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Don’t Skip Meals

Your gallbladder releases bile each time you eat. When you skip meals, those bile juices build up. This raises the cholesterol levels in your gallbladder. Over time, the waxy fats can harden into gallstones. Some bile acids also may make you more likely to get gallbladder cancer. So carve out time for regular meals.

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photo of whole grain
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Pick Whole Grains

They pack lots of rough fiber, which lowers your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. That protects your heart and helps keep gallstones away. Fiber gets your digestive system moving and flushes bile from your body. Aim to eat more high-fiber foods like whole-grain bread and pasta and brown or wild rice. Other whole grains include oatmeal, popcorn, barley, and bulgur.

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photo of person on scale
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Get to a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese raises your chances of getting gallstones. One study found that obesity makes you three times more likely to get gallstone disease. That’s because extra pounds can make your gallbladder larger and not work as well, and raise your cholesterol levels. That’s especially true if you carry your extra weight around your waist instead of in your hips and thighs.

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Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

You know that fresh produce is good for your body. That includes your gallbladder. For starters, fruits and greens brim with vitamins, including C and E. Both have been shown to help protect against gallstones. Fruit and veggies also are high in water and fiber, which can help you stay full. This can help you drop pounds. For the biggest benefit, eat lots of different produce.

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photo of gallstones
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Cut Back on Fried Foods

Your gallbladder has to work harder to help digest fatty foods. Fried foods are often high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol in your blood. So a lot of greasy fare can lead to gallstones. Plus, it’s high in calories, which can make your scale creep up. One study found that people who eat fried foods more than four times a week were 37% more likely to become overweight or obese than those who had it half as often.

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Snack on Berries, Peppers, and Kiwi

These colorful fruits and veggies pack in vitamin C. Studies show that people who get more vitamin C are less likely to get gallbladder disease and gallstones than those who eat less. Experts think that low levels of the vitamin may up the amount of cholesterol in your bile. Women should get 75 milligrams and men should get 90 milligrams a day. Good choices include strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupes, baked potato, and citrus fruits.

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Avoid Crash Diets

Your friend dropped 10 pounds in a week on super low-calorie plan. Sounds tempting, but crash diets can harm your heart -- and your gallbladder. That’s because losing a lot of weight quickly keeps your gallbladder from emptying right. This can set the stage for gallstones. To slim down safely, aim to shed 1 to 2 pounds a week by eating healthy and exercising.   

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Drink Lots of Water

For many people, drinking eight glasses of H2O a day is a reasonable goal. Not everyone needs that much. But if you get less than your body requires, it can take a toll on your gallbladder. Water helps the organ empty and keeps bile from building up. This protects against gallstones and other problems.Sipping more also can help you slim down. Research shows people who drink more water eat fewer calories and less sugar.

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Swap in Olive Oil

This staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is also good for your gallbladder. It’s a great source of unsaturated fat, which prompts your gallbladder to empty. One study found that men who ate the most unsaturated fat were 18% less likely to have gallbladder disease than those who got the least. When cooking, switch butter with olive oil. Other healthy fat picks include fatty fish like salmon, nuts, and avocados.

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Get Moving

Physical activity burns calories, boosts mood, and protects your gallbladder. Research found that women who exercised the most lowered their odds of having gallbladder disease by 25% compared to their couch potato peers. Aim for 30 minutes of workouts 5 days a week. Just starting out? Talk with your doctor about starting with 5-10 minutes at a time. Every bit helps.

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Sip a Glass of Alcohol

Go ahead, enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner. Studies show that alcohol can lower your chances for gallstones and gallbladder cancer. Alcohol has been shown to raise levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. Some experts think that it may have an effect on the cholesterol in bile. But too much booze can harm the gallbladder, so limit yourself to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks  for men.

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Watch Your Meat, Butter, and Cheese

The fat in meat and dairy foods is saturated. This kind raises your cholesterol level, and in turn makes you more likely to get gallstones. Go with lean meats, like chicken and fish, instead. For beef, buy strip steaks, top round roasts, sirloin tips, and other lean cuts. Cook with vegetable oils instead of butter and lard, and pick low-fat milk, yogurt, and other dairy products.

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Go Nuts

They pack a lot of nutrition into a small size. Nuts are high in fiber and healthy fat. They also have lots of plant sterols, compounds that block your body from absorbing cholesterol. This may help protect against gallstones. One study found that women who ate an ounce of nuts five times a week were 25% less likely to need gallbladder surgery than those who ate them rarely. Snack on them, or sprinkle a few nuts on cereal, salads, and other dishes. Just watch the calories.

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Lean Toward Vegetarian

You don’t need to swear off meat for your gallbladder. But eating more meals with plant-based protein like beans and tofu may cut your odds for gallbladder disease. That’s because they’re high in fiber and low in saturated fat. You might go vegetarian 1 day a week. Delicious meat-free meals include a tofu stir-fry, bean burritos, falafel wrap, and vegetable and cheese pizza.

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Should You Try a Cleanse?

Gallbladder cleanses are a thing. They claim to prevent or treat gallstones if you skip foods for a few days and drink only a mix of olive oil, herbs, and juice. The idea is that this breaks up gallstones so you can pee them out. But research suggests that those stones are actually lumps of oil and juice. The cleanses also can cause side effects, such as stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. So stay away.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/08/2019 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 08, 2019

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Preventative Medicine: “Vegetable Protein Intake is Associated with Lower Gallbladder Disease Risk: Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 08, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.