Surgeons remove more than 600,000 gallbladders each year to help eliminate pain associated with it. Often times, surgery is done because of gallstones, which are hard deposits of digestive fluid in the gallbladder. As people age, gallstones become more common.
If you have your gallbladder removed, you’ll likely experience changes in your digestion and will need to carefully watch your diet.
The gallbladder, which is a pear-shaped organ on your right side beneath your liver, isn’t necessary. However, it does help you digest fatty foods. It also stores, concentrates and secretes the bile your liver makes.
After surgery, your liver will still make enough bile, but you might have difficulty processing fatty foods – at least for a while. More than half of patients who have their gallbladder removed have trouble digesting fat.
Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, shares five tips to avoid discomfort after gallbladder removal:
1. Add foods back into your diet gradually
For the first few days after surgery, stick with clear liquids, broths and gelatin. After that, gradually add more solid foods back into your diet.
2. Avoid fried food and stick with smaller portions
Avoid fried foods, high-fat foods, foods with strong odors and gas-causing foods. You should also stick to small, frequent meals.
3. Skip high-fat foods to help avoid discomfort
Eating the wrong food after gallbladder surgery can induce pain, bloating and diarrhea. To side-step this gastrointestinal discomfort, avoid eating high-fat or spicy foods, including:
- French fries and potato chips.
- High-fat meats, such as bologna, sausage and ground beef.
- High-fat dairy, such as cheese, ice cream and whole milk.
- Lard and butter.
- Creamy soups and sauces.
- Meat gravies.
- Oils, such as coconut and palm oil.
- Chicken or turkey skin.
- Spicy foods.
Typically, fat calories should total no more than 30% of your daily intake. That means if you eat about 1,800 calories each day, you should consume no more than 60 grams of fat.
Be sure to read food labels carefully. Look for foods that offer no more than 3 grams of fat per serving.
4. Take it slowly as you reintroduce high-fiber foods
Consider adding these gas-producing foods back into your diet slowly:
- Whole-grain bread.
- Brussels sprouts.
Slowly add small amounts of foods back into your diet. Re-introducing things too quickly can lead to diarrhea, cramping and bloating.
5. Keep a food journal
It’s a good idea to keep a food journal after surgery. This will help you keep track of what you eat and what the impact was. Doing so will help you know what you can and cannot eat comfortably.
Most people can return to a regular diet within a month after surgery. However, talk to your doctor if you experience these symptoms:
- Persistent, worsening or severe abdominal pain.
- Severe nausea or vomiting.
- No bowel movements for more than three days post-surgery.
- Inability to pass gas more than three days post-surgery.
- Diarrhea that lasts more than three days post-surgery.
After surgery, doing these things should help you feel more comfortable. As time goes on, take note of your tolerance for high-fiber foods and fats, especially healthy fats.