How Hormonal Changes Affect the Gallbladder

WV Marshall

Women in their 50s – especially postmenopausal women – are susceptible to gallbladder disease. Why? Again, the answer is fluctuating hormones.

When the ratio of progesterone to estrogen changes in women, the gallbladder slows down and doesn’t drain bile as effectively, Menopause Health Matters said. Family history and body weight also can contribute to a more sluggish gallbladder.

The menopause website noted that taking high doses of estrogen as part of hormone replacement therapy creates a higher risk of developing gallstones, but taking low doses of estrogen does not increase the risk. Also, people with diabetes and people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs have a greater likelihood of developing gallbladder disease.

Gallbladder disease symptoms can remain silent for many years, however, once they present they persist and increase in frequency.

Science Daily reported on a 2008 British study that found the risk of gallbladder disease was lower in women who used hormone replacement therapy patches or gels than those who used HRT pills.

Gallbladder disease is common in postmenopausal women and it is known that HRT increases the risk. However, until this study, there hadn’t been an assessment of whether risk differs depending on how HRT is administered – whether by patch, gel or pill. The authors suggested the reason for the varying risk levels could be due to the different ways estrogen is absorbed (orally versus transdermally).

The increased risk of gallbladder disease gradually subsides after HRT ends, the study found. However, even a decade after ending the replacement therapy, the risk remained greater than in women who had never used HRT.