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Gallbladder

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Rose was in a big hurry when she came to see me. Gallbladder surgery was looming on the horizon based on a test (HIDA scan) that showed a poorly functioning organ, and she needed answers fast. Her symptoms were pretty mild and non-specific: bloating, a feeling of fullness after eating, and vague abdominal discomfort, but as I read through her initial food journal, I tried to maintain a neutral expression. She had been having a cheese Danish with a latte for breakfast, a turkey and provolone sandwich for lunch, and steak, chicken, or cheese pasta for dinner, with ice cream for dessert. Occasionally she’d have an apple for a snack, but usually it was a chocolate bar, cookies, or frozen yogurt. I’ve seen lots of food journals in my time (and mine certainly isn’t always pristine), but Rose’s was Exhibit A for what not to eat if you have a…

Did you know since laparoscopic technique was introduced into popular practice in the 1990s, the number of cholecystectomies (surgery for gallbladder removal) in the US has almost doubled? Laparoscopic cholecystectomy minimized what was a large incision to a few tiny punctures, reduced infection rates, scar tissue, hospital stay, and surgery time, and sped up healing and recovery. But is it an incredible coincidence that just as the surgery got easier, so many more people developed gallbladder problems—or are there additional reasons to explain why people are losing their gallbladders in record numbers? Technological advances in medicine always generate excitement, and doctors don’t always follow guidelines designed to prevent unnecessary procedures. Plus, some doctors believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and so have a low threshold for whipping out your gallbladder, even when the indication for surgery may be murky. If you aren’t asking lots of…