Gallbladder removal surgery, or a cholecystectomy, is commonly performed to treat painful gallstones effectively. Gallbladder surgery can be performed laparoscopically (keyhole surgery) or as open surgery. At Mr Achal Khanna’s private practice in Milton Keynes, we perform gallbladder removal laparoscopically so that you can benefit from less invasive surgery and enhanced recovery.
After your gallbladder removal, you will begin your recovery journey. During recovery, you need to follow any aftercare advice provided. The advice can include how to keep your wounds clean, what pain relief medication you can take, and what to eat.
While there isn’t a specific ‘gallbladder removal diet’, there are foods that can help support your health post-surgery and some ‘problem’ foods that may cause you trouble. Learn more about what you should and shouldn’t eat after gallbladder removal surgery in our latest blog post.
Recovery from gallbladder removal
Once your surgery has been completed, you will stay in the hospital for up to three days. Full gallbladder removal recovery can take up to six weeks, but this can depend on different factors such as your overall health, age and how well you follow the aftercare advice.
Post-operative instructions can include:
- How to clean your wounds
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid strenuous activities such as exercising and driving
- Wear loose clothing near the incision site
- Walk short distances to prevent blood clots
- What to eat
Neglecting to follow post-operative instructions can lead to complications such as infections and slowed recovery.
The gallbladder and digestion
Your gallbladder is a small organ connected to your liver. When your liver creates bile, the gallbladder concentrates it to release it into your small intestine. However, once your gallbladder has been removed, bile can freely flow into your small intestine.
Because your gallbladder is no longer there to concentrate the bile, the bile becomes less effective at breaking down food in your digestive system. This can make eating certain foods difficult as your digestion can become slowed, causing symptoms such as wind, bloating and diarrhoea.
Do you have to change your diet after gallbladder removal?
After removing your gallbladder, you will need to adapt your diet for optimal digestion. These changes might not be permanent, but you must keep following an altered diet until your doctor advises you otherwise.
Diet after gallbladder removal
After gallbladder removal surgery, there are some general dietary guidelines that you need to follow. You must ensure you get plenty of nutrition to keep your vitamin and mineral levels up. Eating foods high in calcium, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids can also help keep your digestion moving.
You’ll also need to think about portion sizes more carefully — managing your portions is essential as eating too large an amount of food can cause discomfort. Regularly eating smaller amounts can help keep bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms at bay.
Helpful foods to eat after gallbladder removal
If you have your gallbladder removed, there will be some foods you’ll be able to tolerate better than others after surgery. The good news is that there are plenty of different foods that you can eat after gallbladder removal surgery — and they can all help you during and after your recovery.
Low-fat foods are easier to digest and can help prevent uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. This can include food like:
- Egg whites
- Low-fat dairy or low-fat dairy alternatives
- Peas, beans and lentils
- Brown rice
- Low-fat sauces and dressings
High-fibre foods aid your digestion and bowel movements, but you’ll need to increase your fibre intake slowly over several weeks. Overeating fibre too soon can cause cramping and diarrhoea. Soluble fibre is best as it absorbs water while it digests, making your stools the right consistency and easy to pass.
Foods high in fibre include:
- Wholemeal bread
- Brown pasta and rice
Foods to avoid after gallbladder removal
Some foods tend to cause more problems than others following gallbladder removal.
You should avoid some foods that are less easily digested and cause gastrointestinal symptoms. The main foods you need to avoid are those high in fat, processed and sugary.
High-fat foods are harder to digest and can cause wind, bloating and diarrhoea if eaten after gallbladder removal surgery. High-fat foods that are generally best to avoid include:
- Whole milk
- Full-fat dairy products
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
Spicy foods can also be a problem, because they can irritate your stomach lining and cause discomfort — and caffeine is best avoided too, as it can cause diarrhoea and stomach cramping. When it comes to knowing what foods to avoid, you essentially want not to eat anything that could worsen your digestion.
When to call your doctor about problems after gallbladder removal surgery
After your gallbladder removal surgery, you must monitor any symptoms you experience and seek medical advice when necessary. Infection can occur internally or at your incision site, so call your doctor if you notice any increased pain, swelling or pus around your wound.
Other symptoms that you will need to call your doctor about include:
- Stomach pain
- Yellowing of your eyes and skin (jaundice)
- A high temperature
These symptoms can indicate post-cholecystectomy syndrome, caused by bile leaking back into your stomach or gallstones in your bile ducts.
If you have any symptoms of concern, always call your doctor for advice.
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Having your gallbladder removed can relieve you from the pain of gallstones, but you’ll need to watch your diet. Making sure you eat plenty of fibre and low-fat foods — and avoiding ‘problem’ foods — can fight off any unwanted gastrointestinal discomfort.