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Alcohol Consumption & The Gallbladder

Published on August 17, 2021
How Alcohol Affects The Gallbladder | Cancer, Gallstones, & More

While drinking alcohol can have serious effects on many of the major organs in the body, moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t affect the gallbladder all that much. In fact, moderate drinking can actually help prevent gallstones and gallbladder problems.

Alcohol, The Gallbladder, & Your Liver

The gallbladder is responsible for storing bile in the body which helps the body break down and digest fat. 

Because of how close the gallbladder is to the liver (directly behind it), and how common liver problems are for those who drink lots of alcohol, some wonder if drinking can impact the gallbladder too.

But the gallbladder and alcohol use doesn’t have the same relationship. Current studies show that alcohol does not have as many negative effects on the gallbladder as the liver.

Cancer Of The Gallbladder

Drinking alcohol can even help prevent issues in the gallbladder. But that doesn’t mean you should drink alcohol in excessive amounts to try and keep your gallbladder healthy. 

Heavy drinking can lead to cancer of the gallbladder. Additionally, if cirrhosis occurs in the liver, there is a higher risk of gallstones due to the scarring of the liver. 

Gallstones & Alcohol

Gallstones are deposits of cholesterol or calcium salt that harden and accumulate in your gallbladder. They can cause a blockage in the bile duct from the liver to the small intestine and cause bile to build up in the liver. But alcohol does not increase the risk of this occurring.

Gallstones

A moderate amount of alcohol can actually lower the risk of gallstones and gallbladder disease when compared to non-drinkers. 

This means good things for those who socially drink, but heavy drinking can increase the risk of liver cirrhosis and increase the risk of the development of gallstones. 

Additionally, if you develop pancreatitis because of gallstones, excessive alcohol use can make the problem much worse. If you already have gallstones for any reason, alcohol use is not recommended. 

What Leads To Gallstones?

Although drinking alcoholic beverages doesn’t lead to gallstones, some cause of gallstones may include:

  • any condition that increases bile
  • obesity
  • sudden weight loss
  • cirrhosis
  • irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease
  • diabetes
  • too much cholesterol in the bile
  • too much bilirubin in the bile
  • low levels of bile salts in the bile
  • problems emptying the gallbladder

Symptoms Of Gallstones

If you think you have gallstones or worry about getting them, symptoms may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • fever
  • rapid heartbeat
  • jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • itchiness
  • cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)

If gallstones become too much of an issue, gallbladder surgery or a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) may be recommended.

Risk Factors For Gallstones

While alcohol and alcohol use may not be a risk factor for gallstones, there are some factors that make it more likely for some people to get gallstones over others, including:

  • being female
  • being 40 or older
  • being a Native American
  • being of Hispanic of Mexican origin
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • eating a high-fat diet
  • eating a high-cholesterol diet
  • eating a low-fiber diet
  • blood disorders like sickle cell anemia or leukemia
  • medications that contain estrogen like oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs
  • liver disease

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, call our helpline today to learn about our treatment options.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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