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Dear Pharmacist: Lemons may ease gallbladder distress, but don't be a sucker

Dear Pharmacist: Lemons may ease gallbladder distress, but don't be a sucker

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Dear Pharmacist: Lemons may ease gallbladder distress, but don't be a sucker


Question: I had an excruciating gallbladder attack last week. On the way home, I stopped for gas because I was on fumes. The cashier asked if I was OK. I explained the situation and she told me to drink some lemon juice. She brought out two slices and I squinched up my nerve and sucked them. By the time I got home, the pain was gone. I had another attack that night and the lemon juice worked again. What is your opinion? - B.Z., Ocala, Fla.

Answer: If sucking on lemons helps relieve your pain that quickly, by all means do it. It beats having to take narcotics for the pain. But bear in mind that your lemon juice trick is only masking the pain and you're better off avoiding the attacks altogether.

Cut out junk food, fried foods, butter, cheeseburgers, milk products and pizza. Consider natural supplements (we'll get to that later). And of course, see your physician if this persists.

So how can you tell if you have gallbladder trouble? If you eat greasy fast-food, then feel the need to stop by the emergency room on the way home due to gastric distress, right-sided pain (usually), cramping and nausea -- you'll know.

Sucking lemons is a simplified version of the traditional European folk remedy that combines lemon juice with olive oil to make a gallbladder "flush." Natural healers may use this remedy to relieve symptoms of gallbladder distress, and some claim it can help you avoid surgery and gallstone removal. Be careful.

Dr. Hulda Clark's controver sial book, "The Cure For All Diseases," includes a recipe for liver and gallbladder cleansing. Her book outlines several days of preparation procedures, additional nutrients and important directions. Her basic recipe is a concoction of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon or grapefruit juice, Epsom salts and water. There are many variations of the gallbladder flush recipe. Side effects include pain, cramping, nausea, vomiting, sweating and sometimes more serious problems.

I do not recommend a flush because, if gallstones are very large, they won't budge, or worse, get stuck in one of the ducts, causing serious -- sometimes fatal -- harm. Some stones are made of sharp material and if you force them out with a flush like this, you'll hurt yourself.

Sucking on lemons is one thing, but performing a gallbladder flush is another. To me, the risks of a flush don't outweigh the benefits. I don't think drugs are the answer, either. Actigall (ursidiol) is a prescribed oral drug that helps some, but its side effects mimic gallbladder disease itself, and its success rate is debatable. Surgery is a last resort to chronic attacks.

It's best to avoid gallbladder disease altogether by choosing healthy foods. But if you already have stones, consider taking some phosphatidyl choline (to emulsify fats), milk thistle, vitamin C, taurine, omega 3 fatty acids and healthy probiotics. Also, castor oil packs can be applied to relieve spasms.

Did you know? Stomach-acid reducers can deplete Vitamin B12 in the body. Low levels of B12 can cause mouth sores, fatigue, pins-and-needle sensations and depression.

This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To contact her, visit


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