What is Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is an organ shaped like a pear, 10 cm in length, which is attached to the liver and is a part of the digestive system.(1, 2) The function of gallbladder is storing bile which helps in breaking down fats in the digestive tract. Bile consists of bile salts, cholesterol, water and bilirubin.(2)
The surgical procedure done to remove gallbladder is known as cholecystectomy and the cause for this can be development of stones in the gallbladder or infection of the gallbladder or other diseases.(3, 4)
In the absence of gallbladder, the bile freely flows into the small intestine, where it is not able to break down or digest the food as well. A person can live without a gallbladder; however, this is mostly made possible with diet changes.
Dietary Changes After Removing Gallbladder
There is no specific diet for patients having undergone cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal.(5) The majority of the times, the diet after removing gallbladder should not contain oily, high-fat, processed and greasy foods, as they are more difficult to digest. As some months pass after the gallbladder removal, you may not need to make these changes forever. In the months after the cholecystectomy procedure, you can gradually add back some of foods in limited quantities into your diet.
What to EAT After Gallbladder Removal(5)
Eat Veggies and Fruits
Eat lot of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits after gallbladder removal. Some of the nutritious vegetables and fruits to eat and that will aid recovery in after the surgery is: spinach, legumes, tomatoes, kale, avocadoes, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.
Eat High-Fiber Foods.
One should eat foods rich in fiber, as it improves digestion which is needed with the concentrated bile.(7) After the surgery, slowly introduce fibre rich food in your diet, as eating it right away after the surgery in large quantities can cause gas.
Some of the good food options for fiber and other nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and calcium, are: Potatoes with skin, lentils, beans, peas, barley, oats, whole grain pasta, bread, raw seeds, raw nuts, sprouts; vegetables and fruits.
Eat Meat Alternatives or Lean Meats(8)
If you love to eat meat, then after gallbladder removal, concentrate on eating only leaner meats or alternative to meat or plant proteins like: turkey, chicken breast, trout, salmon, herring, white fish like halibut and cod; tofu and legumes.
Eat Fat-Free, Low-Fat Foods and Healthy Fats
After gallbladder removal, it important to avoid cooking meals in heavy oils and use light vegetable oils instead, which have good fats in them. Avoid fatty and greasy foods and instead eat low fat and healthy fat foods.
What to Avoid Eating After Gallbladder Removal
After gallbladder removal, one should not eat sugary, fatty, processed and greasy foods, as these foods cause bloating, painful gas and diarrhea.(6) The reason for this is the free flowing of the bile into the intestine which acts like laxative.
Avoid Fatty Meats
High fat and processed meats cause havoc on the digestive system after the removal of your gallbladder. The types of meat that one should avoid after gallbladder removal are: lamb, lunch meats (salami and bologna); sausage, high-fat cuts of red meat, such as steaks; pork; bacon; and ground or whole beef.
Avoid Processed Foods
It is important to avoid processed foods after gallbladder removal, as they have a lot of additional sugar and fat with very less nutrition and thus are difficult on the digestive system. After removing gallbladder, stay away from foods, such as: white and other processed breads; cake; pie; cookies; sugary cereals; cinnamon rolls and foods that are cooked using hydrogenated or vegetable oils
Avoid Dairy Products
Dairy also is difficult to digest, more so in the absence of gallbladder. Avoid whole milk, butter, full-fat cheese and yogurt; whipped cream, lard, ice cream, sour cream and gravies or sauces cooked using cream. If you need to eat dairy then choose low-fat cheese and fat-free yogurt and dairy alternatives, such as soy and almond milk.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine increases the acid production in the stomach that can cause causes stomach discomfort and pain after having gallbladder removed. It is important to avoid the following caffeinated beverages and foods: tea, coffee, energy drinks, soda, chocolate and snacks containing caffeine.
Some Dietary Tips After Gallbladder Removal
- After the surgery to remove gallbladder, it is important to start with liquid diet first. Solid foods should be started slowly after the surgery to avoid digestive problems.
- It is also important to split your meals and eat small meals and avoid eating food in huge quantities, as it can cause bloating and gas.
- Basic ingredients in the meals can be substituted, such as instead of using butter when baking, applesauce can be used.
- Snack on high-protein, low-fat and nutrient-dense foods in between meals. Avoid eating more than 3 g of fat in a meal.
- Following a vegetarian diet and avoiding dairy and meat is helpful when you don’t have a gallbladder.
- Regular exercise is important and maintaining an ideal weight is good to lead a healthy life and to have good digestion.
Having your gallbladder removed is not as scary or serious as one may think. With some adjustments in the diet for preventing digestive problems, all will be well soon. These dietary adjustments are more important in the few weeks or months after cholecystectomy.
The diet to follow after gallbladder removal includes fiber rich foods and healthy fats, which will also improve the overall health.