A gallbladder attack can occur if a gallstone gets trapped in the neck of the gallbladder, or gets stuck in a bile duct.  This can inhibit the normal flow of bile and lead to a build up of pressure within the biliary system.  Spasms of the bile ducts can also lead to pain and discomfort.

It is also possible to have a gallbladder attack when no stones can be found in the gallbladder.  These symptoms can be caused by inflammation to the walls of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), or gallbladder sludge or a stone trapped within a bile duct inside the liver.

Symptoms of a gallbladder attack may include the following:

  • Intense pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen (just behind the lowest rib on the right).  The area can be so tender that it takes your breath away if you apply pressure to it.
  • Nausea that may lead to vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Flatulence (intestinal gas)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Belching (burping)
  • A fever
  • Pain may radiate to the right shoulder blade, or between the shoulder blades
  • The pain may be so intense that it becomes impossible to walk unless hunched over
  • The pain may come and go or it may be constant

The symptoms of a gallbladder attack usually last between one and four hours.  It most frequently occurs after a heavy meal, high in fat; typically after dinner.  Therefore most gallbladder attacks occur at night.

Here are some remedies you can easily perform at home to ease your pain and shorten the duration of a gallbladder attack. These remedies should work for a mild to moderate gallbladder attack, but if you are in severe pain, or the attack lasts longer than four hours, please go to a hospital.

Simple hot pack

The purpose of applying heat to your gallbladder is to expand the bile ducts and relieve pressure. This can be very effective for calming down painful spasms of the biliary ducts, and if a small stone is trapped in a bile duct, the application of heat may relieve the blockage.

You will need a warm moist towel and either a hot water bottle or a heated wheat bag. Lie down and place a warm moist towel on the upper part of the right side of your abdomen. Apply a hot water bottle on top of the towel and leave it in place for ten to 15 minutes.

After that time, get up, walk around for a couple of minutes and then lie down again and repeat the procedure. You can repeat this process several times until the gallbladder attack passes.

Castor oil hot pack

A castor oil hot pack is more effective than using a hot water bottle or wheat bag.

Castor oil comes from the seed of the castor bean plant called Ricinus communis. Castor oil is commonly used in a heat pack or compress to treat a variety of painful conditions, including menstrual pain and joint pain.

When it comes to gallbladder attacks, castor oil can relieve pain and spasms of the gallbladder and bile ducts. The castor oil also gets absorbed through your skin and has healing properties. Therefore it is beneficial to apply a castor oil hot pack to your gallbladder and liver during an acute gallbladder attack, but we also suggest you use this remedy regularly, for 30 minutes, three times a week at least two hours after dinner if you have an inflamed gallbladder that regularly causes you discomfort.

A word of warning; castor oil has quite a strong offensive odor and it can leave permanent stains on your clothing, bed sheets, towels, etcetera. So make sure you use old towels and sheets that you don’t mind ruining.

Directions for making a castor oil pack

You will need the following equipment:

  • castor oil (cold pressed is best)
  • plastic cling wrap
  • one old bath towel that is warm and moist
  • a cotton tea towel
  • two old blankets
  • a hot water bottle, half filled with hot, not boiling water

You will need to lie down in bed for half an hour with the hot pack over your gallbladder. To avoid making your bed dirty from castor oil, put an old blanket down on the spot you plan to lie on.

Soak the tea towel in castor oil. Wring the excess oil out of it and fold it in half. Lie on your back. You can place a pillow under your knees if you find that more comfortable.

Place the oil stained tea towel that has been folded in half over your gallbladder area. Place a layer of cling wrap over the tea towel and put the warm, moist towel that has been folded in half over that.

Place the hot water bottle on top and then the other old blanket over it. Lie there, breathing slowly and deeply for 30 minutes.

Once you have finished, remove all the layers and place the towels and blankets together in the washing machine, washing them separately from any other laundry. This entire process is cumbersome and smelly, but it can offer immense pain relief.

If you become excessively hot and uncomfortable during the process, it is fine to remove the hot water bottle for a period of time, until you feel comfortable again.

Beverages that offer relief for gallbladder pain

Flaxseed (linseed) warm drink

This is an old folk remedy used by many European cultures for relieving pain and inflammation. It is excellent for spasm and inflammation of the gallbladder and biliary ducts.

Place 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds into a small pot containing 3 cups of water. Simmer the mixture on a very low heat for 20 minutes and then strain it into a mug, so you have approximately one cup of liquid. Discard the seeds. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then sip it slowly while still warm.

Warm apple cider vinegar drink

This is excellent for relieving nausea. It is important to include apple cider vinegar in your diet regularly if you want to dissolve gallstones, but sipping on diluted apple cider vinegar during a gallbladder attack is a useful first aid remedy.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in one mug of warm water and sip slowly during a gallbladder attack.

Drinking strong peppermint tea, or the juice of half a lemon in a mug of warm water are also effective remedies for a gallbladder attack, or gallbladder discomfort following a meal.

You can alternate these three drinks during a gallbladder attack, or stick to the one that offers you most relief.

Magnesium helps to reduce painful gallbladder spasms, therefore dissolving half a teaspoon of Magnesium Ultra Potent powder in a little warm water should also help reduce pain. You may need to take this every hour.