What can I eat after having my gallbladder removed?

Originally Published: October 9, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 28, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I am taking a nutrition class. Last week, we were talking about the GI tract. I asked what happens to a person if they have their gallbladder removed. What are the implications in their diet? Do they have to stop eating fat or just start eating a low-fat diet? Will the system still digest fat, but now is it only harder?

Dear Reader,

Following surgery, patients are instructed to first follow a low-fat diet. They may add fat back into their diet gradually. People can live perfectly normal lives without their gallbladder because the bile duct, which is found superior to the gallbladder, simply enlarges to assume the bile-storing role. Unless they have unpleasant symptoms, there is no need to change the diet after the gallbladder is removed. Still, it's recommended and strongly encouraged that persons with or without a gallbladder maintain a well balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grain products, which are also low in fat.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy, also known as gallbladder removal, is the most commonly performed major surgery in America. Same day procedure, no hospital stay, minimal pain and bleeding, and minimal scarring, as well as a return to full activity within days, makes this surgery relatively uncomplicated, even though it is very common.

The gallbladder is an organ situated under the rib cage, next to the liver and pancreas. It stores bile, a liquid made by the liver to emulsify, or suspend, fats in a watery solution. The gallbladder contracts and forces the bile into the small intestine when we eat. Gallbladder disease results from gallstones forming in the gallbladder. Too much cholesterol or bile salts can lead to the crystallization of cholesterol and the formation of gallstones, which obstruct the flow of bile from the gallbladder. Often, there are no symptoms; however, if a stone blocks the outlet of the gallbladder, a gallbladder "attack," or pain, may develop. Some gallstones can be managed with drugs or by dietary adjustments, such as drastically cutting down fat intake. However, surgical removal of the gallbladder is the only "sure cure."

Hope this helps!