There's no specific diet recommended after gallbladder surgery, but your physician can provide guidelines based on your situation. You may experience diarrhea after eating high-fat, sugary and spicy foods, but some people will be able to eat their usual pre-surgery diet without any side effects.
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Prior to the procedure, you can ask your doctor for a list of foods to eat after gallbladder removal and some recommendations on what to avoid. When you're recovering, make note of any foods that trigger unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, gas or vomiting so you know what to limit or avoid.
Ask your doctor for a list of foods to eat after gallbladder removal. You may want to steer clear of high-fat foods, anything deep fried, treats high in added sugar and food that is extremely spicy, since these can cause gastrointestinal distress.
What Is Gallbladder Surgery?
Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that contains a digestive fluid called bile. The gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine to help your body break down fat. Gallstones — small deposits of cholesterol or pigment in the gallbladder — are very common, and some people with gallstones experience painful gallbladder attacks. These attacks vary in length but are characterized by an intense, gnawing pain in the abdomen.
Read more: Foods You Can Eat With Gallstones
A cholecystectomy is an operation to remove the gallbladder. This surgery can be performed to treat severe gallstones or polyps in the gallbladder — though, according to a literature review published in the October-December 2015 issue of the Journal of Minimal Access Surgery, some people may experience residual gallstones after a gallbladder removal surgery.
The Mayo Clinic explains that a cholecystectomy can be done via laparoscopic procedure or through one large incision and that both surgeries are done under general anesthesia and take one to two hours.
The recovery time for laparoscopic gallbladder removal is typically faster, and people who undergo this type of procedure can usually go home from the hospital on the same day as the procedure or after one night. If you get an open cholecystectomy, you may need to spend two to three nights in the hospital before returning home.
The clinic estimates that it takes roughly one week to fully recover from a laparoscopic gallbladder removal, and four to six weeks to fully recover from an open cholecystectomy. Your recovery time may vary depending on your age, weight and fitness level.
Read more: Foods to Avoid When You Have Gallstones
Recommended Diet After Gallbladder Surgery
Immediately after your gallbladder is removed, you'll likely be instructed to consume only clear liquids like water, ice chips and broth while you wait for the anesthesia to wear off. Once you're ready to eat again you may want to start with soft foods like gelatin, mashed potatoes, smoothies and soup before gradually working your way back to your normal diet.
Some people may prefer to stick to bland foods right after surgery. The BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce and toast — consists of foods that are unlikely to upset your stomach, providing the fiber you'll need to prevent any constipation caused by painkillers. This can also be helpful if you feel nauseated after receiving anesthesia.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website says it's common to experience a decrease in appetite after having surgery, but recommends eating small, nutritious meals regardless. This can help with your recovery. If you can't manage eating full meals, try small snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables, nut butter and crackers, or look online for nutritious snack ideas.
Your doctor will likely be able to provide you with a list of foods to eat after gallbladder removal, including what to avoid. You may want to stay away from high-fat and high-sugar options, since they can trigger diarrhea in some people after gallbladder removal.
Breakfasts After Gallbladder Surgery
After having your gallbladder removed, you may find that high-fat foods give you gas or diarrhea. If you typically included foods like bacon, butter, full-fat milk and full-fat yogurt in your breakfasts, you may find that changing your breakfast choices helps reduce those symptoms. Some healthy options for breakfasts after gallbladder surgery include:
If you're not a morning person, meal prep is a great way to ensure you stick to eating healthy breakfasts after gallbladder surgery. Search for recipes you can prepare ahead, or make in batches, and then freeze.
Weight Loss After Gallbladder Surgery
Cutting out fatty foods from your diet after gallbladder removal may naturally lead to weight loss. If you're aiming to lose weight, keep track of how many calories you're consuming each day and try to achieve a calorie deficit (meaning you burn more calories than you take in). You can do this by limiting what you eat, upping your exercise, or doing a combination of the two.
According to an April 2015 review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, commercial weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig can help kick-start short-term weight loss.
When you're thinking about your recommended diet after gallbladder surgery, you should also take physical activity into account. According to the UNC School of Medicine, you shouldn't lift anything heavier than 8 to 10 pounds (equivalent to the weight of a gallon of milk) for two weeks after your surgery. Ask your doctor for specific guidelines about heavy lifting after surgery.
Regular movement during your recovery can be helpful for keeping your energy up and promoting circulation. Walk as much as possible after your surgery, but stop if anything hurts.
As you continue to recover, you can slowly increase your activity levels to incorporate balance work and resistance training. Provided the wound from surgery doesn't bother you, you may be able to cycle and complete some light exercise one to two weeks after the operation.
While you might be eager to get back into the gym if you were extremely active prior to surgery, remember that your body is healing and try not to push yourself too hard. It's also important that you get enough calories to help your body heal. Ask your doctor for recommendations on your calorie intake while you're healing and when it's safe to diet and exercise regularly again.
- Mayo Clinic: "Cholecystectomy (Gallbladder Removal)"
- UNC School of Medicine: "Gall Bladder Post-Op"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Gallstones"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "About Your Gallbladder Removal Surgery"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Gallstones"
- We Can! Nutrition Tools and Resources: "Healthy Cooking and Snacking"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "The Impact of a 4-Week Low-FODMAP and mNICE Diet on Nutrient Intake in a Sample of US Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Diarrhea"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Efficacy of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs: An Updated Systematic Review"
- Journal of Minimal Access Surgery: "Residual Gallbladder Stones After Cholecystectomy: A Literature Review"