Your gallbladder stores bile, a fluid produced by your liver that aids with fat digestion. After eating, bile normally flows from your gallbladder into your intestine in spurts. Bile still flows into your intestine after gallbladder removal but does so at a slow, steady rate. Your diet may be limited for a few days immediately after surgery. But most people without a gallbladder are able to eat a regular diet without restrictions after recovering from surgery. In some cases, people with persistent digestive system symptoms after gallbladder removal may find certain dietary measures helpful.
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Diet After Surgery
Soon after surgery, you will be offered clear liquids such as frozen ice pops, apple juice and broth. Anesthesia and pain medications slow digestion. Starting out with clear liquids, which are easy to digest, allows your system to gradually return to normal function. If you're not experiencing nausea and vomiting, you will be allowed to resume a regular diet -- perhaps even the same day as your surgery. Slowed digestion can also cause constipation, which can lead to hemorrhoids and tension on your surgical incisions due to straining. As your diet is advanced, increasing your fiber intake can prevent constipation by adding softness and bulk to your stools.
Fat and Fiber
A May 2012 research review in "Surgical Science" reports that approximately 9 percent of people experience persistent diarrhea after gallbladder removal. While most people are able to digest fat normally after gallbladder removal, altering your diet may help if you have ongoing diarrhea. A July 2014 article in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" recommends a low-fat diet to help manage diarrhea after surgery. Soluble fiber -- found in foods such as oats, barley, seeds, beans and fruit -- thickens the intestinal contents, which may also help control diarrhea.
Other Diet Tips
After gallbladder removal, the constant trickle of bile into your intestines may flow back into your stomach and cause irritation. If you experience nausea, vomiting, burning, stomach pain or indigestion, eating small, frequent meals may provide relief. Avoiding alcohol, carbonated beverages, chocolate, caffeine, citrus, spicy foods, vinegar, tomato-based foods and mint is also helpful for some people who experience frequent stomach upset after gallbladder removal. It's not necessary to eliminate all of these from your diet -- only those that seem to make your symptoms worse. Adding soluble fiber to your diet can help bind any bile that gets into the stomach, reducing symptoms.
Persistent Symptoms Need Evaluation
The majority of people who have their gallbladder removed return to eating a normal diet without restrictions after healing from the surgery. If you experience persistent digestive system symptoms after gallbladder removal, discuss them with your doctor. Additional testing may be needed to find the cause of your symptoms, which may or may not be related to the surgery.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Adult Health Nursing, 7th Edition; Kim Cooper and Kelly Gosnell
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: What Medical Nutrition Therapy Guideline Is Recommended Post-Cholecystectomy?
- Surgical Science: Post Cholecystectomy Diarrhoea -- A Systematic Review
- Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology, 3rd Edition; Marcia Nelms et al.
- British Journal of Radiology: Post-cholecystectomy Syndrome: Spectrum of Biliary Findings at Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography
- American College of Surgeons: Cholecystectomy
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Gallstones