The gallbladder stores and excretes bile and bile acids necessary for digestion of fat. Gallbladder problems include cholecystitis, or the inflammation of the gallbladder, and cholelithiasis, or gallstones. Gallbladder problems may cause severe pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite. Surgical removal of the gallbladder is necessary in some cases. A diet low in fiber and high in cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for gallbladder disease. Following a low-fat diet and avoiding certain foods can help you manage your gallbladder disease, ease symptoms and minimize attacks.
When you experience difficulty with your gallbladder, your body is not able to digest and absorb fat properly. Therefore, you need to follow low-fat diet. According to L. Katherine Mahan and Sylvia Escott-Stump, in "Krause’s Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy," patients with gallbladder disease should restrict their fat consumption to 40 g per day. It is important to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups, but to limit high-fat foods, especially full-fat dairy and meat. Vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits and peppers help break down cholesterol. You may require vitamin C and fat-soluble vitamin supplementation due to malabsorption.
Milk and other dairy products contain vitamin D, calcium and protein. While you need these nutrients, certain foods such as whole milk, buttermilk, cream, butter, sour cream, nondairy creamer, whole-milk cheese, cheese spreads, chocolate milk and ice cream are high in saturated fat. You should avoid these foods; they can contribute to the formation of gallstones or trigger an attack of gallbladder pain. Choose skim or 1 percent milk, yogurt made from skim milk, fat-free cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, skim buttermilk and nonfat sour cream.
To avoid developing gallbladder disease or to prevent gallbladder attacks, limit meats that are rich in saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat is abundant in animal products, especially fried, fatty or heavily marbled meat, beef, spareribs, ham hocks, ground beef, eggs, tuna and salmon canned in oil, sausage, hot dogs, hamburger, duck, goose, gravy and peanut butter. Choose lean meat, cold water fish, tofu and beans to meet your protein needs. Choose prime cuts of lean meats, cold water fish, poultry without skin, lean beef, pork, lamb, tuna packed in water, fat-free luncheon meats, tuna or salmon packed in water, and tofu to meet your protein needs.
Eggs should be eaten in moderation on a gallbladder diet. You should not eat more than three eggs per week. Eggs are rich in calories, fat and cholesterol; however, they are a good source of protein and choline, known to boost brain function. Prepare eggs by scrambling or poaching with very little fat. Try using egg whites and egg substitutes with less fat.
One of the worst cooking methods on a gallbladder diet is frying. Stay away from fried foods that are rich in calories, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. When your body is not able to breakdown cholesterol, it crystallizes and forms gallstones. Avoid foods such as French fries, onion rings, doughnuts, fritters, pastries and even vegetables that are fried. Limit your use of butter when sautéing foods; use margarine instead.
Sweets and Desserts
Commercially processed desserts and sweets are typically rich in refined sugar and can increase your risk of developing gallstones and gallbladder disease. Excess sugar is requires the body to produce more insulin and store it as fat. You should also avoid commercial baked goods, desserts, cakes, pies, ice cream, doughnuts, chocolate, cookies and puddings made with trans fats and whole milk. These foods are high in calories and fat and should be avoided. Choose sherbet and pudding made with skim milk, nonfat frozen yogurt, fruit ice, sorbet, gelatin, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps and graham crackers if you crave something sweet. Avoid adding whipped cream or dessert toppings that may be high in fat.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Gallbladder Disease; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; February 2010
- Jackson Siegelbaum: Low-Fat Diet; Frank W. Jackson,M.D.
- Net Wellness: What Type of Diet Should I Be On If I Have Gall Bladder Problems; July 2010
- “Krause’s Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy”; L. Katherine Mahan, M.S., R.D., CDE and Sylvia Escott-Stump, M.A., R.D., LDN; 2007