Health Guide


What is it?

Cholecystitis (ko-lee-sis-ti-tis) is an inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pouch near the liver where bile is stored. Bile helps to break down food, especially fat. The gallbladder can become irritated and swollen. A common cause of cholecystitis is gallstones. Pain from gallstones is called biliary colic. Many people have gallstones but do not know it. A gallstone may stay in the gallbladder or pass through it without causing problems. Sometimes the stone gets stuck on its way out of the gallbladder.


Gallstones are a common cause of cholecystitis. You may be more likely to have gallstones if your parents had them. Other causes may be being overweight, having many children, or drinking too much alcohol. Eating foods high in fat may also cause gallstones.

Signs and Symptoms:

You may not have any symptoms. But you may have abdominal (belly) pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, or jaundice (yellow skin or eyes). You may feel swollen (bloated), not be able to eat fatty food, or burp more than usual.

Wellness Recommendations:

Exercise daily and lose weight if you are overweight.

Medical Care : Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are over-the-counter medicines that may help your pain. Rest until you feel better. You may need to go into the hospital for tests and treatment. Surgery may be needed to remove your gallbladder.

Dietary Measures:

  • A vegetarian diet or low cholesterol diet may decrease the risk of having gallstones.
  • A high fiber diet, to include added psyllium, may also prevent gallstones.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.


  • Celandine (Chelidonium majus) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have gallstones.
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have gallstones.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have gallstones.


  • Fish oil (EPA, DHA) has been used, but has not been studied in people who have gallstones.
  • Lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) has been used, but has not been studied in people who have gallstones.

Complementary Therapies:

  • TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine), which includes both acupuncture and Chinese herbs, has long been used to treat gallbladder disease.

Do's and Don'ts:

  • During a gallbladder attack, drink clear (water, apple juice) liquids if you can. Do not eat any food.
  • To keep from having more attacks, do not eat foods that give you heartburn.
  • Eat low fat food.

Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

Talk to your caregiver if:

  • You would like medicine to treat gallstones.
  • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
  • You have questions about what you have read in this document.


  • You have very bad pain in the upper right side of your abdomen (belly) or between your shoulder blades.
  • You start to vomit (throw up).
  • You have shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
  • You skin or eyes turn yellow or your urine is dark brown.

Care Agreement:

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


1. Lee DWT, Gilmore CJ, Bonorris G et al: Effect of dietary cholesterol on biliary lipids in patients with gallstones and normal subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1985; 42:414.

2. Li Y, Wang S & Xia Y: Type B supersonic diagnostic observation on the action of 25 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine on gallbladder movement. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih 1995; 20(12):754-756.

3. Misciagna G, Centonze S, Leoci C et al: Diet, physical activity, and gallstones--a population-based, case-control study in southern Italy. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 69(1):120-126.

4. Pixley F, Wilson D, McPherson K et al: Effect of vegetarianism on development of gall stones in women. BMJ 1985; 291:11-12.

5. Stampfer MJ, Maclure KM, Colditz GA et al: Risk of symptomatic gallstones in women with severe obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55:652-658.

6. Trautwein EA, Kunath-Rau A & Erbersdobler HF: Increased fecal bile acid excretion and changes in the circulating bile acid pool are involved in the hypocholesterolemic and gallstone-preventive actions of psyllium in hamsters. J Nutr 1999; 129(4):896-902.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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