AF Association

Gallbladder pain

Hi Hoping you can help, you've been great supporting me so far.

I'm experiencing very bad gallbladder pain ( awaiting clinic referral ). Have been to a and e several times with this pain, but they always go down the route of suspected heart attack as the pain is a burning pain in chest and under arms.

Quite honestly don't know the difference myself as the pain is so severe, however on each occasion heart attack has been ruled out although I was diagnosed with AF on the 19 of December as I was rushed to a and e with heart rate of 180. Very frightening! I'm convinced that the AF was brought on by the severe pain.

Can you suggest a strong painkiller that I can take until the gallbladder issue can be addressed. Your advice would be grately appreciated

Taking Apixaban and Bisolporol

Thanks Aubrey

32 Replies

Have you done any research on what an inflamed gallbladder or a blocked bile duct feels like, and how either of those might differ from a heart attack? If not, I strongly suggest you become familiar with them so you can tell the difference. You really don't want to have your gallbladder removed on an emergency basis - the laparoscopic method is far less invasive.


Hi A-U-B-Y. It's 35years since I had my gall bladder removed, from what I can remember the pain was back right side but seemed all over. I had no pain before op as I cut out all fats, sausage rolls, fish and chips, also any red meats and tomatoes. Can't suggest any pain killers as such, just prevention which is better, so advice is watch what you eat. Jo


Hi Tenor JK,

Your post is interesting and it is the first reference I've seen between gall bladder and diet. In my early thirties (now some 40 years ago) I took myself off to A & E at 1 am with the most incredible chest pain. I was kept in for 24 hrs for a range of tests and they pronounced an inflamed gall bladder. I suspected heart and A & E did to - but it wasn't.

The afternoon preceding the onset of pain I'd been to a BBQ, usual stuff red meat, lettuce, tomatoes onion and probably other junk that I now cannot recall. Anyway I cut out onion, lettuce and tomatoes, I'm still off them, and I've never had gall bladder issues since.

I was diagnosed with AF in Jan 2010 and after some 4 months I identified the onset of AF with food I'd eaten. so, digestive issues are still very much part of my problems. I am now gluten free, wheat free, oats free and added sugar free. I also play around the edges of the FODMAPS Diet. I now haven't had an AF event since April 2015.

The common denominator is the vagal nerve.


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@carneuny consider food allergies: NIGHTSHADES cause very strong nasty gastrointestinal symptoms as they contain extremely potent alkaloids-- (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, hot peppers, hemp seed, marijuana, regular cigarette tobacco, okra ); gluten allergy; A1 cow milk allergy; yeast, mold, fungus in foods allergy (ex. vinegar, mushrooms etc). The nightshades sent me to an ultra sound of all abdominal organs and almost to a dangerous endoscope, Dr. had asked if there was any food I noticed made me sick and also gave a blood test for liver and kidney enzymes, and for lipase and amylase (which digest starch and carbs)-- I had read that gastritis iinvolves oxidative stress especially involving GSH (glutathione) I completely eliminated nightshades ( as I had been concocting some delicious sauces involving many of them) and had begun adding hemp seed to my protein shake because it has the perfect balanc eof omegas 3,6, asnd 9 and is very healthy unless you are allergic to it.; and took reduced glutathione 3 times a day. All symptoms disappeared and the ultrasound was also negative for anything abnormal. This is not to suggest that you do not check that all is actually okay or run out and buy glutathione. But food allergies are sort of nasty and have the ability to imitate various diseases.


Hi Carneuny, I have had PAF for 20years, first had pill in the pocket for 10 years averaging 8 episodes per year then daily Flecainide for next 8years no episodes at all. Have had 2 episodes In the last 2 years and had cardioversions.Last one was 4months ago. Mine is definately linked to vagal nerve. Triggers are digestive linked with me burping for England also getting out of routine and stress is also a factor.I have cut out alcohol and caffeine, red meats and as I am on Warfarin I also have to watch my diet.

