Can you pass gallstones?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

My daughter in law has consulted with a "new age" holistic medicine practitioner who diagnosed via iridology liver disease in her. The practitioner prescribed a restricted diet of vitamin and mineral supplements, no protein, no carbohydrates, sugars (except for limited fruit) and various other supplements. My daughter in law believes she is passing gall stones. I did not think that is possible. My daughter in law has lost significant weight (she was already very slender) and I am concerned she is doing her body more harm than good. Have you an opinion and is it possible to pass gall stones?

Doctor's Response

Gallstones usually form in the gallbladder and remain there. (Rarely, they may dissolve and disappear in the gallbladder.) On occasion, however, they can pass from the gallbladder and into the duct leading from the gallbladder to the intestine, the common bile duct. If they do not get stuck in the duct there usually are no problems except possibly a transient episode of pain. If they get stuck in the duct for a prolonged period, they can obstruct the flow of bile through the ducts. This may lead to jaundice, infection in the bile (cholecystitis, cholangitis), or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). It is generally not considered a good thing to be passing gallstones.

Over the years, diets have been proposed to promote the passing of gallstones. None of these diets have rational or scientific support. In other words, it is VERY unlikely that they work. The weight loss your daughter is experiencing may be due to the change in her diet; however, she needs to see a physician to be certain that the loss of weight is not due to a serious medical condition that requires urgent treatment.

Jay W. Marks, M.D.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018