Doctors recommend that people undergoing gallbladder removal modify their diet in the weeks following surgery. Changes include avoiding fatty, greasy, or spicy foods and eating lean meat, low fat dairy, and leafy green vegetables.
There is no specific diet for people without a gallbladder. However, avoiding certain foods and prioritizing others can help people recover from gallbladder removal surgery and avoid adverse effects.
In this article, we explain how gallbladder removal affects digestion and list the best types of foods for someone who has had this surgery.
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ up to
After gallbladder removal, a person may be less able to digest fats effectively. Bile flows directly into the small intestine, which may harm the microbiome. This may cause diarrhea.
As a result of the effects that gallbladder removal has on digestion, people may need to change their diet temporarily after surgery.
When a person wakes up from anesthesia after the surgery, they can drink small amounts of liquid. The American College of Surgeons states that if a person does not feel sick, they can begin to eat solid foods.
Anesthesia, decreased activity, and pain medication can cause constipation following surgery. Drinking 8–10 glasses of water daily can help reduce this symptom. A doctor may also prescribe a stool softener to minimize discomfort and straining.
When a person begins to eat solids again, it is a good idea to eat smaller meals more regularly and monitor the effect that certain foods have on their symptoms. Doctors may also recommend taking supplements of fat-soluble vitamins, as these may be more difficult for the body to absorb after surgery.
People who have had gallbladder removal surgery should avoid certain foods, including:
- fatty, greasy, or fried foods
- spicy food
- sweet, sugary foods
- caffeine, which is often in tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks
- alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine, and spirits
- carbonated beverages
Fat is present in a variety of foods, including those below:
Processed foods can contain high amounts of fat or oil, making them more difficult for people without a gallbladder to digest. Examples of high fat processed foods include:
- desserts, such as cakes, cookies, and pastries
- fast food, such as pizza or fries
- processed meats, such as sausages
Some types of nonprocessed meat can also contain a significant amount of fat. Examples include:
- lamb and mutton
- pork, including bacon and ribs
- fatty cuts of beef, such as T-bone and rib-eye steaks
Whole dairy products also contain fat. Following gallbladder removal, a person may need to avoid:
- whole milk
- full-fat yogurt
- full-fat cheese
- ice cream
- creamy sauces and dressings
Including more of certain foods in the diet can be helpful following gallbladder removal. The
People who eat meat can choose low fat cuts to avoid eating too much fat. Some examples of low fat protein sources include:
- chicken or turkey breast
- fish and seafood
- nuts and seeds, but only in small amounts, as they are high in fat
High fiber foods
High fiber foods can help prevent constipation. However, people who no longer have a gallbladder should reintroduce high fiber foods to their diet slowly after surgery. High fiber foods to try include:
- whole grains
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- legumes and beans
- nuts and seeds
- bran cereals and oatmeal
Dairy products are a good source of calcium. If someone has to avoid full-fat dairy after gallbladder removal, they can substitute low fat dairy products, such as skimmed milk or low fat yogurt. People can also get calcium from other foods, such as:
- leafy green vegetables
- calcium-fortified milk alternatives
- canned sardines and salmon
According to a study in
Postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS) is a term that doctors use to describe the gastrointestinal symptoms that people can develop after gallbladder removal. These symptoms include:
- fatty food intolerance
- intermittent stomach pain
The exact number of people developing PCS after gallbladder removal is unclear, but estimates range from
Doctors treat PCS by identifying the cause of the symptoms and then prescribing medication or performing a further procedure.
Some people may experience diarrhea and gas after gallbladder removal. A person’s doctor will explain when to contact them. This may be for symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal swelling, vomiting, or high fever. These symptoms may require immediate medical attention.
Anyone who experiences PCS symptoms should also talk with a doctor. PCS requires an interprofessional approach, which may involve different specialists and consultants investigating the cause and determining the best treatment.
Doctors do not recommend a specific diet for everyone who undergoes gallbladder removal. However, they generally advise that, following surgery, people avoid fatty foods and those that irritate the gut. Switching to low fat products and lean proteins while slowly introducing high fiber foods can help.
Q: I’ve had my gallbladder removed. How long should I stick to a low-fat, high-fiber diet?
Some hospitals recommend avoidance of fatty foods for about 2–4 weeks, but sticking to a low saturated fat diet beyond that time frame may help reduce heart disease risk, and therefore should be discussed with one’s health care team.Adam Bernstein, MD, SCDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.