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Why are women more likely to develop gallstones?

Women are more likely than men to develop gallstones, hard, pebble-like deposits that can form in the gallbladder, the organ located below your liver and just above your small intestine. Your gallbladder concentrates and stores bile, the yellowish fluid made by your liver. When you eat a meal, your gallbladder contracts, sending bile through a duct into your small intestine where it helps digest fat in the foods you eat.

Gallstones result when certain components of bile precipitate out and form a solid. Bile contains several different ingredients including cholesterol, water, pigments, lecithin, and salts (electrolytes) including calcium. Most gallstones are made from either cholesterol or the pigments in bile.

In women, certain conditions may slow down the contraction of the gallbladder, causing bile to "sit" in one spot for longer than normal, which increases the chance that gallstones will form. Those conditions include pregnancy, use of birth control pills, and the hormonal changes that occur normally in the latter part of the menstrual cycle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.