This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Dull pain about the liver, sometimes extending to the shoulder; chills and fever; nausea; in severe cases, attacks of vomiting accompanied by severe pains at the pit of the stomach usually coming on after some slight exertion or jarring of the body; jaundice; concretions found in the bowel discharges.
Gall-stones are concretions or hard masses, which are found after death in the gall-bladder, or pass off during life, and may be found in the discharges from the bowels. They usually consist of cholesterine, an abundant constituent of the bile, but contain more or less of other matters also. Cholesterine is a resinous substance, and when this element predominates, the concretions resemble resin and will bum when held in a flame.
The origin of gall-stones is not well understood. It is probable that they are caused by portions of mucus which become lodged in the biliary passages, and become centers for the accumulation of cholesterine, the coloring-matter of the bile, and various calcareous matters. The causes of gall-stones are chiefly catarrh of the bile-ducts, errors in diet, particularly the excessive use of animal food, the habitual use of alcoholic drinks, and sedentary habits of life. It has been noticed that this disease occurs very frequently in persons kept in close confinement in jails. It has also been observed that cows frequently suffer from gall-stones when kept in stables during the winter. There are also reasons for believing that the use of hard water is a common cause of the affection. The disease is most apt to occur in advanced life, and is more common among females than males.
The diagnosis of gall-stones is not positive unless they are found in the discharges from the bowels. The only method for finding them is to carefully wash the discharges through a sieve with water. This should be done for three or four days after the paroxysm occurs if no concretion is sooner found. We have a number of specimens of gallstones. some of which are remarkably large. In one case, the gallbladder was greatly distended and completely filled with a single bilary concretion.
To relieve the most urgent symptoms, give the patient a hot sitz. vapor, or full bath, also apply hot fomentations over the region of the stomach and liver. To relieve vomiting, small bits of ice may lie swallowed. Copious drinks of hot water containing a little bicarbonate of soda will also give relief. If the suffering is very great, and not readily relieved by other means, an anodyne should be employed. To prevent an occurrence of the attack, all the causes of the disease should be avoided. The patient should take only the most simple foods. Fats should be avoided. For drink, only distilled or soft water should be used, which should be taken in abundance, six or eight glasses being drank each day. The usual measures of treatment recommended for torpid liver should also be employed. The popular notion that certain medicines possess the property of dissolving gallstones is an error which has not the slightest foundation in fact, not being sustained by experience. Medicines taken into the stomach for this purpose would never reach the bile-duct in sufficient quantity to accomplish this, although they might be able to dissolve the concretions when applied to them outside the body. The only remedy of any value whatever is to render the bile unusually fluid by drinking large quantities of water, as has already been recommended. There is evidence to show that by this means gall-stones may be dissolved and the tendency to their formation checked.