What to Know About Diet After Gallbladder Removal

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 16, 2023
3 min read

‌Gallbladder removal surgery is a common procedure that is considered to be very safe. Still, it is not without risks and side effects. Following your procedure, you must rest and eat a healthy diet. Learn about how your diet may impact your healing time after gallbladder surgery.

‌Gallbladder surgery is most commonly used to address the following:‌

  • Gallstones in your gallbladder (cholelithiasis)
  • Gallstones in your bile duct (choledocholithiasis)
  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Large polyps in your gallbladder ‌
  • Inflammation in your pancreas, or pancreatitis, caused by gallstones

‌Gallbladder surgery is called a cholecystectomy. Your gallbladder sits below your liver in the upper right side of your abdomen. It collects and stores digestive fluids or bile produced by your liver.

‌‌If your gallbladder doesn’t function properly, it may need to be removed. The incisions made to remove your gallbladder are very small. The surgery is generally considered low-risk, and many patients go home the same day after surgery. If a larger incision is made, your healing time may be extended.

‌First, you must understand why a special diet is necessary following gallbladder removal. After surgery, you’re likely to experience diarrhea or frequent stools that are loose and watery. This condition may last from a few weeks to a month as your body adjusts to not having a gallbladder.

‌Usually, your gallbladder releases bile in a controlled manner to aid digestion. If your gallbladder is removed, there is no organ to concentrate or control your bile. Instead of funneling into your gallbladder, bile now travels directly to your intestines. This leads to an effect similar to that of a laxative until your body adjusts ‌‌‌

The amount of fat you eat also contributes to the condition. If you eat a small amount of fat, it is easier to digest. Eating larger amounts of fat may lead to more diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

‌There is no specific diet outlined for people undergoing gallbladder removal surgery. But these helpful guidelines may decrease your episodes of diarrhea and promote healing.

‌‌Start with liquids. If eating troubles your digestive tract, first start with clear liquids like water, drinks containing electrolytes, and broth or soup. When you feel ready, you can introduce other foods to your meals following surgery.

Cut back on fat. Once you recover, you may be able to enjoy your favorite high-fat foods again, but not right after surgery. For best results avoid greasy foods and fatty sauces. You may need to do this until your diarrhea subsides. 

‌‌Do your research in advance and look for low-fat and fat-free foods you can enjoy. Check labels and be sure to follow serving sizes so you don’t overeat.

Increase your fiber consumption. One of the best ways to decrease diarrhea symptoms is to provide bulk to your stool. Don’t add too much fiber at once or it may worsen your cramping and gas. Slowly include both soluble and insoluble fiber to help normalize your bowel movements.

Eat smaller meals. When you eat less at a time, you give your body a chance to digest food and nutrients without being overloaded. Plan to eat several smaller meals with snacks in between. This helps provide a better food-to-bile ratio throughout your day.

‌Healthy foods to eat after gallbladder removal include the following: ‌

  • Lean protein like poultry, fish, and fat-free dairy
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains‌

‌These are some unhealthy foods to avoid after gallbladder surgery:‌

  • Caffeine
  • High-fat dairy products
  • Sweets that are processed or contain refined sugar‌
  • ‌Alcohol

‌If your diarrhea doesn’t improve or worsens despite diet changes, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may complete another exam to ensure that something else isn’t to blame. 

They may prescribe anti-diarrhea medication or cholestyramine to reduce the laxative effect of your bile and improve your stools. Keep in mind that even with medication, you should closely monitor your diet.

Keep a food journal. If your symptoms go back and forth between improving and getting worse, track what you’re eating. You may find a pattern between certain foods and whether they cause diarrhea.

‌‌Eliminating foods that trouble your digestive system may help you heal sooner. You can talk to your doctor and learn how to slowly reintroduce these foods into your diet once you recover.

‌Remember to rest following surgery. Even if you can go home the same day, resting is very important. It plays a key role in reducing your healing time.