By Dr. Peter M. Kadile
Hey Doc, my mother was just diagnosed with gallstones. If she drinks plenty of water, will she be able to pass them? –Shaun, Rancho Mirage
Shaun, gallstones are very different from kidney stones. Whereas hydration may allow kidney stones to pass in your urine, the path of a gallstone is very different. Gallstones are hardened forms of digestive fluid in your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small pear shaped organ located on the right side of your abdomen just below the liver.
Most gallstones are formed from cholesterol. Risk factors for developing gallstones are:
age greater than 60
poor diet, high in fat, high in cholesterol, low in fiber
Gallstones may cause no symptoms, but if they get lodged in the duct leading out of the gallbladder, it may cause right sided abdominal discomfort to severe pain. If the stone does not get dislodged and gets “stuck”, a severe infection can develop called cholecystitis or possibly an infection of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Treatment for symptomatic gallstones is usually surgery. Small gallstones may pass through the duct and into your small intestine, so it is possible to “pass” a gallstone with a bowel movement, but generally these stones don’t cause symptoms.
Dietary changes can help and I encourage modifications such as limiting high fat and high cholesterol foods. Some medications and supplements may dissolve gallstones, but not immediately, it may take several months.
Dr. Peter, I love my coffee. I usually have 1 to 2 cups a day, is this good for my health? -Mervin, La Quinta
Merv, there is more and more research showing the health benefits of coffee. Coffee drinkers compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have Diabetes Type 2, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, certain abnormal heart rhythms and certain cancers. Coffee is noted to have high antioxidant activity (antioxidants are nutrients that help prevent tissue damage in the body). But remember moderation is the key, you can develop heartburn, elevated blood pressure and dehydration from too much coffee intake.
Dr. Peter, my neighbor just got diagnosed with shingles. I heard it’s a miserable experience, is it contagious? -Mindy, DHS
Mindy, a person does not get shingles (Herpes Zoster) when they come in contact with someone who has it. When someone has gotten over the chicken pox, that virus goes into “hibernation” and may flare up later in life. This flare up will follow the pathway of a nerve and may become very painful. Unless you haven’t had the chickenpox yet, there is a chance you may get the chickenpox if you come into contact with a person with shingles.