If you have gallbladder polyps, gallstones or chronic gallbladder inflammation (also known as cholecystitis), your doctor may recommend gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). Your gallbladder is an important part of your digestive system because it helps to store and release the bile your body uses to digest fat. While there are often few to no complications to getting a cholecystectomy, you may need to adjust your post-surgery diet for maximum recovery and long-term digestive comfort.
Gallbladder Surgery Diet: The Best Foods to Eat After a Cholecystectomy
Advancements in medical procedures means that today’s approach to gallbladder surgery is minimally invasive with a relatively fast recovery time.
Years ago, doctors used to make relatively large incisions during the operation. Today, the procedure can be done laparoscopically through one tiny incision, and many patients at Dr. Abtin Khosravi’s Orange County-based robotic general surgery can go home on the same day as their surgery.
However, there may still be an impact on your day-to-day living. For example, gallbladder surgery can temporarily disrupt your sleep. You may also experience digestive discomfort post-surgery, which highlights the importance of changing your diet after a cholecystectomy.
What Are the Digestive Side Effects of a Cholecystectomy?
Gallbladder surgery digestive side effects may include:
- Loose stools
Gallbladder research suggests that these common post-cholecystectomy digestive side effects are due to the continuous release of bile into your intestines.
Your liver produces bile, which your gallbladder would normally store and release in small amounts into your intestines to aid in the digestion of the fats that you eat. Now that your gallbladder has been removed, that bile is secreted continuously into your intestines. This may potentially cause the above digestion problems.
Thankfully, changing your diet is a quick and simple way to significantly improve these symptoms. Focus on the best foods for gallbladder removal surgery, and you should see a reduction in diarrhea, loose stools and nausea.
4 Foods to Eat After Gallbladder Removal
1. Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber can help settle your stomach, and may also help to balance out your bile levels. Top choices include whole-grain foods (e.g. pasta, brown rice, steel-cut oats, etc.), nuts, seeds and legumes.
Don’t go overboard, though. If you weren’t eating a high-fiber diet before your cholecystectomy, suddenly switching to a high-fiber diet now can trigger bloating and gas, which may increase your abdominal discomfort after your surgery. In general, aim for approximately 30 grams of fiber a day (most adults only eat 15 grams of fiber a day).
2. Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Studies have shown that increasing your antioxidant intake can improve your body’s natural healing processes after an injury or wound. A few specific vitamins and minerals can speed your postoperative healing and recovery:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Plant-based whole foods remain the top dietary sources of antioxidants. Top choices after a cholecystectomy include:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and cabbage
- Colorful veggies, such as tomatoes and Swiss chard
- Colorful fruit, like blueberries and strawberries
Eating more fruits and vegetables is also a great way to boost your fiber intake.
3. Lean Meats
Your gallbladder is crucial for proper fat digestion and metabolization. After you’ve had your gallbladder removed, rethink the types of meat (and the specific cuts of meat) that you eat:
- Reduce your intake of meat and think about switching to a plant-based diet
- Consider emphasizing meat alternatives, such as tempeh and tofu
- Eat lean meats if you decide to continue eating animal products, such as chicken breast and white fish
4. Low or No-Fat Dairy Products
The probiotics (i.e. beneficial, healthy bacteria) in fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir can be beneficial after gallbladder surgery because they speed up the body’s healing process and also boost your digestive health.
If you choose to eat fermented dairy products or any other type of dairy, strive for low- or no-fat dairy. Healthy options include:
- Greek yogurt or skyr yogurt
- Skim milk
- Low-fat mayonnaise
Additional Food Tips, Tricks and Dietary Strategies After a Gallbladder Surgery
It’s not just about what you should eat. It’s also about how you eat, and what to avoid.
1. Stick With Liquids Immediately After Gallbladder Surgery
Smoothies, shakes and meal replacement drinks are gentler on your digestive system. Consider sticking with a liquid diet for the first few days immediately following your cholecystectomy.
2. Cut Out High-Fat Foods
Avoid anything that’s high in fat. It’s a sure way to trigger loose stools, diarrhea and other uncomfortable digestion problems after your cholecystectomy. Within the context of gallbladder health, the experts at John Hopkins define “low fat” to be anything that contains 3 grams of fat or less per 100 calories.
Pay special attention to processed food, gravies, sauces and dressings. You might not think they’re high in fat, but such products often contain far more fat (especially saturated fats and trans fats) than you may realize.
3. Eat More Frequently (And Smaller)
If you’re struggling with uncomfortable gas, cramps or stools after your surgery, try eating smaller meals more frequently. For example, instead of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, split that up into six small meals spread evenly throughout your day.
This places less stress on your digestive system.
4. Incorporate Gentle Physical Movement
Talk to your doctor about exercise after your gallbladder surgery. Studies show that a regular exercise routine can boost post-surgery healing and recovery, and exercise may also improve your overall digestion.
Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and put unnecessary stress on your body. Gentle forms of physical movement include:
- Tai chi
- Aquatic aerobics
Do You Have Gallbladder Health Concerns?
If you suffer from gallstones and other gallbladder health concerns, the friendly professional team at Orange County Robotic General Surgery is here for you. With Dr. Khosravi’s advanced techniques, you’ll experience:
- Less pain
- Faster recovery times
- Shorter hospital stays
- Reduced complications