Your gallbladder is a nonessential organ that stores bile, which is used by the liver to break down fatty foods. A cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gallbladder, is usually performed when gallstones cause inflammation of the gallbladder. Following the surgery, a healthy diet consisting of small, frequent meals is important to prevent complications, pain and diarrhea.
For the first two months following surgery, it's important that you follow a low-fat, high-fiber diet because the bile that used to be stored in your gallbladder now drips continuously into the small intestine. This release of bile is more haphazard and can result in discomfort after a meal, especially one that is high in fat. The gallbladder also concentrates bile, so after you've had a cholecystectomy, the bile is less concentrated when it enters the small intestine. This can have a laxative effect, causing diarrhea. Adding fiber to your diet can help regulate your stools.
Opt for Low-Fat Choices
Over time, your bile ducts may enlarge and store the bile so it doesn't drip into your small intestine. If this occurs, you can resume a normal diet. But if your fat digestion remains impaired, you may continue to have discomfort if you consume too much fat at one meal. If you are following a normal diet, 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, most or all of which should be healthy unsaturated fat, according to the Institute of Medicine. If you are having problems digesting fat following surgery, your doctor can advise you on how much fat you should consume at each meal. Low-fat foods are generally those that contain no more than 3 grams of fat per serving. In all cases, you should avoid saturated fat, which is found in animal products such as poultry skin, meat, egg yolks and full-fat dairy products. You should also avoid trans fats, which are found in fast food and many processed foods. Healthy unsaturated fats are found in avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish, such as salmon, herring and trout. Remember to control your portions, as fat is high in calories and can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Fill Up on Fiber
Diarrhea is common after a cholecystectomy. While it usually improves over time, the risk of diarrhea can stay with some people for life following the surgery. To help the situation, increase the fiber in your diet by eating whole grains, such as oatmeal and brown rice, as well as fruits, vegetables and legumes. You should increase your fiber intake gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upset. If you are dealing with diarrhea, avoid caffeine and spicy foods, which can make it worse.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Opting for small, frequent meals can help prevent diarrhea and pain, especially in the first two months following your cholecystectomy. Having a large amount of food at one sitting increases the chances of malabsorption and diarrhea. Because this issue can remain an ongoing problem, adapt to a plan of smaller meals to help alleviate discomfort.
- NHS Choices: Do I Need to Change My Diet After Gallbladder Surgery?
- Nutrition and Diet Therapy: Self-instructional Approaches; Peggy Stanfield and Y.H. Hui
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Amount and Types of Fat We Eat Affect Health and Risk of Disease: Updated Position of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes - Macronutrients
- Oprah.com: What to Eat After a Gallbladder Removal