Whether your gallbladder is acting up or was surgically removed, you'll have to watch what you eat and drink. The best foods to eat with gallstones are those low in fat and sugar. A healthy diet will make your gallbladder happy.
Common Gallbladder Problems
The gallbladder is a small organ that sits underneath the liver. It stores bile, which is a liquid made by your liver to digest fat. When your body needs to use the bile, it's sent down a bile duct that runs into your small intestine.
There are a few common problems you can have with your gallbladder, which can be painful and require medical attention. This organ can become infected, develop painful gallstones or cease to function properly. Being overweight increases your risk for developing gallbladder disease, as does old age. Females are twice as likely to develop gallbladder problems compared to males.
If you have problems with your gallbladder, you might experience pain in the upper right abdomen. The pain can radiate into your upper back. You may also have digestive problems like gas, nausea and diarrhea. While problems like gallstones may go away on their own, see your doctor if any of these symptoms persist.
Foods to Eat With Gallstones
There's no gallbladder diet menu of foods to eat if you're having problems, but you can eliminate those that make your symptoms worse. The first thing you should remove from your diet is fatty food. Since your gallbladder helps break down fat, your body will have a hard time fully digesting it.
Many foods high in saturated fat also contain cholesterol, which is a trigger for gallbladder problems, according to an August 2016 study in Pancreas and Biliary Disease. Fatty meats and dairy products are particularly high in cholesterol and should be avoided.
Skip foods like french fries or potato chips fried in oil. Chances are, they'll have some residual oil left over.
Some high-fat meats like bologna, sausage or beef can upset your stomach and tax your gallbladder. Cut out high-fat dairy foods like cheese, heavy cream and some yogurts. Even some dessert foods like chocolate contain a lot of fat.
Tofu is another low-fat option, particularly if you're vegetarian or vegan. In fact, a July 2016 study published in Preventive Medicine has found that eating vegetable protein, such as tofu, was associated with a lower risk of gallbladder disease. When it comes to dairy products, opt for low-fat milk and cheeses like ricotta, which has only 8 grams of fat per 100 grams (3.5 ounces).
Some fats, however, may help your gallbladder. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, fats from fish and olive oil help your gallbladder contract and empty regularly.
Read more: The Foods to Eat With Gallbladder Problems
Eliminate Sugar to Avoid Gallstones
Sugary foods should be avoided if you don't want gallstones, points out the University of Utah. Try to eat fewer refined carbohydrates from candy and soft drinks. White bread is another source of refined carbs. There are plenty of delicious, healthy foods to eat with gallstones, so you don't have to give up flavor.
Instead of sugary candy and soft drinks, choose fruit for dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fruit contains fiber, which may help your gallbladder when consumed in small doses. Eating fiber may lower your risk of gallbladder problems and reduce the need for surgery. Slowly introduce more fiber into your diet.
Choose whole grains over processed carbohydrates like white bread. Whole-grain bread and whole rice are a good choice. These foods boast complex carbohydrates, fiber and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Replace soda and sports drinks with plain water, and your gallbladder problems should be less severe. Taking away excess sugar will also cut out unnecessary calories from your diet.
Try to stop smoking and avoid rapid weight loss. While being overweight increases your risk for gallstones, losing weight too quickly may also cause problems. When you slim down, your gallbladder has to work harder than normal.
In the worst-case scenario, your gallbladder might need to be removed. Don't worry, though — your surgeon will help you figure out what to eat after surgery.
Is This an Emergency?
- University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: "Gallbladder Issues and Surgery"
- University of Utah: "Your Gallbladder and You"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Gallstones"
- British Heart Foundation: "7 Cheese Facts That Will Surprise You"
- Preventive Medicine: "Vegetable Protein Intake Is Associated With Lower Gallbladder Disease Risk: Findings From the Women's Health Initiative Prospective Cohort"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What to Eat After You Have Your Gallbladder Removed"
- Heart UK: "High Cholesterol Food"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Gallbladder Disease"
- Oneida Healthcare: "Causes of Gallbladder Disease"
- U.S. National Library of Congress: "Gallbladder Disease"
- Pancreas and Biliary Disease: "Gallstone Disease"
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: "Fibre May Reduce the Need for Gallbladder Surgery"