Liver Sludge

Liver sludge, also known as bile sludge, is a mixture of matter and mucus that forms in bile. Bile is the fluid, colored a yellow-brown, that moves from the liver to the gallbladder where it is stored and concentrated. After meals, the gallbladder contracts, squirting out bile through the common bile duct to help digest the fat found in the food.

Liver sludge can vary, but it tends to be made up of cholesterol crystals and calcium salts – similar to gallstones. In fact, liver sludge is sometimes referred to as microscopic gallstones, although it is not yet clear at what size the particles in the liver sludge should be referred to as gallstones.

What are the Symptoms of Liver Sludge?

Liver sludge quite often does not cause any symptoms whatsoever – or it may only cause symptoms occasionally. When it does cause symptoms, the most common problem is nausea which can come with vomiting, especially after the individual has eaten a particularly large or fatty meal. Pain in the abdomen is also common, especially after eating.

Liver sludge can also develop into gallstones if it is not treated or if it is particularly severe. The symptoms of liver sludge and full-blown gallstones can mimic each other, but the only way for either problem to be diagnosed is through examination by a doctor.

Can Liver Sludge Cause Other Problems?

Liver sludge, if gone untreated, can lead to other complications aside from gallstones. Some of these complications include pain from the obstruction of the bile ducts, known as biliary colic, inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, and inflammation of the gallbladder, known as cholecystitis.

How is Liver Sludge Diagnosed?

Liver sludge is diagnosed with a simple ultrasound of the abdomen, whereby the technician rubs a gel over your stomach and then uses an ultrasound scanner to see what the contents of your liver and gallbladder are. Liver sludge can also be diagnosed through an ultrasonography, done through an endoscope, and through examining the contents of the bile underneath a microscope.

How is Liver Sludge Treated?

If the liver sludge develops into gallstones or other complications, the gallbladder can be removed. However, it must be determined that liver sludge is the cause of any symptoms before the gallbladder is removed. This surgery is usually not recommended unless your symptoms are particularly painful and severe, as it requires general anaesthetic and can take a fairly long time to get over.

Liver sludge can be treated by doing something called a liver flush, which is a cleanse made up of various ingredients that you drink. The cleanse encourages the body to flush out all of the toxins causing your symptoms, getting rid of the sludge and the particles in the sludge by excreting them through your urine. These cleanses tend to be made up of ingredients such as Epsom salts, grapefruit, walnut tincture, olive oil and something to aid sleep. These cleanses are not always recommended by doctors and they can be dangerous if you do them incorrectly, so always speak to your doctor before undertaking any such treatment.

If you have liver sludge but you are experiencing no symptoms, you’ll more than likely be told to employ a watch and wait mentality. That means that if you start developing symptoms or your symptoms get worse, return to your doctor for treatment. If your symptoms stay the same, it is unlikely that the situation will get any worse and you will more than likely not need treatment. Painkillers may be recommended if you’re having pain but no other symptoms, but if the pain is reducing your quality of life, surgery may be considered.