The pain of gallstones makes me want to die.
April 26, 2009 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Trying to cut down on fatty foods now that I know I have gallstones.

After two trips to the ER this week due some really severe pain, I've been diagnosed with having gallstones. I will be making an appointment with my doctor on Monday and will be discussing if/when to have my gallbladder removed. In the meantime, I am supposed to cut down on fatty foods.

I am a vegetarian and think I already eat a relatively low fat diet, but my one downfall is olive oil. I like to make things like veg and tofu stir fry, or roasted vegetables with olive oil, etc. Is there something else I can use instead of olive oil? Any other ideas on cutting down on fat, or meal ideas would also be appreciated.
posted by to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's no other fat that's going to be "better" or "worse" for you than olive oil, if your goal is to simply reduce fat. There is debate about "good fats" and "bad fats", but you're in good territory there by sticking with olive oil.

I would get yourself some good nonstick pans (IKEA has some that aren't terrible) and start doing your stir frying in those. You'll still need oil, but you can usually cut down quite a bit on it if you're not worried about sticking. You can saute a pan of vegetables (serving 3-4) with about 2 T olive oil, which really shouldn't be harming anyone.

Same thing goes for roasting. You can roast in a 400 degree F (200 celcius) oven with a nonstick frying pan, but I wouldn't use nonstick for something much hotter than that. Make sure you're using a pan with an oven-safe handle.
posted by rossination at 1:09 PM on April 26, 2009

Try low fat cooking spray instead. You should be able to find one with a lower fat content than olive oil. Also, are you using regular olive oil or extra virgin? I think extra virgin has less fat.
posted by ChazB at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2009

I would do neither of the above. Teflon and other non-stick coatings have their own problems, not to mention all of the crap on the ingredients list and the container that you have to throw away. FYI, the PAM brand "Olive Oil" cooking spray contains: extra virgin olive oil, soya lecithin, water, soybean oil and propellants isobutane and propane. I don't know about you, but that sounds disgusting when compared to the simplicity of a can of olive oil.

Get a good cast iron skillet and season it properly -- this is effectively non-stick if you treat it right. And if you want to cut down on the oil, buy an oil mister.
posted by bengarland at 1:24 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Clarification: The second part of the second sentence is referring to the cooking sprays.
posted by bengarland at 1:25 PM on April 26, 2009

I was in the same situation: vegetarian and diagnosed with gallstones. Yeah, I know... really awful and painful. Get that sucker out ASAP and you're going to feel SO much better.

My experience was that, towards the end (which is where you're at) of the disease's progression, ANY fat whatsoever would cause an attack. Save yourself a world of hurt and stick with absolutely fat-free foods. Fruit, steamed vegetables, rice...
posted by rhartong at 1:30 PM on April 26, 2009

Ditto what rhartong said. I went through this last summer, and in the two week wait for my surgery I've never eaten so low fat in my life! I still had an attack while being extraordinarily careful about fats (the pain of my first attack was deterrent enough). Just eat fruits, veggies, and carbs with no fat and cross your until you see your doctor. I have to say, the surgery really wasn't so bad, and since then I've felt great. Good luck!
posted by katie at 1:41 PM on April 26, 2009

I know it's not what you want to hear, but get your gallbladder out asap. I had gallstones a while back, and even 1 gram of fat triggered an attack for me.

I'd suggest eating steamed veggies/rice in the meantime. Look up nutritional info - even a banana has a gram of fat - I made the mistake of eating one while waiting for my surgery, and I ended up curled up on the bathroom floor writhing in pain. I know it sucks, but the best thing you can do is wait it out and get your gall bladder taken out.

The period of time between my diagnosis and surgery was two weeks, and I just drank Pepsi and smoked cigarettes for that 2 weeks (and that one damn, evil banana). It was terribly unhealthy, but I'm just sayin', it worked for me.
posted by AlisonM at 1:56 PM on April 26, 2009

Wow, it's weird to see this question - I was just released from hospital yesterday afternoon after having keyhole cholestectomy. You really don't want to mess around with your gallbladder... we waited and hemmed and hawed for a few months, deciding if surgery was or wasn't the right option. I wound up with months worth of attacks, lots of pain and eventual pancreatitis and jaundice as a result.

