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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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    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.

    This is what scares me. My doctor says I need mine out because it is completely full of stones. Completely. And I can't eat anything comfortably. I've been gluten-free for 14 years, and x-contam free (i.e. it's been banned from my house) for 7 years. I just cannot go back to that hell. But what the heck do I do about the stones and the possibility that they get stuck in the ducts?!

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    Had a HIDA scan in 2007, showing 1.7% ejection fraction. Oh my. Had the gall bladder out the same year, developed acute pancreatitis the same year. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011.

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    I started having gallbladder problems in 2007, they got steadily worse until I went wheat-free in March 2012. I went off wheat after doing an 8 month food journal and realizing it was causing extreme fatigue, but then I noticed that my gallbladder suddenly stopped hurting too, yay! I have refused gallbladder surgery over and over through the years because I felt that there was an underlying cause to my problems not related to poor eating and I hoped to find it. I eat a natural whole foods diet with very little meat and have always been very thin no matter what I ate. My mother, grandmother and sister all have gallbladder disease as well and my mother's brother had pediatric celiac disease which he apparently outgrew (is that even possible?). My husband has been told by a doctor he is wheat intolerant, he has occasional gallbladder pain, but he prefers to eat wheat and deal with the consequences. His mother has gallbladder disease as well. That is the genetics my kids face.

     

    This week my EIGHT YEAR OLD son had two gallbladder attacks. I was shocked and horrified. I don't know how to take care of a kid with gallbladder disease and I'm worried about how he's going to deal with the pain if it gets worse. I looked up celiac disease and he does have all the symptoms, but I'm afraid if I tell the doctor I suspect celiac because of gallbladder problems he'll want to do surgery instead of celiac tests. This article was a little reassuring to me that I might be on the right track with my suspicions. Hopefully my doctor will agree.

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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.

    Ok, but what if you already have an overactive gallbladder, one that is operating at 86% and causing pain? I am confirmed celiac, strictly gluten and dairy-free, and very frustrated at my continued pain levels. I've tried paleo, primal, low-fat, etc, to see if I could heal myself, but I just keep having problems with pain in my gallbladder area. (ultrasound and CT of abdomen were clear). I'm also having problems with migraines, joint pain. But what I'm trying to figure out is if I should have my gallbladder out? I've found research that indicates a correlation between celiac disease, high ejection fraction, and gallbladder pain, but my gastroenterologist says my ejection fraction of 86% is good? And he's not aware of any such studies? (He's highly regarded in this city, but there aren't any celiac specialists.) I did find a surgeon who will take it out, but I don't want to do it if I will feel worse... HELP!!!

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    This is what scares me. My doctor says I need mine out because it is completely full of stones. Completely. And I can't eat anything comfortably. I've been gluten-free for 14 years, and x-contam free (i.e. it's been banned from my house) for 7 years. I just cannot go back to that hell. But what the heck do I do about the stones and the possibility that they get stuck in the ducts?!

    Do a liver/gallbladder flush, it works great! (Look it up on the net.)

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    Ok, but what if you already have an overactive gallbladder, one that is operating at 86% and causing pain? I am confirmed celiac, strictly gluten and dairy-free, and very frustrated at my continued pain levels. I've tried paleo, primal, low-fat, etc, to see if I could heal myself, but I just keep having problems with pain in my gallbladder area. (ultrasound and CT of abdomen were clear). I'm also having problems with migraines, joint pain. But what I'm trying to figure out is if I should have my gallbladder out? I've found research that indicates a correlation between celiac disease, high ejection fraction, and gallbladder pain, but my gastroenterologist says my ejection fraction of 86% is good? And he's not aware of any such studies? (He's highly regarded in this city, but there aren't any celiac specialists.) I did find a surgeon who will take it out, but I don't want to do it if I will feel worse... HELP!!!

    I also had a high ejection fraction of 84%, and was given the option of having my gall bladder out after being gluten-free for 4 months and still not able to handle any sort of oil or fatty foods in my diet. The surgeon said my gall bladder was definitely diseased, even though ALL of my tests came back normal. Surgeon also told me I would be able to handle gluten again... not going to happen! I have had such a drastic drop in my symptoms since going gluten-free, even though biopsy came back negative for celiac disease (even though visual flattening was confirmed) and my doctor insisted on blood tests, which were also negative for celiac disease (I had already been gluten-free for 2+ months). I will now stay gluten-free for life. I don't need a confirmed diagnosis and I can now add healthy oils back into my diet.

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    I found out am celiac 4 years ago, and am having worsening gallbladder problems this past year, I have 1 stone, and it is functioning below normal. My question is, will I feel better having the gallbladder out? My GI doc says not everyone feels better...so I am not sure what to do. I'd like to find out from other celiacs if they improved after removal or not? I wonder if the percentage of people who do not feel better after removal are celiacs who do not know it and are still eating gluten???

    I had my gall bladder removed at 28. Almost 2 years later, and I am almost positive I have celiac disease. After the surgery, I felt much better. Though my gall bladder was infected and non-functioning. Not a single doctor ever bothered to suggest any cause for my gall bladder removal. Mostly, they told me was to avoid fried and fatty foods. Then again it took me a year+ to be properly diagnosed by the western medical community. I can't wait to be able to afford the test to determine if I have it.

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    I am at a loss - my teenaged son has: (1) GERD, (2) celiac disease (positive blood test), and (3) a hiatal hernia. He has been gluten-free for over a month. CT scans, endscopy biopsies, and HIDA scan (showing 50% gallbladder ejection fraction) have all been normal. He takes Levsin, Ativan and Dexilant (generic equivalents) daily.

     

    Doctor has not been able to resolve his constant intense stomach pain, nausea, feelings of loose bowels, headaches, vertigo, and hot spells. He has lost over 40 lbs in two years.

     

    Has anyone else been in this situation? What works?

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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.

    John,

    You are so right. I too was a gym junkie, spinning all the time. It seemed like everything went downhill after the removal of the gallbladder. God gave it to you for a good reason; please do your best to keep it! You do need it. You may become quite ill after losing it. Do your reading!!

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    I am at a loss - my teenaged son has: (1) GERD, (2) celiac disease (positive blood test), and (3) a hiatal hernia. He has been gluten-free for over a month. CT scans, endscopy biopsies, and HIDA scan (showing 50% gallbladder ejection fraction) have all been normal. He takes Levsin, Ativan and Dexilant (generic equivalents) daily.

     

    Doctor has not been able to resolve his constant intense stomach pain, nausea, feelings of loose bowels, headaches, vertigo, and hot spells. He has lost over 40 lbs in two years.

     

    Has anyone else been in this situation? What works?

    !yes! Please email me direct ASAP.

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    Had cholecystectomy 7 years ago due to sludge and severe inflammation and infection. Never felt good since. In the last year, have felt so much worse, almost constant irritation/pain in the mid-section and constant, voluminous, very foul-smelling diarrhea and gas. Doctors felt it was PCS and I was given bile salts. They helped sometimes. Could not go anywhere since I needed to be near a bathroom as far away from people as possible. I was exhausted all the time, couldn't sleep, and I was a nervous wreck. Last week, I decided to eliminate grains from my diet. Almost immediately, I felt better. The diarrhea is gone, so is the gas, as well and the pain/irritation. I feel 100% better. I had no idea that celiac could have caused the gallbladder problem in the first place. Now I read that many other things that I have probably are related to celiac disease. I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease. I have the genes that predispose me to it, but I don't see any point getting tested since I will never eat grains again. I wish that the doctors would have made the connection years ago.

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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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