Does a Low Carb Diet Cause Gallstones?

That Nice Boy I Married got a question from a friend of his today. She'd heard that a low carb diet increased the risk of gallstones, and wanted to know if that was true. It's an excellent question, and the answer is a little complicated.

First, it helps to know what your gallbladder does. Your gallbladder resides under your liver, and collects a fluid called bile, which the liver secretes. Bile is a digestive fluid that breaks down fat. The bile hangs out in your gallbladder until you eat fat. When your body senses fat in your intestine, the gallbladder contracts, squirting a concentrated dose of bile into the fatty food so you can digest and absorb it.

There are a number of causes of gall stones -- hard stone-like objects that develop inside the pouch-like gallbladder. According to Medline, they include anything that keeps the gallbladder from emptying completely. Since a very low fat diet does not stimulate the gallbladder to contract strongly, it is implicated. Medline also states that rapid weight loss from a very low calorie diet is also a cause of gallstones. (Long-time intravenous feeding can also cause gallstones, apparently also because it does not stimulate the gallbladder to contract.) These are not the only causes of gallstones, which appear not to be completely understood, but they are among them.

Low carbohydrate diets, however, derive a majority of their calories from fat (at least if you're doing it right,) and therefore stimulate strong gallbladder contractions. If you have no stones in your gallbladder, this is great, may well be preventive. But if you already have gallstones -- and remember, most of us have spent years trying to lose weight through fat restriction before we go low carb -- eating a high fat meal can cause the gallbladder to squeeze down on them, causing pain. If you have a stone clogging the bile duct (the tube the bile comes through), you're going to be in great pain indeed.

Did the low carb diet cause the gallstones? No, it did not. Did it stimulate a gall bladder attack? Yes, it did. But the chances are excellent the stones were there to begin with.

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Low-fat is the problem

I had my gallbladder removed 14 years ago. At that time I'd never even heard of a low-carb diet. After removal my doctor informed me, in his personal opinion, that it was all the years of low-fat dieting that cause my gallbladder problems. I was shocked at the time, but it makes sense now and I totally believe it. Use it or lose it seems to apply here. After the surgery I developed IBS. I found a low-carb diet was the only thing to relieve my symptoms. When I eat low-carb, and lots of fat, I have no problems at all. When I eat high-carb, especially starches, I suffer miserably. It's a no-brainer in my case.

My doc said the same thing!

I was on an Extreme Low Fat diet, actually I tried for No-Fat diet! I had lost weight, but was very unhealthy & according to my surgeon, this diet is what caused my gallstones!
He said he had seen it time & time again.
He also warned me that after he removed my gallbladder that I may encounter some minor problems with eating fats at times...I Never have! :)
I do wonder if those of us who do not have our gallbladders any more should be taking enzymes to help with the digestive process of fats & meats?

Mike W. over at the Fat

Mike W. over at the Fat Fiction blog ( ) has been researching gallstones since he started having attacks. He believes the problem is down to diet and minerals--but doesn't believe that a low-carb diet causes gallstones. He's going to post before and after pictures of his gallbladder in about four months.

Does a Low Carb Diet Cause Gallstones?

In a related question, if you are on a low carb diet, eating a lot of fats, and have already had your gallbladder removed, is that a problem?
Cheers and thanks for all the great info!

Vivian: I'm not Proper Dana,

Vivian: I'm not Proper Dana, but the other adult in my household is missing his gallbladder and he finds that some types of fat cause him problems, while other types he tolerates just fine. I have heard that medium-chain triglycerides, such as the fat in coconut oil, cause less problems than some other types of dietary fat because they don't apparently need bile intervention. If that's true, it may be the long-chain triglycerides you need to worry about--I'd Google for more info.