Gallstones: What are the risk factors?

Gallstones: What are the risk factors?

Gallstones or gallbladder stones can be defined as the build-up of excessive bile or bilirubin or cholesterol in the bile duct that is responsible for carrying bile to the small intestine. Some cases of gallstones don’t have evident symptoms; they are referred to as “silent stones”. Otherwise, gallstones are usually associated with mild to chronic abdominal pain, nausea, bouts of vomiting and fluctuations in body weight. Sometimes, gallstones also lead to pancreatitis, a condition of inflammation in the pancreas. Jaundice in adults also is an indicator of gallstones.

There is a myriad of causes for gallstones to develop, and it might be challenging to pinpoint the actual cause(s). Here are some of the key causes of gallstones.

  • Abnormal Functioning: The gallbladder acts as the prime reservoir of bile essential for facilitating digestion in the body. Abnormal functioning of the gallbladder will have adverse impacts on the digestion capabilities and may lead to auxiliary health ailments. Lack of gallbladder contraction to release the bile may lead the bile to be concentrated in the gallbladder, in turn, forming the stones.
  • Lack of Bile Salts: Bile salts are essential for breaking down the cholesterol in the bile. Lack of bile salts may lead to cholesterol accumulation and ultimately to the formation of gallbladder stones. However, at times, the accumulation of cholesterol also makes the bile salts to dissolve.
  • Excess Bilirubin Content: Health conditions such as liver cirrhosis, specific blood disorders, and infections in the bile duct may lead to excessive production of bilirubin. An excess amount of bilirubin may lead to a condition medically referred to as pigment gallstones.

Now that we have an overview of the common cause and symptoms of gallbladder stones, let’s have a look at the risk factors.

Risk Factors for Gallbladder Stones


Like several other health conditions, gallstones also have a root to the genetic or hereditary aspect. Individuals with a family member or close relative with the history of gallbladder stones are more prone to the development of gallstones. Though genetics is a risk factor, several studies have highlighted that it makes only a quarter of the entire risk module.

Some researches have even highlighted that Native Americans tend to have a genetic disposition to secrete higher levels of cholesterol, which ultimately leads to gallbladder stones.


The significance of a healthy and balanced diet can’t be undermined as it plays a pivotal role in the overall health and well-being of an individual. As we have already covered early in the article, cholesterol accumulation is one of the major causes of gallstone development. Certain dietary components put one’s body at the risk of higher cholesterol accumulation.

An increased level of cholesterol even creates an imbalance in the amount of bile salt which makes it challenging for the body to breakdown the cholesterol. Ultimately, the cholesterol keeps depositing in the bile duct that leads to further complications.

Individuals practising dieting and those who go for long hours without eating anything may experience lesser gallbladder contractions. Lesser gallbladder contraction is equivalent to more bile deposition in the gallbladder and gallstone development. A pattern of losing and gaining weight induced by dieting may also lead to the development of gallstones.


Needless to say, obesity is a prime risk factor for many primary and secondary health complications. That being said, it is also one of the major risk factors for gallstones. The higher your Body Mass Index (BMI) is the higher is your risk of developing gallbladder stones.

Women compared to men are more at risk of gallstones due to hormonal changes and pregnancy. Besides, studies have reinstated the fact that women with a higher BMI are three times more prone to developing gallstones.

Weight Loss:

While individuals with obesity symptoms are at a higher risk of gallstones, those who experience a sudden drop in body weight are also prone to it. A sudden and abnormal dip in body weight may shift the nutrient content in the body, which may create an imbalance in the bile salt quantity, bilirubin and cholesterol content.

As weight loss stems as a concerning risk factor for gallstones, medical professionals always advise a healthy and natural way of maintaining an appropriate BMI.

Interested to uncover more of the subtle risk factors for gallstones? Get in touch with the experts at Narayana Health, NOW!

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