When people have their gallbladder surgically removed, they should avoid alcohol immediately after surgery. However, after recovery, a person can drink moderately again.

The term for gallbladder removal surgery is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. It is best to avoid alcohol straight after surgery, but a person can drink moderately in the long term.

This article explores whether people can drink alcohol without a gallbladder.

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Avoiding alcohol immediately after having the gallbladder removed is best, although a person can drink moderately after recovery. While the gallbladder is an organ of the digestive tract, it does not play a role in metabolizing alcohol.

Most of the alcohol people consume digests in the liver. The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase plays a crucial role in eliminating alcohol from the body.

In fact, alcohol may actually help prevent gallstones from developing, according to research from 2019. Alcohol is also broken down in other organs in the body, including the pancreas, brain, and digestive tract.

It is important to remember, however, that excessive alcohol use can result in a variety of chronic illnesses.

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located under the liver, which stores and concentrates the bile that the liver produces. The gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine, which digests fats. Cholecystectomy is one of the most performed operations in the United States.

Learn more about what to eat and avoid after gallbladder removal.

After removal, the way a person’s body processes alcohol may not change. The surgeon may recommend waiting before consuming alcohol since the operation requires intubation and anesthesia. Experts do not have a set of guidelines for when people can start drinking alcohol after gallbladder removal.

Following gallbladder removal, the digestive system needs to reorganize how it functions. Bile, which is produced by the liver, is no longer stored in the gallbladder. Instead, it releases directly into the small intestine. This may affect alcohol digestion while the digestive system stabilizes.

Structural changes to the digestive system, such as gallbladder removal, may cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO occurs when the gut has an excessive number of bacteria. SIBO symptoms include:

Experts suggest that people who drink alcohol excessively may have an increased risk of SIBO. While gallbladder removal may not directly affect alcohol digestion, reducing alcohol consumption after cholecystectomy may be beneficial for some people.

Learn more about SIBO.

Depending on the daily amount consumed, alcohol may be protective against gallbladder diseases such as gallstones. However, the link between consuming alcohol and gallbladder disease is not well recognized.

A 2022 study suggests that light and moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cancer in the bile tracts of certain people. The researchers concluded that people with prediabetes or diabetes had an increased risk of bile tract cancer. This risk was not shown in people with “normal” blood sugar levels.

Learn more about bile tract cancer.


A 2018 review of 24 studies determined that a dose-dependent relationship exists between alcohol consumption and gallstone disease. Drinking alcohol seems to protect against gallstone disease.

The objective of the study was to determine the optimal amount of alcohol people can consume to protect against gallstones. The researchers found that alcohol consumption of less than 28 grams per day links to a lower risk of gallstones.


Alcohol may not specifically cause gallbladder inflammation, or cholecystitis. However, alcohol may cause inflammation in the gut, as large amounts of it can be challenging for the gut to process. Alcohol and the by-products of its digestion can promote an inflammatory response in the intestines.

This response may remain local, but it can also extend to other organs within the gut and systemically across the entire body. Researchers suggest that many alcohol-related disorders originate from inflammation in the gut caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Learn more about inflammation.

Drinking after gallbladder removal requires being aware of the body’s response to alcohol. Keeping track of consumption and noting the body’s response can help people adjust how much alcohol they can tolerate. This tracking also can include noting all details of the types of alcohol and the amount consumed.

This increase in awareness can help people set goals for how much alcohol they can drink. If someone needs to lower their consumption, experts suggest:

  • finding alternatives to alcohol
  • avoiding triggers
  • planning how to manage urges

Immediately after having the gallbladder removed, people should avoid alcohol to let the body recover. Without a gallbladder, however, people can still drink alcohol.