Dept. of Social Medicine and Public Health
National University of Singapore, Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 0511.
Koh reports here a case of spontaneous passage of multiple cholesterol gall-stones after self-treatment with olive oil and lemon juice.
It is estimated that gallstones are present in approximately 15% of adult females and 6% of adult males, and its prevalence increases with age. Although it is generally agreed that there is a need for surgical treatment, in patients with cholelithiasis who develop complications, the treatment of 'silent stones' is controversial.
At present, the application of drug treatment of cholelithiasis is relatively expensive and limited, usually for those unfit for surgery, with small radiolucent stones, and without history of complications.
Other methods of treatment of gall stones have also been described. Kurtz and Classen have reported that treatment for common bile duct stones may include endoscopic removal and lithotripsy, and gallstone dissolution by irrigation procedures.
The patient, a 32-year old Indian male, insurance salesman, had a 3-year history of epigastric pain and colicky right hypochondrial pain whenever he took fatty meals. Physical examination was unremarkable and a barium meal study showed no evidence of gastro-oesophageal reflux or hiatus hernia, and no evidence of gastric or duodenal ulcer. However, the plain abdominal X-ray revealed multiple radio-opaque gallstones.
The patient was advised surgery for cholelithiasis, but was not enthusiastic about the idea. He returned the following day with news that he had attempted a self-cure for the gallstones using olive oil and lemon juice. According to him, after fasting from noon, he took one pint of olive oil and lemon juice at 7 p.m. He then went to sleep on his right side. At about 2 - 3 a.m., the following morning, he felt a churning sensation in the abdomen. At 5 a.m. he passed out oily stools which he collected in a strainer. Upon washing the stools, he found numerous smooth stones.
Analysis of two of the stones showed them to be greenish, smooth and soft, measuring 15 x 12 x 5 mm and 10 x 6 x 3 mm, respectively. The stones were found to consist entirely of cholesterol.
P.Airola in his book How to Get Well has described an 'oil cure' for removal of gallstones, using raw natural unrefined vegetable oils of olive, sunflower or walnut, while Roberts has prescribed a specific dosage of 1 pint of olive oil and the juice of 8 to 9 lemons. The patient is required to take 4 tablespoonfuls of olive oil followed by 1 tablespoonful of lemon juice at 15-minute intervals. This is to be started in the evening after fasting from lunch time, and the gallstones are expected to be passed out within 24 to 48 hours.
This form of treatment has been largely promoted by non-physicians, but a doctor from Canada (Kotkas L.J.) has reported that 95% of cases he saw this treatment used on passed out gallstones.
This treatment is non-invasive, and numerous stones measuring up to 15 mm could be passed out. As the olive oil cure could perhaps prove to be a relatively inexpensive alternative to costly conventional drug treatments, it is suggested that controlled and supervised studies could be considered to explore the safety and efficacy of this mode of treatment for gallstones.