Lifestyle Changes After Gallbladder Removal Surgery

A cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal surgery, can be a necessary treatment to remove troublesome gallstones. Although you can live well and healthily without your gallbladder, you may need to adjust your lifestyle during your recovery and long-term.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the lifestyle changes you might have to make after your gallbladder removal and provide actionable tips and ways you can maintain your health following your recovery.

Living without a gallbladder

Your gallbladder stores bile, the liquid the liver produces to break down fat in the foods we eat. However, gallstones (solid stones usually made of cholesterol) can develop in your gallbladder and cause pain.

The most common treatment for gallstones is gallbladder removal. Many people worry that losing this organ will negatively impact their life. However, this is not the case. If you have gallbladder removal surgery, you can lead a healthy, happy life with a few simple adjustments to support your body’s new way of functioning.

Why make lifestyle changes after a gallbladder removal?

It’s essential to make lifestyle changes after gallbladder removal surgery because your body must get used to processing fat without your gallbladder’s support. By making a few adjustments after surgery, you can help your body manage this transition and reduce side effects, such as bloating and diarrhoea.

Doctors do not entirely understand why patients may experience frequent diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. However, it’s possibly due to how much bile is entering the large intestine. Bile acts like a laxative, so eating low-fat foods that do not require as much bile can minimise this side effect after gallbladder removal.

Let’s consider some of the lifestyle changes you may need to make after your gallbladder removal surgery.  

Take a break

Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery may slightly speed up your recovery but you will still feel tired, so you must take a break to let your body rest.

Giving your body the time to recuperate is an essential part of recovery. While it can be difficult to forgo your usual activities, your recovery may be much faster if you take some time off. Resting will also help your body get used to not having a gallbladder.

Diet after gallbladder removal

In the first few days after surgery, you’ll want to eat foods such as broths that are gentle on your stomach. Add solid food back into your diet slowly to support digestion and prevent unwanted side effects.

Once you are eating solid foods again, you’ll need to avoid certain foods for some time.

Healthy foods to incorporate into your diet include:

  • Low-fat yoghurts, cheese, milk and dairy alternatives
  • Egg whites
  • Lean proteins, such as chicken and white fish

You should limit your intake of fat and high-fibre foods, especially at the beginning of your recovery. It’s best to introduce these slowly. If not, you could develop nausea, bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, as your body will not be used to digesting high amounts of fat without your gallbladder.

Foods and drinks to avoid

After your gallbladder removal, you may experience diarrhoea while your body adjusts. To limit this side effect, you should reduce or temporarily eliminate certain foods and drinks from your diet to enhance your digestion. Your surgeon or a dietitian will let you know what specifically you need to avoid after surgery and beyond.

Typical foods and drinks to avoid include: 

  • High-fat items, such as butter and full-fat yoghurt, cheese and milk
  • Fried foods
  • Processed meats, like luncheon meat and ham
  • Processed, baked goods 
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Coconut oil
  • Salad dressings or sauces high in oil
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Spicy foods

All these foods and drinks can irritate your stomach lining and cause bloating and diarrhoea. You don’t need to avoid these foods forever, but monitoring their intake may benefit your initial recovery and help you long-term.

Monitor your fibre intake

Fibre is an essential part of your diet. However, too much of it too soon after gallbladder removal can cause unpleasant symptoms.

People get two types of fibre from food – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre absorbs water as it moves through your digestive tract. The process can slow down digestion and prevent loose stools, making the side effects of gallbladder removal recovery less likely.

Foods with soluble fibre are: 

  • Black beans
  • Tofu 
  • Chickpeas
  • Oats
  • Beetroot
  • Apples
  • Pears

Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water and will absorb fluid and materials as it is digested, creating softer stools. The body processes insoluble faster than soluble fibre. 

Sources of insoluble fibre are: 

  • Lentils 
  • Berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts
  • Spinach

Both types of fibre are essential for a healthy diet. But after you have your gallbladder removed, you may need to limit insoluble fibre at first. The reason is that you can digest it too quickly, causing diarrhoea and bloating.

Finding the right balance is key and it can take time to gradually eat larger amounts of high-fibre foods.

Eat frequent, small meals

When you introduce solid foods back into your diet, try to eat smaller meals more frequently. Eating smaller portions regularly is easier for your digestive system to handle and reduces the risk of bloating.

Introduce foods slowly

While it can be tempting to eat your favourite foods to feel better after surgery, it’s vital you carefully introduce items back into your diet. Eating too much fibre or fat too soon after surgery can increase your risk of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and bloating. 

Keep a food diary, noting down what you eat and what symptoms it causes. It will provide a clearer picture of what is leading to your discomfort and the foods you can tolerate well.

Exercising for better long-term health

You may not be able to exercise much during your initial recovery. However, keeping physically active can benefit your overall health. Start with gentle exercises like walking, swimming and light jogging. Over time, you can increase your workouts’ intensity. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is a sensible way to support your body after gallbladder removal. It will support your body as it adjusts to living without a gallbladder and it can reduce your risk of conditions like diabetes and heart disease.  

Get in touch today

Gallbladder removal can provide relief from gallstone symptoms but it can take time for your body to adjust. Monitoring the foods you eat, and how often, can make a significant difference to potential side effects after gallbladder removal.

If you have questions about lifestyle changes and how to adapt your diet following gallbladder surgery, please get in touch with Mr Achal Khanna. He has unparalleled expertise in the procedure and can give you personalised advice and lifestyle tips to support your health and digestion.