After Gallbladder Surgery: Digestion Adjustments
The gallbladder is a small organ that sits under your liver. It stores, concentrates, and helps secrete bile, a liquid made by your liver that helps digest fatty foods.
If you need to have surgery to remove your gallbladder, your liver still makes enough bile for normal digestion. Even so, it is not unusual for people to have some difficulty digesting certain foods in the days and weeks following gallbladder surgery.
After Gallbladder Surgery: Diet Adjustments
It is important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions about your diet after your gallbladder surgery.
If you are hospitalized, your medical team will help you transition from a liquid to a solid diet almost immediately after your gallbladder surgery. If you are recovering at home, you will need to introduce foods slowly, and consume mainly clear liquids, like broth and gelatin, at first. If you feel ready and are not nauseated, you can slowly begin introducing solid foods back into your diet as you start feeling better. But you may need to avoid certain types of foods for a while.
More than half of people who have recently had gallbladder surgery report problems with digesting fats following their surgery. This is because your gallbladder is no longer there to control the release of bile into your intestines after eating a meal. Instead, a small amount of bile is now directly “leaked” from your liver into your small intestine at a slow, constant rate. It can take a few weeks for your body to get used to this change, and you may experience bloating, diarrhea, and gas after eating fatty foods during this time. But most people can return to a normal diet within a month after having gallbladder surgery.
After Gallbladder Surgery: Foods to Avoid
While your body adjusts, it is a good idea to avoid high-fat foods for a few weeks after having gallbladder surgery. High-fat foods include:
- Foods that are fried, like French fries and potato chips
- High-fat meats, such as bacon, bologna, sausage, ground beef, and ribs
- High-fat dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream, cream, whole milk, and sour cream
- Foods made with lard or butter
- Creamy soups or sauces
- Meat gravies
- Oils, such as palm and coconut oil
- Skin of chicken or turkey
High-fiber and gas-producing foods can also cause some people discomfort after gallbladder surgery, so you may want to introduce them slowly back into your diet. These include:
- Whole-grain breads
- Brussels sprouts
Spicy foods may also cause some gastrointestinal symptoms for a short time after gallbladder removal.
If you need help devising a diet plan after your surgery, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian.
After Gallbladder Surgery: When to Call Your Doctor
Although it is common to have some food-related symptoms after surgery, it is important to contact your surgeon if you experience the following symptoms, since they may be symptoms of a serious complication:
- Persistent, worsening, or severe abdominal pain
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Yellowing of your skin, called jaundice
- No bowel movement for more than three days after surgery
- Inability to pass gas for more than three days after surgery
- Frequent diarrhea that lasts for more than three days after surgery
While some digestive symptoms are normal immediately after gallbladder surgery, it is best to call and let your doctor know if you are having any problems with eating or digesting your foods.
Author: By Krisha McCoy | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH