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  • Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.
    Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

    Gall Bladder Disease and Celiac Disease - By Ronald Hoggan

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    The following piece was written by Ronald Hoggan who is a teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    Gall bladder disease or malfunction is often associated with celiac disease. It can cause pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, just at the lowest rib on the right side. In one study of 1300 celiacs in Canada, 9% indicated that gall stones were the earliest presentation, sometimes followed by many years prior to correct diagnosis of their celiac disease. In another report, Dr. Kozlowska indicated that 13 of the 41 newly diagnosed celiacs she investigated were suffering from atresia, a condition which is a partial or complete blockage of the bile duct.

    CCK (cholecystokinin) is the hormone responsible for gall bladder contraction. The bulk of this hormone is produced in the duodenum.

    Active celiac disease would be likely, then, to cause a reduction or a cessation of duodenal production of CCK. A radiologist in Hungary is currently researching this problem. In private correspondence, one gastroenterologist reports having found (accidentally) a gallstone in a 12 year old girl who had active celiac disease.

    The 30% incidence of atresia among celiac children, as reported by Dr. Kozlowska, would suggest an even higher number among adults with active celiac disease. Given the low level of clinical suspicion for celiac disease in North America, it would not be at all surprising if a large portion of patients with gall bladder disease were suffering from occult celiac disease. Future research may reveal that gall stones and atresia are only symptoms of celiac disease.

    I did a Medline search on cck and celiac disease. I got 65 hits. Researchers repeatedly identified a connection between celiac disease and gall bladder malfunction with such comments as: Thus the already impaired fat absorption in celiac sprue is magnified by the lack of bile delivery.....; and We conclude that there is a reversible defect of gallbladder emptying and cholecystokinin release in celiac disease. and Cholecystokinin (cck) release and gall bladder emptying in response to a fatty meal are completely abolished in celiac disease. and the abnormally decreased gallbladder contraction in celiac patients is the result of endogenous cck secretion and not a lack of end-organ responsiveness to cck.

    There just isnt much ambiguity there. If youve got celiac disease, you have gall bladder malfunction, of the sort that may well develop into atresia and gallstones.

    Upon receiving a diagnosis of gall bladder disease, whether gall stones or atresia, one might be wise to request a blood test for celiac disease. The anti-endomysial antibody test is currently the most reliable and available test.

    Now, given the low level of clinical suspicion for celiac disease, I anticipate the suggestion that absent gall bladder emptying, atresia, and gall stones might occur in the absence of celiac disease. I did another Medline search, and I cant find a single study that has tested atresia patients or gallstone patients for celiac disease. My answer to the suggestion that gall bladder disease may occur in the absence of celiac disease is that there is no evidence to support such a contention. Considerable evidence exists, however, which points to celiac disease as a likely cause of gall bladder malfunction, atresia, or stones. As for childhood gallstones, there appears to be only one answer.... it is associated with celiac disease.

    A view that incorporates the association of gall bladder disease, and celiac disease, but does not preclude the above, has been expressed by Dr. Joseph Murray, of the University of Iowa, who is a gastroenterologist specializing in treating celiac disease. He believes there are several triggers that can activate Celiac disease in genetically susceptible people. One of them is: Surgery, particularly GI (gall bladder, etc.) In any case, the connection between celiac disease and gall bladder disease is well known.


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    I had my gallbladder removed when my son was 6 weeks old and a week later had stones removed from my bile duct. I had one previous attack right after labor but wasn't diagnosed as one. Since then (13 years ago) I have had constant abdominal pain and daily frequent diarrhea. Could never exercise or take long trips. Have had colonoscopies, dairy allergy tests and high fiber diets prescribed to me none of which worked. I started reading up on gluten free foods and celiac disease. Two weeks ago I began a gluten free diet and immediately have had no symptoms. No diarrhea, no pain, etc. My joints and skin are also healthier. This is a miracle to me. After suffering for so many years I am able to sleep and walk and live again without pain and embarrassment.

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    I recently discovered (through an elimination diet) that I have either gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. I have had a very varied list of symptoms in the last 3 to 4 years and thank goodness I was able to finally figure out the root of the problem: GLUTEN.

     

    Here's my lovely little list of chronic illnesses/conditions:

     

    Lactose intolerance

    Excesive burping (special after fatty meals)

    Stomach bloating

    Stomach pain

    Skin problems (something like eczema or dermatitis in my fingers)

    Sinusitis (it stopped right after lactose free diet)

    Severe colds

    Joint pain

    Anxiety (excesive eating)

    Excessive Hunger (I've been told I'm relatively thin compared to how much I eat)

    Hemorroids

    Flatulence

    Hair loss

    Water retention

    ***And a couple of weeks ago I started having gallbladder pains, they are gone now with the help of some apples and olive oil (and eating extremely healthily).

     

     

     

    I have been relatively speaking on a gluten free diet for a couple of months (it is really hard, 180 degrees change of life style). I still have some of the conditions but I have been improving little by little. I am a little overweight (I've been most of my life) and now that I don't eat gluten I look more fit. I think I was mostly bloated everywhere!

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    I have had my gallbladder out after a trip to the doctor proved it was not working at all, and in fact dead as he would say it. That was almost 8 years ago. Now since then I have had more trouble with food and what I eat than anything when I am on a low fat diet it helps but does not get rid of the symptoms. Now it is worse even though I am losing weight after a baby. After this article I think I am making a appointment with the doctor and demanding a test done because I don't want to live with this any longer if I can help it. It seems to be getting worse and not better.

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    Guest Pauline Roberts

    Posted

    Just thought I would reply to Natascha because I had my gallbladder out about 9 years ago and still had problems. I found out about a year ago that I have celiac disease, elevated liver enzymes (ALT and AST's) and still even now following a low fat diet and have the gallbladder disease without the gallbladder. I don't know if things will improve down the road, but I stay away from gluten, dairy, and barely any fat.

    Hi Sandy - it sounds like you have a blockage in the bile duct - go back to your specialist. I had similar this year had terrible pain and indigestion with a desire not to eat for 4-5 days at a time. I was diagnosed last year with celiac and they found a blockage in the bile duct. All is well since then. Good luck!

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    Had recurring upper GI pain for about two years. Went to doc and got scan. Found I had gall stones and proceeded to have GB removed. Since then have had mild upper GI pain, nothing too serious but recently went back to the Doc (3 years after op) because of worsening pain. He suggested a fiber supplement as he thought it was more intestinal then Liver, tried it for a month with very little effect. Decided myself to eliminate all foods from my diet for two days and reintroduce one at a time. Any foods containing gluten would result in immediate reaction, bloating, pain, constipation etc and re-eliminating them would resolve the issue. I believe I am a celiac and Gall stones were a result of undiagnosed celiac disease.

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    I have been having gallbladder problems for almost 2 years. I have been 90% gluten free for the last month but nothing has changed really. I still have to do Liver Flushes to get stones out but more and more stones are being formed it seems. I have a healthy diet. I wonder if it is celiac, and also how long it will take to heal the damage?

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    A little hard to understand this article. I was diagnosed as having tiny gallstones and some sludge. Immediately I was sent to surgeon where there was a room full of others holding same pamphlet as me....assembly line removal! Sickening. I have gone low fat but now suspect gluten/wheat so beginning to remove that and see how it goes.

