Dietary Adjustments for Gallbladder Removal

Dietary Adjustments

It’s important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions about your diet after gallbladder surgery.

If you’re hospitalized, your medical team will help you transition from a liquid to a solid diet almost immediately after your gallbladder surgery.

If you’re recovering at home, you’ll need to introduce foods slowly, and consume mainly clear liquids, like broth and gelatin, at first.

If you feel ready and are not nauseated, you can slowly begin introducing solid foods back into your diet as you start feeling better.

But you may need to avoid certain types of foods for a while.

More than half of people who have recently had gallbladder surgery report problems with digesting fats following their surgery.

This is because your gallbladder is no longer there to control the release of bile into your intestines after eating a meal.

Instead, a small amount of bile is now directly “leaked” from your liver into your small intestine at a slow, constant rate.

It can take a few weeks for your body to get used to this change, and you may experience bloating, diarrhea, and gas after eating fatty foods during this time.

But most people can return to a normal diet within a month after having gallbladder surgery.

Foods to Avoid

While your body adjusts, it’s a good idea to avoid high-fat foods for a few weeks after having gallbladder surgery.

High-fat foods include:

  • Foods that are fried, like French fries and potato chips
  • High-fat meats, such as bacon, bologna, sausage, ground beef, and ribs
  • High-fat dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream, cream, whole milk, and sour cream
  • Pizza
  • Foods made with lard or butter
  • Creamy soups or sauces
  • Meat gravies
  • Chocolate
  • Oils, such as palm and coconut oil
  • Skin of chicken or turkey

High-fiber and gas-producing foods can also cause some people discomfort after gallbladder surgery, so you may want to introduce them slowly back into your diet.

These include:

  • Cereals
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage

Spicy foods may also cause some gastrointestinal symptoms for a short time after gallbladder removal.

I recently had my gallbladder out and I keep having diarrhea. Is there a gallbladder removal diet I should follow?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

After having their gallbladders removed, some people develop frequent loose, watery stools that characterize diarrhea. In most cases, the diarrhea lasts no more than a few weeks to a few months. There isn’t a specific gallbladder removal diet that you should follow, but there are a few things you might consider.

First, it helps to understand why you’re having diarrhea. Diarrhea after gallbladder removal seems to be related to the release of bile directly into the intestines. Normally, the gallbladder collects and concentrates bile, releasing it when you eat to aid the digestion of fat. When the gallbladder is removed, bile is less concentrated and drains more continuously into the intestines, where it can have a laxative effect.

The amount of fat you eat at one time also plays a role. Smaller amounts of fat are easier to digest, while larger amounts can remain undigested and cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.

Although there isn’t a set gallbladder removal diet, the following tips may help minimize problems with diarrhea after you’ve had your gallbladder out:

  • Go easy on the fat.Avoid high-fat foods, fried and greasy foods, and fatty sauces and gravies for at least a week after surgery. Instead, choose fat-free or low-fat foods. Low-fat foods are those with no more than 3 grams of fat a serving. Check labels and follow the serving size listed.
  • Increase the fiber in your diet.This can help normalize bowel movements. Add soluble fiber, such as oats and barley, to your diet. But be sure to increase the amount of fiber slowly, such as over several weeks, because too much fiber at first can make gas and cramping worse.
  • Eat smaller, more-frequent meals.This may ensure a better mix with available bile. A healthy meal should include small amounts of lean protein, such as poultry, fish or fat-free dairy, along with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

You may also try limiting foods that tend to worsen diarrhea, including:

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Greasy foods
  • Very sweet foods

Talk with your doctor if your diarrhea doesn’t diminish or becomes more severe, or if you lose weight and become weak. Your doctor may recommend medicines, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D), which slows down intestinal movement, or medications that decrease the laxative effect of bile, such as cholestyramine (Prevalite). Your doctor may also suggest that you take a multivitamin to compensate for malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins.