People usually ask, “ Do I need to change my diet after gallstone surgery?” When you have your gallbladder removed, you must watch your diet carefully for a few days. Recovery from gallbladder removal surgery is far better than experiencing repeated gallbladder attacks.
When there is a problem with the gallbladder such as gallstones, the doctor recommends gallbladder removal surgery also known as cholecystectomy. Most people do not experience digestive problems after the surgery, but if you do, you may need to avoid some food. Depending upon your body, you may need to modify your diet.
Gallbladder and digestion
The gallbladder is a pouch-like organ that sits under the liver. The function of the gallbladder is to store, concentrate and secret the digestive fluid (bile) which is made by the liver. Bile helps in the digestion of fatty food. Imbalance in the bile concentration leads to the formation of gallstones which may be due to high cholesterol food or fatty foods. Gallstones can also be formed if the gallbladder does not empty completely. The size and number of the gallstones may vary.
Gallstones do not go on their own, they need surgery to be treated. In such cases, the gallbladder is removed. The liver will still produce bile for normal digestion when the gallbladder is removed. But instead of getting stored in the gallbladder, bile will directly flow to the small intestine. So when the gallbladder is removed, your body needs some time to adjust to the new reality.
Food to avoid after gallstone surgery
There is no standard diet after gallstones removal surgery. In general, doctors say that it is best to avoid fatty, processed, high cholesterol and sugary food. Eating these foods may not cause serious health problems but it can lead to a lot of pain, bloating or diarrhea. This happens because bile moves freely in the intestine and works as a laxative. Here is a list of foods to avoid.
Processed meat or high-fat meat may act as a serious danger to your digestive system after the gallbladder removal surgery. These meats include
- Whole or ground beef
- High-fat cuts of red meat
Dairy products can be hard to digest without the gallbladder. You must limit or try to avoid consuming:
- Full-fat yogurt
- Full-fat cheese
- Whipped cream
- Sauces and gravies with cream
There is a lot of additional fat and sugar in processed food which makes them last longer but they are hard to digest. Above all, they do not provide any nutrients to the body. So stay away from:
- Sugary cereals
- Processed bread
- Food cooked in hydrogenated oils or vegetable oil
Caffeine and alcohol
There is a lot of acid in caffeine that can cause your stomach to be more acidic and drain faster. This can result in stomach pain and discomfort after gallstones surgery. Try to limit or avoid these caffeinated foods and drinks:
- Energy Drinks
- Energy bars or coffee-flavored desserts
Foods to eat after gallstones surgery
While there are things you cannot eat when you don’t have a gallbladder, there are still plenty of things you can and you must eat for faster recovery and a healthy lifestyle.
- High-fiber foods: Fiber intake will improve digestion in the absence of concentrated bile. Gradually increase fiber consumption because a sudden increase may result in gas. Beans, lentils, potatoes with skin, oats, barley, raw nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouted nuts, grains and seeds.
- Fruits and vegetables with dense nutrients and vitamins: It is important to incorporate as many nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables as possible into your diet. They act as antioxidants and immune boosting foods. Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, citrus fruits, avocados and blackberries.
- Lean meats or meat alternatives: Gallbladder removal surgery may be intimidating if you are a meat lover. The alternative for you is lean meats such as turkey, salmon and trout
- Healthy fats and low fats: Avoid heavy oil food, especially when cooking. Start using avocado, olive or coconut oil. Reduce the intake of oil and use low-fat food such as low-fat milk, ice-cream and yogurt.
Few more tips
Making a few adjustments to your diet after gallstone surgery can make your recovery smoother. You can try them:
- Do not start with solid foods immediately after surgery. Start with more liquid intake and gradually introduce solid foods to prevent any digestive issues.
- Do not skip any meal and eat small meals throughout the day. Do not have large amounts of food at once as it may cause gas, bloating or pain. Try to have five to six small meals a day after every few hours.
- Exercise regularly and keep a healthy weight. It keeps your digestion proper.
- Try to follow a vegetarian food. Food such as meats and dairy products are hard to digest without the gallbladder.
Although it is normal to have some food-related symptoms after surgery, you must contact your doctor in case of any following symptom symptoms:
- Abdominal pain, especially if it worsens
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of bowel movements for more than three days after surgery
- Frequent diarrhea that lasts more than three days right after the surgery