What Does a Gallbladder Attack Feel Like? Here Are 9 Symptoms

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Gallbladder attacks often mimic other issues, making it difficult to figure out whether your digestive discomfort comes from GERD, LPR, pregnancy, or another condition. That’s why I’m here to help you interpret your symptoms. However, I can’t legally offer medical advice, so please keep that in mind as you read this article about gallbladder attacks. I’m just sharing my symptoms from gallbladder attacks I’ve experienced.

But before we address gallbladder attack symptoms, let’s briefly discuss the function of your gallbladder:

The gallbladder is a tiny pear-shaped organ located on the right side of your body, behind your liver and just below your rib cage. Its job is to store bile until you eat, then secrete it during the digestion process. Untreated gallstones can lead to severe pain, but many people do not recognize the signs and symptoms of a gallbladder attack.

This is not a full list of gallbladder attack symptoms. You may experience some, all, or none of the symptoms listed below.

Intense Pain

When a gallbladder attack strikes, I find the pain is a cross between kidney stones and labor. For me, the pain starts in my right side and radiates into my abdomen. It eventually migrates to my right shoulder.

Many people who suffer from gallbladder attacks have pain that radiates into the back, chest, or shoulders. Some folks have no abdominal pain and instead feel tension in the upper body, around the shoulder blades. It’s easy to chalk this pain up to a busy day at the office or gym, but if it occurs shortly after eating, it may signal a gallbladder problem. 


You know that feeling after you drink way too much soda or eat a giant meal? That’s how you may feel during a gallbladder attack. Don’t be surprised if you belch loudly like a drunken frat boy who just chugged 7 beers in a row.

Oh, and pretty much anything can cause this belching. You may burp violently after sipping water, or you may wake up in the middle of the night burping. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the dietary culprit.


Image credit: Pixabay


There’s nothing sexy about a gallbladder attack. During an episode of acute pain, you may find yourself literally running to the bathroom every few minutes. This may continue for a day or two after the attack, so plan accordingly.


You may feel nauseous before, during, and after a gallbladder attack. The nausea may be accompanied by vomiting.

I often wake up nauseous, but sometimes it’s from my acid reflux.


Just before an attack, you may notice that you have a dull ache in your forehead or across your eyes. This headache may get worse during the attack and linger for 24 hours or so.

Once you know that your symptoms are related to gallbladder pain, you can train yourself to recognize when an attack is trying to flare up. This gives you a chance to put down the buttered biscuit or whatever else you shouldn’t be eating and start chugging water.


Fatigue or extreme exhaustion are both linked to gallbladder issues. It’s not uncommon to feel extremely lethargic before and after an attack, and your fatigue might last for days – or even weeks – if you constantly suffer from gallbladder attacks. Your body is working hard to become healthy, so rest as much as possible. Vitamin B12 (the methyl, not the cyano version) helps me regain my energy. Click here to see the brand I buy.


If you’re running to the toilet constantly, you may feel pretty thirsty during your gallbladder attack. Drink plenty of water, but drink it slowly. Sip, don’t chug – and give your body a break if symptoms get worse.

Drinks with electrolytes may also help, but they don’t do much for me. Soda makes me sicker than anything else during an attack, so avoid that if possible.

Abdominal Fullness

Picture the way you feel on Thanksgiving after stuffing your face with turkey and dressing all day. That’s how you may feel during a gallbladder attack, even if you haven’t eaten for hours. Sometimes my stomach rumbles loudly, but I feel too full to eat anything. It’s very frustrating.

Symptoms That Worsen at Night

Gallbladder attacks typically occur at night, but some people experience them during the day after a big meal. If your symptoms occur at night, the pain will likely wake you from your sleep and make it difficult to go back to bed. Laying on my right side makes me feel awful, so I try to lay on my back with multiple pillows under my head. This helps…sometimes.

What Should You Do About Suspected Gallbladder Attacks?

If you think you are suffering from gallbladder attacks, talk to your doctor or experiment with holistic remedies. Make sure you tell your doctor about any natural remedies for gallbladder attacks, as some treatments may affect prescription medications you currently take. I recommend seeing a healthcare provider even if you plan to avoid modern medical treatments because sometimes gallbladder attack symptoms mimic other issues. You don’t want to treat suspected gallbladder pain only to discover you have a different medical concern.

Some patients opt to have their gallbladder removed, but you can potentially keep your organ and control your abdominal pain by following an extremely restricted diet. Watch out for fried food, heavy oils, and spicy snacks, and eat small meals several times a day. Everyone has different triggers, so keep a food log to figure out what makes your symptoms worse.  

You can’t always cure a malfunctioning gallbladder, but you can manage your condition by recognizing and addressing common symptoms.

Have you ever experienced a gallbladder attack?

One thought on “What Does a Gallbladder Attack Feel Like? Here Are 9 Symptoms

  • September 16, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    I had my gallbladder out, but if I had it to do all over again, I would not have done so. The pain of surgery is just not worth it, if you can purge with a natural remedy instead.


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