It's really interesting hearing other peoples experiences

Best Wishes Jo.


There is not an easy answer. Paracetamol is fine but nit very strong. NSAIDs are usually given but contraindicated with apixaban. Codeine is stronger but may cause gall bladder spasms. So there is the difficulty.

Diet is certainly good to try and regular paracetamol.

Presumably you have been given something from a and e or your GP?



See my post to TenorJK.

I really do suggest you seriously review your foods that you consume. Make a food diary, and don't take anything for granted. These days if I followed the health mantra of 'eat five or seven fruit and veg a day' I'd be a bathroom cot case.

Fact is that there is a link between the vagal nerve and .............. well, read this quote ............."the vagal nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves (also called the wandering nerve) and it meanders in a zig zag pattern from the brain and its fibres spread to the tongue, pharynx, vocal cords, lungs, heart, stomach and intestines. As a major nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system it slows the heart rate and stimulates bowel activity."

So, if you follow the vagal nerve through the body (forgetting all the medical terms) it enters deeper into the body just below the ribs where it connects the gall bladder to the liver and then travels up to connect with the heart. Very often there is conflict between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system which produces a number of issues that in AF we are all familiar with, palpitations, PVC's, a fluttery sensation, skipped beats.

So, how does the vagal (or vagus) nerve get into this state. Its a state of GI (gastrointestinal) distress and can be caused by food, hiatal hernia, poor posture, muscular imbalances, excess alcohol, spicy foods, fatigue and anxiety .... all the stuff I've read on here from people who post about AF.

If you google vagal nerve diagrams you will see online some very good schematic diagrams of where the vagal nerve goes in the body.

I'll see if I can get the full report and put it on here.



@carneuny thanks for your excellent description of the vagal nerve. This has been a contributing problem for me, if I eat certain foods, and ther is also a slight hiatal hernia, which is hereditary in my case. Si, when I eat a lot of nightshades and some other foods-- it can cause afib, and seem as though I am having a gastric ulcer, a hear t attack and other things. A food journal and some informaiotn such as you describe are very useful. When I avoid certain foods--nothing is wrong. So even after the ablation, which was successful-- certain foods have to be avoided.


No worries, actually I've just put another post on here following eating some Christmas cake this afternoon.


Thanks for the feedback

I've just been through a night of pain and still have it now but not quite as bad as it was, although it seems to be building up again

I've tried on various forums to find out the difference between the pains but have come across very little that is helpful as they both have the burning pain in chest and arms symptoms

I'm at a loss as to what to next as I'm eating next to nothing, just porridge ,a little bread and some mashed potato. This has been going on for weeks with very little respite and virtually no response from the hospital , even though they're aware of my symptoms .When I went to a and e last week after been taken unwell in the path lab I was monitored all night -- heart ok thank goodness! But I still had the burning pain in my chest! The consultant on duty said that they would try to hurry up my appointment with the gallbladder clinic, didn't feel very reassured and don't hold out much hope of this happening. I was discharged in the morning and sent on my way,despite the pain persisting!

Once home I rang the gallbladder consultant's secretary only to be told that he had a 9 month waiting list. l felt very disheartened and upset at this news and decided to see if he did any private work, but it seems that he doesn't . I then made an appointment with a gastroenterologist whom I had seen 5 years ago . I see him this Friday 13th, but wonder if I can last that long!

I wonder if this latest bout of pain has brought on an AF episode as I have felt fluttering in my chest something I have not had before,feeling very anxious but trying to remain calm.

I feel at the end of my tether, could you please tell me again the symptoms of AF as at the momemt my brain feels like mush and I can't seem to make sense of anything!

I used to think that I was a clear thinking lady but this has floored me. Feeling very afraid of what will happen next

Thank you in advance


If it is diet related then I would be avoiding fatty, starchy foods, which is what mashed potatoes, bread & porridge are.

I would suggest you look at Carnuey's suggestions and certainly avoid the known antagonists which are certain types of fats, gluten and sugar.

