What Is Gallbladder Sludge?


Sludge in the gallbladder is sometimes referred to as gallbladder "sand." It is a particulate matter immersed in bile that can accumulate to pudding-like consistency. This sludge forms when emptying of the gallbladder stops or slows down. Gallbladder sludge can be viewed on a scan. Medical professionals are trained to detect it by how it moves and repositions itself during the scanning process. This sludge is often a percursor to gall stones.

Composition of Sludge and Critical Factors

  • Sludge consists of cholesterol crystals, calcium salts, and bile. Although this type of sludge is one possibility, a doctor must also consider other substances as well. Blood, pus, soft pigment stones or even gangrene can accumulate in the gallbladder. Any sludge-like substance may also contain hard stones. If an individual has discomfort or pain in the right abdominal area, plus nausea after eating a high-fat meal, a gallbladder scan should be ordered.

Causes of Sludge Formation

  • An individual is suspectible to collecting sludge in her gallbladder after periods of little or no eating. After surgery, during times of fasting because of illness, or after a bone marrow transplant or other organ transplant, sludge often materializes. Doctors say there are no real ways to prevent this collection of soft materials in the gallbladder. Particulate matter starts to collect when normal digestion fails to cause the gallbladder to empty bile into the stomach.

Flushing the Gallbladder Can Help

  • There are plenty of so-called cleanses for gallbladder sludge. Ingesting olive oil with lemon, mixed in equal parts, 2 to 3 times over a 24-hour period is considered one safe method. Any flush, though, could possibly lead to a hard stone getting stuck in the duct leading from the gallbladder to the stomach. Drinking plenty of water and forcing the gallbladder to empty by eating a high-fat meal can flush away sludge as well. Only a doctor can guide an individual in how to approach the problem, since a high-fat meal can bring on a gallbladder "attack."

No Methods for Prevention of Sludge

  • Medical professionals know of no way to prevent sludge formation. The body manufactures the heavy substance without warning. Patients who must forego eating during times of extreme illness increase their chances of building up sludge, but not everyone will automatically do so. The overall health of the liver, gallbladder and digestive tract all seem to play a role.

Issues Leading to Sludge Buildup

  • Individuals trying to lose weight by staying on a "liquid diet" run the risk of gallbladder sludge accumulating. The digestive tract, including the gallbladder, functions best with proper assimilation of food, digesting solid foods properly, and healthy bowel elimination. Sludge that forms from too little consumption of solid foods usually signals forthcoming gall stones. Fad diets have been designated as interfering with gallbladder health and long-term problems with this organ.

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  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Henry Merino
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