When it comes to our gallbladder, most people don’t give a thought about its health. I often like to say that our gallbladder is one of the most underrated organs in our body. With its pear shape, this tiny organ does one of the most important jobs: collecting and storing bile, the fluid that helps our body digest fats. Now, the liver and kidneys do almost the exact same job. They are also responsible for bile and toxins. The difference is that even when the gallbladder isn’t working properly, we don’t notice. Most of us are even unaware of the problem. However, when the gallbladder isn’t working properly, gallstones develop.
Today, I will talk a little about the gallbladder, the gallbladder diet, and gallstones.
Symptoms and signs
Before I tell you the symptoms, I must also tell you something else. The majority of people with gallstones never actually develop symptoms. The thing is that once you develop the symptoms, chances are you will have to take the gallbladder out. And in case you were asking, your diet does not directly cause gallbladder problems. However, consuming a healthy gallbladder diet is essential for preventing gallbladder problems.
The symptoms for gallbladder issues are the following:
- Abdominal pain
Now those look like normal symptoms, and all of these symptoms are common for many other diseases. However, when they are frequent, recurrent, and uncomfortable, you will require surgery to remove your gallbladder.
What is the gallbladder?
I said at the beginning that the gallbladder is one of the most underrated organs in our body. The gallbladder is the small organ that is located just under your liver. The main purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile, concentrate bile, and help secrete bile, a liquid that your liver produces and which helps in the digestion of fatty foods.
Now, even if you remove the gallbladder, your liver will produce enough bile for normal digestion. However, people who have removed their gallbladder have trouble digesting certain foods. And this is where the gallbladder diet comes into play.
Are you at risk?
I said that your diet does not directly affect your gallbladder. So you are probably wondering, “Am I at risk of developing gallbladder problems?” The answer is both yes and no. There are certain risk factors that contribute to developing gallbladder problems.
First and foremost, family history is important. If someone in your family had gallbladder issues, you might get them as well. Gender is also important. Women are twice as likely as men to develop gallstones.
Bodyweight is another factor to consider. People who are overweight or obese have a two times higher risk of developing gallstones. And if you consume foods high in fat and cholesterol, you will probably develop a gallbladder problem. People who consume foods low in dietary fibre are also at risk. And let’s be honest—your diet is probably the only thing you can change on the list of risk factors. You cannot change your gender (well, sort of), and you cannot change your family history. But the diet is one thing you can change, and it also influences your weight.
Foods to consume regularly
Before I get to the gallbladder diet recommended for people post-surgery, I want to share some tips as to what you need to eat regularly. We already stated that your diet isn’t directly linked to gallbladder problems, but it can help prevent some issues. Here are some foods that you need to consume regularly:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Lean meat, mostly poultry and fish
- Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread
All these foods have been linked with preventing gallbladder issues. In addition, consuming peanuts has been linked to a reduced chance of developing gallbladder problems.
What to do after gallbladder removal?
The gallbladder diet starts once you have your organ removed. Now, a lot of the things on this step-by-step guide apply even before you have the gallbladder removed. But let me guide you through the diet and what you need to do every step of the way.
Step 1: Add foods to your diet gradually
After the surgery, you will have trouble getting back to your regular diet. The best way to get there is to start gradually. You want liquids, gelatin, and broths during the first few days. Then, once your bowel movement is regulated, you can start adding some solid foods back into the diet.
Step 2: Consume low-fat foods
One of the most important aspects of the diet is to avoid high-fat foods. Avoid fried foods, foods with strong odours, and foods that cause gas. Another important aspect is to eat smaller portions. By consuming small meals, you allow your body and digestive system to process the food.
If you want to get more specific, a low-fat diet means that your diet should consist of a maximum of 30% fat. And since a regular diet is about 1,800 calories per day, that means no more than 60g of fat. Make sure to read food labels. If you see foods that provide more than 3g of fat per serving, avoid them.
Step 3: What to avoid?
I want to be more specific about the foods you need to avoid post-surgery. If you consume the wrong foods, you’re putting yourself at risk of pain, bloating, and diarrhea. And you definitely want to avoid those symptoms following your gallbladder removal. Here are some foods you definitely have to avoid:
- French fries
- Potato chips
- High-fat meats like beef and sausage
- High-fat dairies like ice cream, whole milk, and cheese
- Oils, especially palm and coconut oil
- Chicken and turkey skin
- Meat gravies
- Creamy sauces
- Creamy soups
- Spicy foods
Step 4: What about high fibre foods?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the trick to a successful gallbladder diet is adding foods gradually. That applies to all solid foods, but mostly the high fibre foods. Here are some foods with which you need to be patient and careful. In time, your diet will consist of high fibre foods, but you should not try to accelerate the process.
- Whole grain bread
- Brussels sprouts
Slowly add them to your diet. The best way to check if you can eat them is to try small portions, and if they don’t cause bloating or diarrhea, you’re good.
Step 5: Keep a journal
I know it sounds childish, but you definitely want to keep track of everything after your surgery. Some people return to their regular diet just one month after their surgery. However, others need much more time. Therefore, I recommend you keep a journal and write everything down. Check if you have symptoms, what you ate, and everything in between.
Should you call the doctor?
Sometimes, you will have problems post-surgery, despite following a proper gallbladder diet. It’s therefore important to know when you need to call the doctor, and when it’s just a momentary issue. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should consult with your surgeon/doctor:
- No bowel movement for more than three days after surgery.
- Inability to pass gas for more than three days after surgery.
- Frequent diarrhea that lasts for more than three days post-surgery.
- Persistent and worsening abdominal pain.
- Yellowing of your skin.