If digesting foods are difficult then look at soups and smoothies - preferably with high content of green leafy veg.

I am so sorry you are in such pain and do hope you find some relief very soon it is so disabling!

Best wishes CD


@CDreamer White potatoes are another Nightshade.

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I don't know your financial circumstances but would it be possible to see a gastroenterologist privately at least you would be able to get a definite diagnosis. I went privately to get my AF diagnosis because the waiting list was eight months and not knowing was making everything a lot worse.


I had my gallbladder removed 3yrs ago after suffering pain in my upper abdomen. Had it done by keyhole and had no problems since. Certainly high fat foods or spicy will bring it back but this is from my stomach. If the pain is bad from my Warfarin or other med irritating it I take 1x20mg twice a day for maybe 2 weeks and it settles down until the next time. Maybe your GP can advise you further on this treatment. My gallbladder was not too bad but the surgon said the pain would come back if this was not addressed. AT that time I used omeprazol to keep the pain under control as it reduces the acid in the stomach.


Have you been tested for chronic pancreatitis? Perhaps a silly question as you probably have, but didn't want you overlooked on this one, as the pain is appalling.



Sorry to read of your distress. I understand what you say about eating nothing - but - that's almost as bad as eating nothing.

What I was looking for on the vagal nerve is too big but the link is .....................

If it is at all possible for you I'd consult a Nutritionist about your diet. I'd also ditch porridge. Porridge is oats and may not be helping. Can you try a dull and neutral cereal like Rice, also ditch bread, a dull replacement is gluten free Crispbread - I have Schar Gluten Free Crispbread. (from any 'Free From' counter in supermarkets) I start my day with a dish of Rice Krispies and two of the crispbread covered in marmalade, then a coffee. That's it.

But I do advocate rice ..... I'm no chef ..... but I'm sure there are many menus with rice that would provide some nutrition and hopefully will settle your digestive system.

Hope the link is of interest - you could discuss vagal nerve with your gastro guy.



@AUBY Black (not wild) rice is very useful for these situations. It is not an allergic food and has high nutrient value. It is referred to as 'forbiden Rice" or "Longevity Rice" because in the Ming dynasty in china the Emperors would kill anyone who ate it whowas not part of the royal family, as they considered it extremely healthy.


I would suggest getting your GP to refer you for an abdominal ultrasound as any gall bladder stones or sludge will show up. Hope this helps.

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That is the fitst thing my GP sent me for and after they recommended removal


Hi, I have similarly suffered with bouts of gall bladder pain for around 6-7 years albeit the last episode being around a year ago. The pain is almost certainly the worst I have ever experienced and only relieved by a morphine injection which was administered at the hospital. The pain I suffered was in the the upper abdomen radiating though to my back between my shoulder blades (similar to that caused by a heart attack). On my last visit to A&E the young doctor who was looking after me was unsure as to the cause of my pain and after ruling out heart related conditions he was reluctant to administer morphine, resulting in me being left in agony for just short of 10-hours after which the pain subsided just as quickly as it started. As far as the severity of the pain is concerned, one specialist told me Scott of the Antarctic wrote in his diary he thought he was dying of a heart attack which was subsequently proven to be gall bladder pain and that the pain was worse than child birth. Nevertheless, in my case after many tests gall bladder disease and stones were ruled out and diet found to be the cause, particular reference being made with regards to fatty foods and chocolate. I am pleased to say since reducing the intake of trigger foods I have not suffered. The tests I had were straightforward ultrasounds, the first after having nothing to eat for 12-hours and the second within an hour of eating a typical English breakfast, the images of my gall bladder clearly demonstrated it in spasm after the fatty food.

Notwithstanding all of the above, best advice with chest pain is always to have it checked out without delay.

Hope this helped, all the best


Thank you all for your concern and suggestions. Have already had ultra sound test and was told that there were stones present,but after that was put on the gallbladder clinic waiting list.

