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Suddenly, out of the blue, you are struck with an intense pain in your chest. You think, Oh My God, I must be having a heart attack!

But the pain does not intensify nor diminish. And it lasts for minutes, hours, days, even weeks. Although it may be hard to take a deep breath, it doesn't really feel like a vise on your rib cage. And there is tenderness below your ribcage on the right side of your upper abdomen. What on earth is wrong?

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It might be gallstones! Mine was. Does this mean you have to rush out and get your gallbladder removed?

No, absolutely not. In fact, if you can avoid surgery, you should. Without your gallbladder, your body cannot easily process dietary fat. This means your diet must be adjusted to consume as little fat as possible.

I don't know about you, but I find that thought very unpalatable. Dietary fat serves important functions, not the least of which is facilitating chemical interchanges within the body. It also signals the brain to turn off the hunger signals and it makes your food taste good.

No, if you have intense chest pain that does not resolve into a heart attack (and yes, you can go to the emergency room to find out for sure) then it is NOT difficult to relieve your pain or establish whether or not it is, in fact, gallstones at fault.

Remember the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? I suspect this was the reason for that saying.

Yes, believe it or not, your immediate answer is Apples. The malic acid in apples softens the stones, enabling them to pass through the duct. Your pain is most likely the result of a stone getting stuck in the duct. Eat a few apples and the stone will pop out just as abruptly as it plugged up, causing the pain to just vanish.

What kind of apples?  Malic acid imbues tartness/sourness, so in the apple kingdom, sour green apples are your fruit of choice.  But maybe whole apples are out of the equation?  They can't be had locally, your teeth are too sensitive or missing, your diet is too strict, whatever your reasons, you just can't do them?  That's ok.  Malic acid is actually present in all fruits, to greater or lesser degree.  Sour apples reportedly contain 75% weight per volume, while Nectarines contain up to 63% and Bananas up to 56%. [What foods are high in malic acid?]

Another excellent source is Rhubarb.  But Rhubarb, like apples, nectarines, and bananas, just might not be available to you.  Well, my option number two is applesauce, or some mashed or blenderized composition that includes two or more of the best sources.  While juices may contain malic acid, especially tart or sour ones or those with apple as a component, I think the fruit flesh is a higher source.  Still, options are available.  Apparently they can be obtained from various products and supplements, including apple cider vinegar.  [The sources of Malic Acid]  Don't want to take apple cider vinegar straight up?  Vinegar is a component of Italian salad dressing, as well as other dishes.  Need I say more?

How much should you take if taking supplements?  Sorry, I'm clueless.  If it were me, I would follow the container instructions and just increase it by one pill each time I dose until my pain "pops".  But if some other symptom emerges first, then decisions will have to be rethought.

Proof, of course, is in the toilet bowl. Gallstones large enough to plug the duct will resemble a piece of corn. They also stink. Needless to say, I would recommend when you suffer pain like this, that you NOT consume corn until the situation is completely resolved, so as not to confuse corn with stones.

Once you've determined for yourself that gallstones were, in fact, your culprit, you will want to follow up your apple treatment with a gallbladder purge. I did all of this myself the summer of 2005. And posted the whole episode and solution on my LiveJournal account.

If you are interested in following the flush yourself, and you have questions after reading my account on LiveJournal, please contact me.

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