My Post-Gallbladder Surgery Diet
Eating Right After Gallbladder Surgery
Wondering about your diet after gallbladder surgery? I was, too! Many doctors will tell you that you can return to a normal diet after a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery). But for many people, that is simply not the case. So, what can you eat? Are there any foods you should avoid? Keep reading to find out!
I had my gallbladder removed using a procedure called laparoscopic cholecystectomy in October 2010. The fact that it was a laparoscopic surgery meant that the healing process after surgery was faster and easier. However, my doctor told me it was still important to make sure that I ate the right foods after surgery to aid in healing and avoid digestive issues.
A few days after my surgery I started to feel hungry again—and then I started to really wonder what exactly the right foods were. So, I've done a lot of research on the topic and decided to share it here so that others can hopefully benefit from my experience. If you will be having surgery, or know someone who is having this procedure, I hope you find this information useful.
24 Hours After Surgery
For the first 2-3 days after surgery, you probably won't be very hungry. Anesthesia can cause nausea and it is generally recommended that you stay on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours after surgery. After that the anesthesia has cleared out of your system completely.
Note: A clear liquid diet means that you can pretty much eat anything you can see through.
Also, remember that although the outside of your body does not look very traumatized (if you had a laparoscopic surgery) you did just go through a trauma. Your organs are adjusting to the effects of the gas that was used during surgery as well as the fact that an organ was removed.
Clear Liquid Diet
- Fruit juice, without pulp (apple, grape, or cranberry are best)
- Clear soda (avoid caffeine)
- Popsicles (without bits of fruit)
For Two Weeks Post-Surgery
After 24 hours, you can start eating more solid food. Remember to take it slow. Instead of eating three big meals, spread it out to 5 or 6 very small meals over the course of the day. I know from personal experience that I felt full even after eating only a little bit! Listen to your body and if you start feeling full, stop eating!
You can of course continue to eat items from the clear liquid diet. Your nausea may return even a few days after surgery. Sometimes a little broth or tea will help you feel better when you're feeling nauseous.
It would be impossible to list everything that may be tolerated since everyone is different. I have listed some suggestions based on what worked for me and for people I know.
- Soup (Avoid creamy soups. Chicken noodle or similar soups are good.)
- Mashed potatoes (Mix with broth instead of butter.)
- Fruits (Moderate amounts.)
- Bananas (Avoid if you're having problems with constipation.)
- Toast (Use minimal amounts of butter or none at all.)
- Rice (Avoid if you are having problems with constipation.)
- Applesauce (Avoid if you are having problems with constipation.)
- Chicken (Not fried.)
Avoid These Foods
- Generally, you should avoid any foods that gave you pain before surgery.
- It will take a while for your body to learn how to digest fats, so you should stick to a low-fat diet for at least a few weeks after surgery. Reintroduce them very slowly.
- Dairy products and too much fiber can also cause problems.
- The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) should be avoided if you are having problems with constipation. However, if you are having diarrhea you may want to eat more of these foods.
- Fried food
- Dairy products (especially cheese)
- Peanut butter
- Red meat
- Greasy foods
- Raw vegetables
- Alcohol (especially if you're on prescription pain pills)
Bile Salts can help aid in the digestion of fats. They seem to work particularly well for people who have had their gallbladders removed and can not tolerate fatty meals. If you are continue to experience digestion issues and bloating months after your gallbladder removal, you might want to consider adding bile salt supplements to your diet.
Three Weeks and Beyond
- You should be able to begin re-introducing your old favorite foods 3 or 4 weeks after surgery. Remember to take it slow and listen to your body. It could take months to completely adjust to the removal of your gallbladder.
- If your diet was poor before surgery, don't return to the same diet after you have healed from surgery. For the health of your liver, keep fat intake to a minimal level. As with any healthy diet, you want to keep your meals well balanced with fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and dairy.
- Be careful not to eat too much in one sitting. Your body will most likely digest food more slowly and eating too much will cause indigestion. Add new food back into your diet slowly and listen to your body. If something makes you sick return to more bland foods for awhile and try again in a week or so.
For the rest of your life, your liver will be compensating for the loss of your gallbladder. It's important to eat foods that help support the liver. It's also important to eat for the health of your intestinal tract which will help you avoid indigestion. The following food will help support your liver and intestines and should be fairly easy for your body to handle.
- High fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
- Non-fat yogurt
- Flax seed or hemp seed oil (contain Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and can be taken in supplement form)
- Protein (Fish and chicken are best. Avoid beef and pork.)
- Cottage cheese
What Does a Gallbladder Do?
I assume if you're preparing to have your gallbladder out, then you know what it does. Here is a brief description just in case!
The gallbladder is located in your upper right abdomen, sort of behind your liver. It stores the bile that the liver creates. Bile is important for digestion. After you eat your gallbladder releases bile to help break down the food.
Sometimes gallbladders get "sick" and stop working correctly. You may develop cholecystitis, which is a swelling of the gallbladder. Cholecystitis can be caused by gallstones but also by infection. If cholecystitis and gallstones go untreated they can cause the gallbladder to burst, which is a very serious emergency.
The gallbladder is an important organ. No, it's not necessary in order to live, but it does make life easier (unless it goes bad!). After gallbladder removal, the liver has to work harder to help digest foods and filter waste. The liver can no longer rely on the gallbladder to store the bile it produces, which means the bile is continuously dripping out of the liver into your stomach.
When you eat a meal that is high in fat, the liver must work extra hard to try to provide enough bile to help you digest it. For these reasons, it's very important to watch what you eat. Your body will eventually adjust, and you will most likely be able to start eating food that you enjoy again, but this can take months or even years.
Have You Had Your Gallbladder Removed?
"The Gall Bladder Survival Guide"
Written by a man who has survived a sick gallbladder, had it removed and suffered through many post-surgery side effects, this book is a must-have for anyone who has undergone gallbladder removal surgery!
I am 4 years out from my surgery and don't really miss my gallbladder anymore. But I have had a lot of symptoms of malabsorbtion lately, and I was surprised to learn that not having a gallbladder can mean that your body does not absorb nutrients like it should. This book was incredibly helpful to me in figuring out how to eat right for my gallbladder-less body.
Have you had your gallbladder removed? Did you find these tips helpful? What foods worked or didn't work for you after surgery?
I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have commented here and shared their stories and advice! It means so much to me. I'm glad this is a place where people can feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable things. I want you to know I read every comment (even though I can't always respond). Also, when you comment here, you are helping the next person who reads this page. Thank you!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.