Part of your digestive system, your gallbladder serves as a storage facility for bile — a digestive substance that helps your body break down dietary fats. When you have problems with your gallbladder, like gallstones that cause pain or inflammation, surgical removal of your gallbladder is often recommended.
Though your digestive system adapts after gallbladder surgery, you may experience some gastrointestinal discomfort following your procedure, especially from foods that are high in fat.
From his top-rated practice in Planview, New York, skilled general surgeon Andrew J. Rochman, MD provides comprehensive surgical care for gallbladder problems. He also understands how removing the organ affects digestion.
To avoid unnecessary discomfort, we want to share some tips for eating right after removing your gallbladder.
1. Start with clear liquids
Any type of surgery can cause nausea and vomiting. We recommend you stick to a clear liquid diet right after your gallbladder removal. A clear liquid diet includes:
- Clear juices (apple juice, cranberry juice)
- Black coffee or tea (no milk or creamer)
- Ice pops
- Clear broth
How long you stay on the clear liquid diet depends on how well your digestive system bounces back after the procedure. But most people start eating regular foods within 2-3 days, sometimes sooner.
2. Advance to a balanced diet
When adding solid food to your diet, start with easy-to-digest items like toast, oatmeal, bananas, rice, and plain skinless potatoes. Continue to add foods as your tolerance allows. You should be able to eat a normal diet within a few days of your procedure.
Once you’re eating normal foods, include healthy choices from all the food groups, so your body gets the optimal nutrition it needs to heal.
It’s not uncommon to have diarrhea after gallbladder surgery. Without your gallbladder, your liver sends bile directly into your small intestine, which acts like a laxative. Avoid dairy, spicy, and fatty foods when you have diarrhea.
3. Drink plenty of fluids
Your diarrhea may last for a week or longer, so drink plenty of fluids to stay fully hydrated. In addition to water, include juice, broth, sports drinks, or coconut water to make sure you're getting enough electrolytes.
We recommend coming in for a follow-up visit if your diarrhea lasts longer than 2 weeks.
4. Eat smaller meals
Right after gallbladder removal surgery, you may find it easier to tolerate four to six smaller meals per day, rather than three large meals. You don’t need to change how you eat, but split your meals up. For example:
- Breakfast: Toast and eggs
- Morning snack: Banana
- Lunch: Half a sandwich and fruit
- Afternoon snack: Other half of the sandwich
- Dinner: Chicken, rice, and green beans
- Evening snack: Fruit
It’s important to include fiber-rich foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables) in your post-surgical diet. But go slow when upping your daily fiber intake. Adding too much fiber too fast may lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating.
5. Avoid high-fat foods
It’s best to avoid high-fat foods like fried food, high-fat dairy, marbled and fatty meats, and pizza right after you have your gallbladder removed. You need bile to digest fat, and eating foods with too much fat will likely cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Your liver takes over the function of your gallbladder, but this adjustment takes time. Pay attention when eating foods high in fat and continue to limit your intake if they cause problems.
Eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and low-fat dairy products are your best dietary choices after gallbladder removal, and as luck would have it, they’re also the best dietary choices for your overall health.
If you have gallbladder disease and medical interventions aren’t helping, schedule a visit with Dr. Rochman by calling our office in Plainview, New York, today, or requesting an appointment online any time.