Gallbladder removal surgery, or cholecystectomy, is a standard procedure for gallstones. The removal of the gallbladder may lead to temporary weight loss, which people may manage through a healthful diet and regular exercise.

Gallstones are collections of hardened substances that form within the gallbladder. These stones can cause ongoing episodes of abdominal pain, inflammation, and infection.

They can also cause blockages in the cystic duct or the bile ducts between the liver and small intestine. These blockages can lead to further complications, such as pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas.

The gallbladder stores bile, which is a substance that the liver produces. Bile breaks down fats for digestion. Without the gallbladder, the body cannot store as much bile, and it does not break down as much fat.

A person may experience temporary weight loss following gallbladder removal surgery. However, some research indicates that they may experience weight gain in the long term.

In this article, we explain what causes these weight changes and how to manage them. We also cover other ways in which gallbladder removal can affect health.

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A healthcare professional may recommend that people lose weight before gallbladder removal. This is because slowly losing weight may make it less likely for a person to develop gallstones.

In addition, some doctors may recommend a low fat diet as part of a weight management plan following gallbladder removal, as research suggests that weight gain is a potential complication following gallbladder removal.

Additionally, older research from 2016 suggests that following a very low calorie diet before surgery may help prevent the risk of complications in people with obesity.

Directly following the procedure, side effects of general anesthetic may include nausea and vomiting. While these effects may lead to minor weight loss in the short term, gallbladder removal may actually lead to a higher long-term body mass index (BMI).

Therefore, it is essential to resume a regular, healthful diet after surgery. The safest ways to manage weight include:

  • engaging in regular physical activity
  • eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, lean proteins, and fiber
  • eliminating empty calories from certain sugars and fats, such as those in sweetened beverages and candy

Ideally, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity every week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Living an active lifestyle is essential for weight management after gallbladder removal.

People should consult with a doctor about when it is appropriate to return to or begin an exercise regimen after surgery.

The doctor will likely recommend taking time to rest and recover after surgery. However, once the doctor clears a person to return to exercise, walking, biking, yoga, and swimming may be excellent choices.

A person who wishes to lose a significant amount of weight in the years following a cholecystectomy should speak with their doctor for advice and support.

People should never attempt a fad diet as a rapid solution for weight loss after gallbladder removal. These diets may not work, and they can be dangerous.

A high fat diet may increase the risk of developing gallstones. As a result, medical professionals may advise people to eat low fat foods for several weeks before the surgery. After surgery, most people can slowly return to a regular balanced diet, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS).

A doctor may not prescribe a specific diet, but a bland diet may help a person reduce abdominal or digestive discomfort after surgery.

Healthy eating habits after gallbladder removal based on a bland diet may include:

  • avoiding fried, fatty, and greasy foods
  • avoiding spicy foods
  • excluding foods that cause gas from the diet
  • reducing caffeine intake
  • eating smaller meals
  • eating foods that contain low amounts of fiber

Several factors contribute to weight changes after gallbladder removal.

Surgical side effects

Some side effects of general anesthetic following surgery, such as nausea, or vomiting, can cause weight loss.

Some people may experience prolonged diarrhea after a cholecystectomy. Doctors are not sure why this happens, but it may be the result of excess bile in the digestive system.

As the gallbladder functions as the standard storage space for bile in the body, losing it means that bile enters the digestive tract.

Older research from 2014 suggests that some people may also experience a decreased appetite for several weeks or months following open gallbladder removal surgery.

Pain medication

Certain pain relief medications, like opioids, can cause constipation.

Pain and constipation can also affect the desire to eat, which could reduce a person’s intake of calories and contribute to weight loss.

Surgical recovery

According to older 2010 research, recovering from surgery can cause emotional and physical difficulties. The method of surgery can determine how long it takes for a person to resume their usual diet and introduce physical activity.

Traditional, or open, surgery tends to come with a more difficult and painful recovery.

Some surgeons may recommend that people speak to their doctor if they are still experiencing loss of appetite and weight loss a few weeks after the surgery.

The duration of possible side effects from the surgery may vary. Each individual should speak with their surgeon about how to manage them and when they should contact a healthcare professional.

According to the NHS, common side effects of gallbladder removal include:

A person experiencing these side effects should ask their doctor about how they can manage them.

It can also be helpful to track foods or drinks that aggravate or trigger side effects and exclude them if possible. Keeping a food diary can help a person track and eliminate potentially problematic components of the diet with a doctor’s guidance.

People should report any symptoms that may indicate complications of gallbladder removal surgery to a doctor. These may include:

  • fever
  • worsening or severe abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting that does not go away
  • jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • skin wounds that are warm, red, draining pus, or painful
  • passing pale stools or dark urine

People with gallstones may undergo gallbladder removal. While some people may experience weight loss, others may experience weight gain after gallbladder removal.

In some cases, gallstones do not cause any symptoms. In other cases, they can be very painful and irritate the gallbladder or pancreas.

According to the NHS, a cholecystectomy is the most effective treatment for gallstones and their complications, in most cases.

People who undergo gallbladder removal surgerymay experience changes in their body weight ahead of and following this procedure.

Some people will lose weight initially but may see an increase in their BMI in the long term.

A person may be able manage these weight changes with diet and exercise. A doctor or dietitian can provide individuals with advice on the best diet and activity regimen to meet their needs.