Seeing gastroenterologist privately on Friday 13th. In the meantime will try the diets that you have recommended.

Thanks John for your advice on gluten free.etc and I was wondering if you would share some more recipies(those which include rice)as I don't have a clue where to start.

Also could you recommend any other gluten and wheat free foods that I might be able to eat.

Any information will be helpful as I'm getting afraid to eat because of the pain, also afraid that this will make my AF worse..

Thanks again to everyone, your support is very much appreciated



I had my gall bladder removed 14 years ago. No trouble since.

Prior to it's removal I was admitted to hospital via A + E , due to pain. The pain I had was in the central stamach area.

Doctors didn't know what was wrong with me as I wasn't seen by a gastroenterologist in A+E or on the ward. After 5 days I was about to be discharged with an appointment for an ultrasound 9 weeks away. I was very worried not knowing what was wrong with me, had 2 children to look after and was self employed. However a very nice nurse told me in confidence that I would get an ultrasound that day and see the right consultant if I refused to be discharged without diagnosis and to insist on the ultrasound as an inpatient. It was scary and difficult doing that but do it I did.

I had the ultrasound the next day and a gastroenterologist came to see me. That's when I was told I had classic gall bladder symptoms! even though 2 GPs, A+E and a couple of other hospital doctors failed to diagnose me.

The gastroenterologist removed my gallbladder 4 weeks later and during those 4 weeks I ate an extremely low fat diet with no further trouble.

If you have stones in your gallbladder (it's them causing the problem) the pain comes from one being stuck in the bile duct.

It was described to me like this:

Think of your stomach as a washing up bowl and the plates needing washing have the remains of your diet on. The fairy liquid bottle is your gall bladder. The plates with food needing more than a drop of fairy liquid to clean them require the bottle to be squeezed to enable more liquid to dispense. If that squeezed bottle had stones in, It is more likely for a stone to be forced Into the nozzle and block it.

Heavy, greasy, harder to digest food or large amounts are likely to need more bile squeezed from the gallbladder to dissolve it and this can cause a stone to temporarily block the bile duct.

Usually these episodes are periodic as the stone will pass through after a while even though the area remains inflamed.

If it is this, Infection and inflammation could aggravate AF especially if it's vagal.

I'm sorry you're suffering as you are as It's a very painful condition and can be dangerous.

Good luck on the 13th.



Hi Aubrey,

First thing is to eat small portions.

I have stayed with white rice, boiled. stay away from red meats. I have tended toward fresh non oily fish and boiled rice. You could try a fish pie - that works for me

The problem is that our digestive systems are all different and one sure thing to start me off is gravy - especially thick gravy. So I have a couple of table spoonfuls of very watery gravy and you can get gluten free gravy only with a meal. Cut out salt. Cut out as much as you can in the way of processed foods. No spicy foods. Cut out sugar, go added sugar free.

I am looking for my notes on foods to eat with a gall bladder condition, may take a while.

Also look at your drinks, tea, coffee, fruit juices, alcohol etc.

Eventually you will learn to read packaging labels.

Nowadays there is such a vast range of gluten free foods available in major supermarkets - Tesco and Sainsburys. Where the problems occur is, as I've said we are all different, our digestive systems behave differently to different foods. Tomatoes and lettuce are lethal for me, my system just cannot process them. Strawberries are great - Raspberries are lethal. I cannot eat baked beans or peas or long green beans - runner beans. Cauliflower and brussels are fine as are other greens, but then the other greens like cabbage, broccoli or spinach can act against warfarin which I am on.

Its a bloody nightmare and its taken me since mid 2010 till April 2015 to get things really sorted.

I also suggest you go to one of those supermarkets (a large Tesco or Sainsburys Superstore would be a good start point and have a look at the 'Free From' counter and some of these supermarkets even have a frozen food 'Free From' area. All that said I would not recommend gluten free bread, its far too dry and you may still find it hard to digest. You've just gotta think in different ways - focus on what slides down the neck and into the gut which you find satisfying and filling, eat small, and which will not produce a bi-product which will offend the gall bladder.