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    This is an excellent and enlightening piece, however, it is unclear to me whether the good Doctor is advising the gallbladder be removed if you have celiac and gallbladder problems or whether getting it removed will worsen the situation. I was diagnosed to have celiac when I was a baby and although I have NO gallstones, my ejection fraction has gone from working perfectly 5 years ago to functioning now at only 8%. I have no pain as long as I take the prescription for of "Pepsid" (Famotidine 20mgs 2X a day). In addition no nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. I do not eat any junk food, fast food or fatty foods and never have due to the celiac and the IBS it causes. Not that I have not cheated on occasion but due to being very careful my whole life, the cheating was tolerated. I have been searching and searching the internet for answers of why my gallbladder would go down in function so dramatically in such a short period of time when I am otherwise healthy. This correlation is fascinating to me, but as I said, I am left hanging whether removal of the gallbladder under these circumstances is advisable or not. I am left hanging as to the conclusion of this article. Please conclude!!

    I just wanted to answer this because I just attended an information session for newly diagnosed Celiacs. In their presentation they said that a crumb of gluten is enough to seriously jeopardize a celiac's health and life. So, absolutely NO cheating is allowed...ever. Consider it life threatening because it is. Yes, this will make eating out very challenging, due to cross-contamination issues, but if one is diligent, there is still a vast array of tasty, gluten free food out there. Good luck, and please contact your nearest Celiac Association for more info, as I am not a doctor, nor am I an experienced celiac. Just learning here, like yourself. Cheers!

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    I had my gallbladder removed when my son was 6 weeks old and a week later had stones removed from my bile duct. I had one previous attack right after labor but wasn't diagnosed as one. Since then (13 years ago) I have had constant abdominal pain and daily frequent diarrhea. Could never exercise or take long trips. Have had colonoscopies, dairy allergy tests and high fiber diets prescribed to me none of which worked. I started reading up on gluten free foods and celiac disease. Two weeks ago I began a gluten free diet and immediately have had no symptoms. No diarrhea, no pain, etc. My joints and skin are also healthier. This is a miracle to me. After suffering for so many years I am able to sleep and walk and live again without pain and embarrassment.

    Me, too! Amazing, really, isn't it? I am now putting 2+2 together and seeing, in hindsight, that gluten sensitivity was probably behind my mother's and grandmother's health issues -- gallstones being just one of them. There is a strong genetic component. Let's hope this message gets out to the general public!

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    Hi Natascha.

     

    Don't-what ever you do-have your gallbladder removed. This will result in celiac issues worsening. And will ruin your health. Removing the gallbladder, removes the catchment of bile. Without a gallbladder , increased bile occurs from continual flowing from the liver. This has the same affect of an over active gallbladder which is also a cause of celiac issues-A no win situation. You will find your heath issues escalating to unbearable levels. I am living proof. Body/health completely shut down in 3 years after surgery. For this to happen to a gym junkie is sad. Look up post-cholecystectomy syndrome to find out what will go wrong.

    Thanks for this reply because that is how I feel. I went on an elimination diet and feel 100% better without gluten in my diet. I am willing to eat like this for the rest of my life if I can avoid surgery.

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    I'm waiting to get an ultrasound done on my abdomen but just had what my doctor believes is a gall bladder attack. The part I wonder about is that I've been dairy free for 10 years prior to 1 month ago, and gluten free for 5 years. Nearly 1 month ago, I gradually started experiencing increasing nausea because I decided to test my tolerance to sheep and goat dairy products. I'm thinking I just need to avoid dairy all together, but I wonder if anyone has had similar observations. Does any dairy cross-react enough to disrupt CCK production?

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  • About Me

    As co-author of "Dangerous Grains" and "Cereal Killers", the study of the impact of gluten continues to be a driving passion in my life. I am fascinated by the way that gluten induces illness and impedes learning while it alters mood, behavior, and a host of other facets of our existence. Sure, the impact of gluten on health is an important issue, but that is only the most obvious area of impact. Mood disturbances, learning disabilities, and the loss of quality of life due to psychiatric and neurological illness are even more tragic than the plethora of physical ailments that are caused or worsened by gluten. The further I go down this rabbit hole, the more I realize that grains are a good food for ruminants - not people. I am a retired school teacher. Over the last decade, I have done some college and university level teaching, but the bulk of my teaching career was spent working with high school students. My Web page is: www.DangerousGrains.com

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