Gallstones are solid deposits that form in your gallbladder, which can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. These stones result from an imbalance in the chemical makeup of bile, causing cholesterol or bilirubin to precipitate out into crystals.
Gallstones often don’t cause any symptoms initially. But when they block bile ducts or gallbladder emptying, they result in sharp abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
In addition to these classic acute attacks, some research indicates gallstones may contribute to more vague, chronic symptoms like fatigue, exhaustion, and dizziness by disrupting digestion and body processes.
Let’s take a closer look at the evidence around whether gallstones could be making you tired and dizzy.
How Gallstones May Cause Fatigue?
There are a few mechanisms by which gallstones might plausibly contribute to increased fatigue:
➜ Impaired fat digestion – Bile deficiency hampers the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which provide energy.
➜ Impaired detoxification – Toxins accumulate without adequate bile flow, taxing the body.
➜ Inflammation – Gallstones cause local and systemic inflammation that can result in fatigue.
➜ Pain and nausea – Recurrent biliary colic and nausea from stones can make you feel run down.
➜ Poor sleep – Gallbladder attacks waking you at night impair sleep quality and recovery.
➜ Nutrient malabsorption – Vitamin and mineral deficiencies develop over time which drain energy.
So while not definitively proven, there are biologically plausible ways obstructing gallstones could induce fatigue by disrupting your digestion, detoxification, nutrition, and rest.
The Link Between Gallstones And Dizziness
A few potential mechanisms may also explain how gallstones might trigger occasional dizziness:
- Impaired blood sugar regulation – Bile deficiency hampers lipid digestion needed to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Electrolyte imbalances – Ongoing diarrhea or vomiting from gallstones can deplete essential minerals and electrolytes.
- Dehydration – Inadequate fluid intake while sick with gallstone symptoms can cause lightheadedness upon standing.
- Increase in systemic inflammation – Widespread inflammation from gallstones may affect the inner ear and balance regulation.
- Pain triggers vasovagal response – Severe biliary pain can reflexively slow heart rate and cause dizziness.
So in theory gallstones could contribute to transient lightheaded spells or unsteadiness through their impacts on digestion, hydration, inner ear function, or blood pressure regulation. But direct evidence remains limited.
What Does The Research Say?
While anecdotally many people with gallstones do complain of increased fatigue, clinical studies trying to establish a correlation are limited:
- One study of 500 gallstone patients found over half reported chronic fatigue. Fatigue scores decreased after cholecystectomy surgery.
- Another study observed significantly higher rates of fatigue, insomnia, and depression in gallstone patients versus healthy controls.
- Research finds those with gallbladder disease have double the odds of having chronic fatigue syndrome.
So while more controlled trials are needed, initial studies do demonstrate an association between gallstones and fatigue that often improves once the stones are removed.
There is even less data looking specifically at dizziness as a symptom, although this is reported by some patients.
Seeking A Diagnosis
If you are regularly feeling drained of energy or dizzy, talk to your doctor. Describe how long symptoms have gone on, any patterns in relation to meals, and associated issues like abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea.
Your physician can order tests to check for gallstones such as:
➜ Abdominal ultrasound to visualize the gallbladder and any stones
➜ HIDA scan to assess gallbladder emptying function
➜ Complete blood count to check for signs like anemia from bleeding or infection
➜ Comprehensive metabolic panel to look for electrolyte imbalances
Getting a definitive diagnosis is important before proceeding with any treatment. Make sure to rule out other potential causes like thyroid disorders, anemia, depression, chronic infections, and neurological conditions that could also explain fatigue and dizziness.
Treating Gallstones Causing Fatigue and Dizziness
If testing confirms you have significant gallstones, typical treatment options include:
Cholecystectomy surgery – Removal of the gallbladder will cure any symptoms from stones getting stuck. However, it can exacerbate digestive issues for some people.
Lithotripsy – Using sound waves to break up stones inside the gallbladder without surgery. Best for small stones.
Medications – Drugs that help dissolve cholesterol stones or manage pain episodes. Work slowly.
Low-fat diet – Limiting fat intake decreases gallstone formation and helps control symptoms.
Lifestyle adjustments like eating smaller, frequent meals, staying hydrated, reducing refined carbs, getting light exercise, and managing stress levels can also provide symptom relief.
But ultimately surgery is most effective for permanent gallstone removal and resolution of associated fatigue and dizziness complaints.
When To Seek Emergency Care?
While gallstones often cause intermittent issues, seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
➔ High fever with vomiting or shakes
➔ Jaundice – yellowing skin or eyes
➔ Severe constant abdominal pain
➔ Chest pain radiating into the jaw or arms
These signs could indicate acute cholecystitis, septic gallbladder infection, bile duct obstruction, or pancreatitis which can be life-threatening. So do not hesitate to go to urgent care or the ER if symptoms are severe.
While scientific evidence is still limited, there are plausible mechanisms by which gallstones may increase fatigue levels and contribute to occasional dizziness by disrupting normal digestion, detoxification, nutrition, and hydration.
If you are dealing with these nonspecific but bothersome symptoms, get evaluated for possible gallstones. Proper diagnosis can provide answers and lead to curative treatment to restore your stamina and stabilize any unsteadiness. With the gallstones resolved either through medications or surgery, your energy and balance can get back on track.