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What to Know About Diet After Gallbladder Surgery

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 09, 2021

Your gallbladder is a small organ located under your liver. It stores bile from the liver to help you digest fats.  

If you need to have your gallbladder removed, you will likely have to make changes to your diet after surgery. You'll want to avoid problems such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea as much as possible.

There is no set diet you should follow after having your gallbladder removed, but there are some guidelines that may help avoid issues. 

Quick Tips for Immediately After Your Surgery

For the first few days after your surgery, your diet should be made up of clear liquids, broth, and gelatin.  And while some alcoholic beverages may be clear, you should avoid alcohol for at least two days after your surgery. 

After the first few days, you can start gradually adding solid food back into your diet. You should stick with small meals at first.

Avoid these types of foods when you start adding foods back into your diet: 

Foods to Avoid After You Have Your Gallbladder Removed

You may develop diarrhea after having your gallbladder removed. The reason is that without your gallbladder, bile flows directly into your intestines and acts as a laxative. 

The diarrhea caused by that process usually goes away in a few weeks to a few months. For quickest results, try avoiding the following:‌

High-fat foods. Because high-fat foods are harder to digest, you should avoid them if you're having gas, bloating, or diarrhea after your surgery. In general, fat should make up no more than 30% of your daily calories. Saturated fat should make up no more than 10% of your daily calories. 

Try to stick with foods that contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving. Foods that are high in fat include:

  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Bacon fat
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Veal
  • Poultry skin
  • Hot dogs
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Cream
  • Whole milk
  • Ice cream
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Tropical oils such as palm and coconut
  • Processed baked goods such as cookies, pastries, and cakes

Spicy foods. Foods that contain capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, can irritate your stomach lining. This can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Foods that generally make diarrhea worse. You may get some relief by avoiding caffeine, dairy products, and very sweet foods.  

Foods to Eat After You Have Your Gallbladder Removed

Fluids. Diarrhea can drain your body of vitamins, minerals, and fluids, so it's crucial to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, broth, and sports drinks. But again, avoid alcohol for at least 2 days after your surgery, especially if you're feeling the effects of anesthesia or pain meds.  

Low-fat foods. Low-fat foods will be easier for you to digest and are less likely to cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea. After your surgery, you shouldn't eat more than 30% of your calories from fat, even if it's from low-fat foods. Low-fat options include: 

  • Low-fat, 1%, or fat-free dairy products
  • Fat-free cheeses
  • Egg whites or egg substitutes
  • Veggie burgers
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grains
  • Brown rice
  • Low-fat crackers and bread
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Soups with a vegetable base
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Sauces made with skim milk
  • Light margarine
  • Light mayonnaise 
  • Light salad dressings

High-fiber foods. Foods high in fiber can help normalize your bowel movements. However, you should gradually increase your fiber intake over several weeks, since increasing it too rapidly can make gas and cramping worse. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both should be a part of your diet. 

Soluble fiber absorbs water during digestion. It can increase the bulk of your stool and slow down digestion. Examples of foods high in soluble fiber include: 

  • Black beans
  • Lima beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas
  • Soy burgers
  • Oatmeal
  • Oat bran
  • Apples
  • Okra
  • Beets
  • Pears
  • Prunes

Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water. It absorbs fluid and sticks to other materials. This forms softer, bulkier, and more regular stools. Insoluble fiber helps your body process waste better. Good sources of insoluble fiber include:

  • Wheat bran
  • Wheat germ
  • Oat bran
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Legumes
  • Berries such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Green peas
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts
  • Whole wheat flour

Tracking What You Eat With a Food Journal

Writing down what you eat, how much, and when can help you see how foods affect you after you have your gallbladder removed. Keeping a log of any negative reactions to food can help you avoid foods that cause problems. Most people will be able to return to a regular diet within a month after surgery.   

When to Call Your Doctor

Though diarrhea that persists for several months is common after gallbladder removal, you should still discuss it with your doctor if it persists for more than 3 days after surgery. Additionally, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about them: 

  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain that doesn't go away or gets worse
  • Inability to pass gas for more than three days after surgery
  • Inability to have a bowel movement for more than three days after surgery 
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society: "Low-Fat Foods."

American College of Surgeons: "Cholecystectomy." 

Cleveland Clinic: "Fat: What You Need to Know," "What to Eat After You Have Your Gallbladder Removed," "What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?"

Del Mar Surgical: "The Best Post-Gallbladder Surgery Diet."

Dieticians of Canada: "Food Sources of Soluble Fibre."

Mayo Clinic: "Can you recommend a diet after gallbladder removal?"

StatPearls [Internet]: "Capsaicin."

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