According to my doc, ANY fat can kick it off, as can spicy foods, coffee, or stress - anything that might stimulate bile or your squishy internal bits to go a bit haywire. I'd steer well clear of any of the above. I was fine with things like avocadoes and olive oil, but cheese and the like would provoke attacks of varying severity. Only you know what's right for you.

After you've had the surgery, you'll want to reduce the fat/bile-stimulating parts of your diet, anyway. Just consider this a form of practice for your new and improved future diet.

(Nothing to the surgery, btw - best of luck and a speedy recovery to you!)
posted by Grrlscout at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2009

gall-bladder-free person here, and just want to note that veggie burgers can be very high fat! when i was waiting for my health insurance to kick in so i could go have mine looked at, i made the mistake of thinking i would be okay eating one--what with it being all healthy and whatnot. it was delicious. i thought i was going to die. it was the worst reaction i had to anything i ate during that long wait. i'm sure there are low-fat and fat-free veggie burgers, and i imagine they'd be fine.

i also made the mistake of thinking an herbal liver tonic would help keep me going until the aforementioned health insurance--all those bits are connected, you know? this was a bad move. it managed to make the gall bladder kick out a stone into the common duct, thereby blocking it. what a lovely shade of yellow i turned! fortunately it passed on its own, but it could have been very bad.

you can limp a gall bladder down the shoulder on the rim for some time (sometimes) if you treat it gently, keep the fats down, and don't do stupid things like, um, some people do. people who shall remain nameless (clearsthroatmisspatrishclearsthroat).

and you probably don't want to wait until you start throwing up blood to go have that critter yanked. just so's you know.
posted by miss patrish at 3:11 PM on April 26, 2009

and just want to note that veggie burgers can be very high fat!

Oh shit. I just ate one.

Thanks for all the responses. I suspect I will end up having it removed.
posted by at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2009

Weird how some fats trigger attacks in some people more than others. Thank the gods, I was fine with olive oil during the 3 weeks between diagnosis and surgery.

You can try other oils (peanut?) in moderation, but if you're having severe attacks with olive oil, I don't know how likely it is that you'll be able to tolerate other vegetable-derived oils. Whatever can get you through in the smallest possible quantities.

FYI, avocados, salsa, and a simple tapenade of olives and herbs were my saviours for adding flavor to food while waiting for surgery. And fancy soda, because my doc instructed me not to have any alcohol. (Yes, Izzy is more expensive than good beer. Shuddup.)

P.S. You're going to be able to eat all the olive oil you like once you get that gallbladder out (and spend a few weeks recovering and letting your body adjust to digestion sans gallbladder.) I was freaking the fuck out about the surgery but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be.
posted by desuetude at 8:43 PM on April 26, 2009

My mother in law doesn't use oil at all when she cooks proteins, vegs, etc. on the stove top. She uses a little bit of water instead and says it works just fine.
posted by Majorita at 10:03 PM on April 26, 2009

Like AlisonM above, I too had an attack over a banana.

One thing I found that helped a lot was grapefruit juice. If I ate something that seemed okay (ie. veggie burger, banana) but ended up being a mistake, it turned out that grapefruit juice could calm things down if I got to it soon enough, or shorten an attack that was well underway. It's an old wives tale, and my doctor claimed to never have heard of it, but it seemed to work.

You'll feel much better after the surgery.
posted by lunaazul at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2009

I don't have a gallbladder any more. If you're being scheduled for surgery, just try your best not to eat any fat between now and your surgery date - it's really not worth the risk of horrible pain just for a bit of transient food enjoyment (and attacks can lead to worse things, like pancreatitis and jaundice, though they didn't for me). This means reading labels and educating yourself about what contains fats and what doesn't. Yes, your diet will be restricted for a while but not forever.

After that sucker is removed you can eat pretty much whatever you like, without risk.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:00 AM on April 27, 2009

My mother in law doesn't use oil at all when she cooks proteins, vegs, etc. on the stove top. She uses a little bit of water instead and says it works just fine.

I will have to try that tonight when I make my stir fry dinner. :)
posted by at 7:39 AM on April 27, 2009

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