Gallstones and Estrogen: Is There a Connection?

When you had your hysterectomy and oophorectomy, you thought it would remove your troublesome uterus and ovaries. You probably weren’t expecting another organ to act up. Your gallbladder is kicking up a fuss – and you’ve jumped from one problem to another and now you have gallstones.

If you’re a woman over 40, you already have a greater risk for developing gallstones. If you need hormone replacement therapy (HRT), your risks might increase even more. Why?

Causes of Gallstones

There are two causes of gallstones which can be affected by estrogen: too much cholesterol in your bile and your gallbladder not emptying completely.

Too much estrogen, such as from HRT, pregnancy, or birth control pills, can increase cholesterol levels in your bile. Extra estrogen can also prevent your gallbladder from contracting like it should, preventing it from emptying completely.

Your cholesterol levels can also rise during menopause thanks to a decrease in estrogen. That leaves you in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to cholesterol and gallstones.

Other Risk Factors

Other risk factors for gallstones are being overweight, inactive, and eating a high-fat diet. Symptoms of menopause can include weight gain and other symptoms like hot flashes, sleeping problems, and depressionthat leave you less interested in being active.

Whether you’ve entered menopause naturally or from surgical menopause, gallstones may be part of your future. If you’ve had a history of gallbladder or cholesterol issues, it’s extra important to take proactive measures.

Preventing Gallstones

It’s the same as for most health issues: Follow a low fat, healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. You need to avoid crash diets and sudden weight loss, however. If you use HRT, work with your doctor to be sure the dose is right for you. If you already have high cholesterol, ask your doctor if cholesterol lowering drugs are right for you whether or not you use estrogen.

This content was written by staff of by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.  Reprinted with permission: Gallstones and Estrogen: Is There a Connection?

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