The gallbladder is an oval-shaped, 4-inch-long organ that’s linked to your liver. Its job is to concentrate bile from your liver and release that bile into your small intestine to help break down food.
When you develop painful gallstones or your gallbladder gets infected, it may have to be removed — a procedure called a cholecystectomy.
When you have your gallbladder, bile is able to effortlessly flow into your small intestine and break down whatever you consume. You can certainly live without a gallbladder, but you have to make a few dietary changes in order to avoid discomfort after the procedure.
What to do after gallbladder surgery
So you arrive home after having your gallbladder removed and wonder what’s next. What should you eat and what should you stay well away from? Here are five tips to help you avoid discomfort after your surgery:
Limit your diet right after surgery
Within the first few days after surgery, limit your diet to clear liquids, gelatin, and broth.
Add solid foods gradually
After the initial recovery stage, gradually add solid foods back to your diet, but limit it to small meals of non-spicy, low-fat items. Aim for foods that give you a maximum of 3 grams of fat in a single serving.
Keep a journal of your diet
This can help you identify which foods have an adverse effect on you. Keep snacks and meals plain and simple during the first three to four weeks after surgery so you can figure out which foods cause discomfort.
Fiber is important
After surgery, you can start to re-introduce fibrous foods to your diet, but take things slow. If you attempt to include too much fiber, such as cruciferous vegetables, nuts, cereals, and legumes, you may experience cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
Avoid high-fat and fried foods
Around 10% of people who have had their gallbladder taken out report ongoing digestive problems. The most common side effect, though, is frequent bowel movements. As you have smaller meals, choose low-fat options, too. Stay away from fried foods, gas-causing foods, and high-fat foods.
Extra tips for extra comfort
Making a few adjustments to your diet after gallbladder removal surgery can go a long way toward a smoother, faster recovery. Here are some extra tips to help you avoid discomfort after gallbladder removal surgery:
- Substitute basic ingredients — for instance, an egg substitute made with water and flax seeds, or applesauce as a butter substitute when baking
- Consider a vegetarian diet because dairy and meat are harder to digest when you don’t have a gallbladder
- Keep fit — exercise keeps you at a healthy weight and aids digestion
It’s going to be OK
Having your gallbladder removed isn’t as daunting as it may sound. But you should aim to make the recommended lifestyle changes if you want to avoid problems with digestion during your recovery.
The good news is that you only need to follow some of the dietary restrictions for a few weeks or months after your surgery. But if you want to improve your overall health and aid digestion in the long-run, consider sticking with your new diet.
The changes we’ve recommended above, like including low-fat variants and adding fiber to your diet will help you immensely and reduce your risk of digestive issues.
What to do if you experience gallbladder problems
As you age, your gallstones, which are hard deposits of digestive fluid in your gallbladder, become more of a problem. Surgeons remove hundreds of thousands of gallbladders every year.
If you are experiencing pain and discomfort associated with gallstones, it’s time to book an appointment with David L. Chengelis, MD, at Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, PC.