesemedicine ♬ Cute Horror & Halloween, Storytelling, Games(1311227) - scatgoto

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard particles that form in the gallbladder, when there is an imbalance in the chemical makeup of bile, causing the excess cholesterol or bilirubin to crystallize and harden into stones. These stones can cause severe pain and blockages in the bile ducts. There are two main types.

  1. Cholesterol gallstones

 These are the most common type and are made mostly of undissolved cholesterol, particularly triglycerides.

2. Pigment stones 

These are made of bilirubin, a waste product formed when red blood cells are broken down.

Why Are Women More Prone to Gallstones?

Women are more likely to develop gallstones due to higher levels of estrogen, which can increase cholesterol in bile and slow gallbladder movement. Excess estrogen from pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, obesity, and old age appear to increase the risk of formation.

Common Treatments for Gallstones

While surgery to remove the gallbladder is the most common method of treatment, it’s not the only option, nor is it always the most effective long-term. Alternative treatments include:

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography A procedure to remove stones from the bile duct.

 Shock Wave Lithotripsy Breaking up stones using shock waves.

Oral Dissolution Therapy Medications to dissolve cholesterol stones.

Why Removing the Gallbladder Isn’t Always Ideal

Removing the gallbladder doesn’t solve the root causes of gallstones. It just means you aren’t seeing and feeling some of their effects. Moreover, it can lead to digestive problems, including a higher likelihood of developing IBS. This condition is characterized by symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.

Why is this?

This is usually because your guts need bile, but it has to be in a goldilocks zone. Too little and you can’t break down anything you eat with fats, too much and you will suffer from bile acid malabsorption.

The Role of the Microbiome and Bile in Digestive Health

Our gut microbiota and bile acids interact in ways that significantly affect our digestive health. Bacteria in the gut modify bile acids, making them more effective in digesting fats.

Imagine your gut as a bustling city, where countless tiny organisms—known as gut bacteria—live and work. These bacteria interact with bile acids. Here’s how these interactions happen:

How Gut Bateria Influence Bile

Breaking Things Down

 Some gut bacteria have a tool called bile salt hydrolases (BSHs). They use it to tweak bile acids by removing a small part attached to them (either glycine or taurine). This makes the bile acids more ‘water-fearing’ or hydrophobic, which changes how they behave in the body.

Making New Stuff

Other bacteria, like those from the Clostridium and Eubacterium families, transform primary bile acids into secondary ones. This process increases their hydrophobicity even more.

Changing and Mixing

There are bacteria that further modify bile acids by changing certain groups on them, which can lead to the formation of different types of secondary bile acids.

Adding New Parts

Some innovative bacteria create new types of bile acids by attaching different amino acids (like phenylalanine or leucine) to them, instead of the usual taurine or glycine.

How Bile Acids Influence Gut Bacteria

The relationship is a two-way street. Bile acids not only get modified by gut bacteria but also influence them in return:

Fighting Off Invaders

The more hydrophobic (or ‘water-fearing’) secondary bile acids can harm some types of bacteria by breaking their protective barriers, much like soap disperses grease.


Sending Signals

Bile acids can also act as signals, turning on specific proteins in our bodies that help control which bacteria thrive in our gut.

Determining Who Lives Where

The availability of different types of bile acids in the gut can determine which bacteria grow or don’t grow based on what they can use as food.

3 Herbs for Managing Gallstones and IBS

These natural remedies offer a holistic alternative to conventional treatments. These three herbs can help manage gallstones and support digestive health

Aucklandiae Radix

it known to affect bile, it has a role in promoting bile secretion and improving gallbladder function.


It is known to increase the elimination of bile acids and reduce cholesterol production in the liver. These effects help prevent cholesterol build-up in the liver, primarily by promoting its conversion to bile acids and reducing new cholesterol formation

Coix Seed

It is known for its high fiber and protective properties against high-fat diets and its ability to lower cholesterol.

Coix seed consumption increases the excretion of bile acids and cholesterol in the feces. 

About the Author

Brehan Crawford in the Snow
For more insights, collaborations, or to reach out to Brehan, you can connect with him through his online platforms:

Brehan Crawford, based in McMinnville, Oregon, is a distinguished clinician specializing in the treatment of chronic conditions, particularly Lyme Disease and its coinfections. After earning his Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in 2009, he deepened his expertise with a 5-year residency under the mentorship of the renowned Dr. Heiner Fruehauf at the Hai Shan Clinic. A Diplomate of Oriental Medicine from the NCCAOM, Brehan has pioneered innovative methods using Traditional Chinese Medicine for chronic infections. Known for mentoring other professionals, he regularly imparts knowledge on advanced Chinese herbal medicine applications. Beyond his clinical pursuits, Brehan enjoys singing, cooking, and hiking.

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