If I think of anything else I'll get on here. Just can't find my references at the moment.


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Thanks so much John for taking the time to help me through this misery . Hubby has just gone out shopping for some gluten free products for me to try.

It's nice to know that there are people who care out there.

Many thanks Aubrey

Also thanks to you Pat


Just been reading your post and i have to say it sounds exactly the same as me....i have just been in A&e all day on nye...with fast heart rate....and i think this pain in my back and ribs trigered it off....will be goin to ask doc about a scan asap.


Yes I agree I think that the severe pain set my AF off, on the 19th December as before that I don't think that three was anything wrong with my heart.

Feel quite annoyed that they haven't diagnosed gallbladder issue earlier as this pain has been ongoing for nearly 7 weeks If Drs had responded sooner then maybe wouldn't have the AF problem now and this extra worry could have been avoided

Don't think my symptoms have been listened to, just shrugs of the shoulders when burning pain in chest and arms mentioned ,

In the beginning pain was put down to reflux, although medications for it did not work

Hoping to get some sense this week when I see gastroenterologist.


i have just read your post and it sounds exactly the same as me...i will be asking gp about a scan asap.


Hi A-U-B-Y. Sorry to hear about your gall bladder problem. Nobody knows what triggers A/f in any one person as we are all different.

The pain you experienced is, I know from experience excruciating and there is nothing one can take to eliminate it. While awaiting your referral try and stay off all fatty food, as it can trigger an episode. Keep a diary which will be useful when you go for your consultation.

Try not to worry about your A/F as you are on the right medication and highly unlikely to have a heart attack from an episode.

Good Luck and hope this reply is helpful.


Having commented as I have today. This afternoon I had a cuppa tea and a small slice of Christmas cake.

Within an hour of consuming it I developed massive pains under the rib cage, across the body !! I've suspected this cake before but now I know - trouble is what caused it - the icing, the marzipan or the 'fruity' contents of the cake.

This is the location of my earlier gall bladder issues, decades ago.

HOWEVER, when I eat 'forbidden foods' it is also the location of my vagal nerve issues which can trigger me into AF. The symptoms are, massive bloating, burping, intestinal gurgling and diarrhoea. Not all at the same time, each and any is totally random, but the most common, most painful and the one most likely to trigger AF is the massive bloating.

All down to a dysfunctional/inflamed vagal nerve. Nothing to do with a dysfunctional/ wonky heart.

The heart problem is the damage to the left atria caused at the moment of onset of AF. EKG's etc and other tests show nothing else wrong with the heart or associated arteries.

So, as time goes on I regard myself more as having a vagal nerve issue than a heart issue and if I can calm, (and keep it calm) the vagal nerve I will not go into AF again.

May the force be with you.


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Thank you all for your comments and suggestions , it's good to know that you're all out there to listen a share my concerns.

I'm very greatfull Thank you Aubrey


Don't know if this will help but years ago I had such servere gall bladder pain I was put top of the waiting list for removal. Having recently had a hip operation I didn't want another op so tried self hypnosis, imagining my gall badder as being a deep angry red and gradually trying to persuade it to change to a pale pink colour. To my surprise this worked and I have had no problem since. I was studying NLP inmy counselling course at the time and this is akin to one of their methods. At least it can do no harm and might work. I still remember the tremedous pain and feel for you. MaryC


Thank you all for your comments and well researched advice..

Saw my gastroenterologist yesterday and he said that I should have a bowel and body CT scan. This will be in about 2 weeks.

Will the scan affect my AF , as I'm afraid that it will send my heart racing again. I have not been to the Cardiac clinic yet, since my diagnosis on the 19th Dec

Taking Bisolporol 5mg once a day and Apixaban 5mg twice a day.

Should I make a private appointment with the Cardiac consultant.

Your advice would be appreciated

Thanks Aubrey


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