Why is there no post-gallbladder diet?
September 20, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm one day post-hospital release after emergency gallbladder removal and just starting to eat. There is no specific information on foods and meals to eat because apparently, as the Mayo Clinic says, "there isn't a set diet people should follow after gallbladder removal because the guidelines depend on the individual." Well, thank you not at all. What should I be eating?

I'm okay with 5 or 6 small meals a day, although at the moment I'm eating more like two or three small meals a day. What are examples of non-fat and low-fat dinners and lunches that won't make me worse? What does "gradually increase the fiber in your diet" actually mean in terms of concrete foods?

I just ordered a grocery delivery for tomorrow. It includes things like Cheerios and various Baxter's soups and bananas and lettuce and sliced ham and turkey and some dreadful looking lo-fat dressing because I don't know if I'm supposed to fear olive oil? Also: what they hell, dairy?! Is it just the fat or is the low-fat yoghurt I ordered going to be a bad idea?

I'm crabby and frustrated and uncomfortable and I just want to know what to eat. Please hope me, people of Ask!

(PS: Don't read the comments on that article. They are a stream of gastric despair.)
posted by DarlingBri to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As someone suffering from gallstones and about to get a cholecystectomy I can personally say that the following give me problems:
- fat and grease from meat, especially cured meats like salami
- butter
- eggs

the following present for me no problems:
- cheese, in moderation
- yoghurt in abundance

and olive oil doesn't seem to affect me, but I haven't just gone all-out and soaked anything in it.

Everything else that is not fat-related or egg-related has given me no troubles whatsoever.

Basically I have not had to modify my diet much at all aside from avoiding larger quantities of greasy meat and cutting out eggs entirely. I've also found that any sort of buffers (especially bread, rice, and beans) help out considerably. One piece of salami on an empty hungry stomach can bring the pain but if it were in the middle of a meal it wouldn't be a problem.
posted by komara at 1:50 PM on September 20, 2013

I lived on soup, fruit, and yogurt for about a week after my emergency gallbladder removal. Then I slowly started eating normally. There isn't really anything that I can't eat now, though it took awhile to re-acclimate to buttery/meaty foods.
posted by lovecrafty at 1:58 PM on September 20, 2013

I realize this is an over-simplification of the issue but if you underwent emergency surgery then you might not have had this conversation with your doctor, so here goes:

The liver is constantly drip-drip-dripping bile, which helps deal with digestion, especially fat. The gall bladder holds some of this bile in reserve and when your stomach detects the fat the gall bladder dumps its supply to help. Now that you don't have a gall bladder, well, some of the fat might not get bound up with the liver's meager flow of bile fast enough and come surprise you out the other end.

As far as I know there aren't any other kinds of foods to avoid, as your liver's regular drip-drip-drip should be more than enough to handle your regular diet.
posted by komara at 2:04 PM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think you're basically on the right track. Of the foods you mention, the one that I'd avoid is the ham. That's a fairly high-fat food, and you might not tolerate it well right now. Try a small portion and see how it goes. My doctor's advice to me last year when I had my GB out was to eat whatever I felt like eating, but to be watchful about portion size for any high-fat foods. The first time you eat cheese, don't be too far from the nearest bathroom, just in case. The low-fat yogurt will probably be fine.

For most people in your situation, these 3 factors would be major dietary concerns right now:

1. The anesthesia is like a "pause" button for your digestive system. It pretty much stopped functioning for about a day, and now it needs to restart. If that process is too slow, you get wicked constipation; too fast, the opposite. That's why you need some fiber, but not too much.

2. All those drugs that you're not used to, and all that poking around in your innards, makes nausea a strong possibility.

3. Your body needs to adjust to not having a gallbladder. The primary concern here is FAT. Some people have absolutely no trouble with it, some people can't tolerate much at all, most people are OK with small or moderate amounts. You won't really know how your own body is going to be for at least a few months.

To counter the stories of gastric distress: I had no digestive difficulties at all. My gut was plenty uncomfortable for a day or two, but I had no nausea and I've been able to eat exactly as I did before, with no hint of any intestinal distress.

Good luck!
posted by Corvid at 2:08 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have had my gallbladder out. You might want to stay away from anything fried or heavy for awhile, but other than that, just eat moderately. It's not really that big a deal.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:19 PM on September 20, 2013

My doctor refused to give me a set diet after gall bladder surgery, saying "You can return to your normal diet." It took me a few weeks to adjust because my new gall-bladderless body reacted very differently than it used to, to foods that contained fat and oil. Your own reactions will be individual to you, and you will need to determine what you can tolerate by trial and error. You may have no issues.

Potential problem foods will be those containing fat or oils. Consider decreasing your dietary fat. Also consider increasing your fiber and grain intake, as they will help food move more quickly through your body and help prevent gas/bloating. Eating in moderation is also a good idea: you may be able to tolerate a couple of slices of cheese without a problem but eating a greasy grilled cheese sandwich with bacon might cause intestinal distress.

Some foods to check:

Milk (You may find you need to stick to 2% or skim) / Butter / Margarine / Cream
Soft / Hard Cheeses
Cooking oils, including olive oil. You may find that some foods containing oil are a problem including certain fried foods, or tomato sauce.
Sausages, Bacon, Ham.
Peanut butter (and other nut butters) or raw nuts.


Good luck!
posted by zarq at 2:24 PM on September 20, 2013

There's a reason Mayo doesn't prescribe a diet after gall bladder removal and that really is because people's bodies react differently.

Three days after I had mine out, I had a cheeseburger and suffered no ill effects. I honestly can say that nothing has changed about my diet from the pre-gallbladder issue days. I eat and drink everything I always did.

My father-in-law on the other hand, is one of those unfortunate people who suffer from bile dumping. Which basically means fatty, greasy things makes his liver dump out bile instead of drip-drip-drip. This results in the food wanting to exit his body as quickly as it can. He was actually hospitalized two weeks after his gall bladder was out because of dehydration due to the runs.

So the best advice is to take it slow and if something makes you feel unpleasant, don't eat it for a while. Also, drink tons of water and if you poop too much call your doctor.
posted by teleri025 at 2:33 PM on September 20, 2013

I don't have advice on what to eat, but more on when to eat it.

If you want to go to dinner and a movie, go to the movie first. How is this related to living without a gallbladder? You will probably have to go to the bathroom fairly soon after most meals for a while. I think this slowly diminishes over time but there is certainly a whole new sense of urgency than when you still had a gallbladder. And there is also that awful word, sharting, so don't try to hold off too long.

So... to be safe until you are sure how things will go.... I suggest the movie first! :-)
posted by meepmeow at 3:38 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My first day post surgery was spent dry heaving and thus I had nothing to eat. After that, I resumed my normal diet, which is pretty high fat. Life is too damn short for low fat salad dressing. I would stay close to a bathroom in the beginning because you will learn quickly if it is going to shoot through your digestive tract rapidly or not. I would suggest taking stool softeners for a little bit especially if you are taking pain meds because you definitely do not want to be constipated and straining.
posted by crankylex at 4:33 PM on September 20, 2013

I had no real issues with gastric dumping but if I eat certain kinds of fat I get sick - chicken fat is the worst, chocolate is pretty bad, huge amounts of fat aren't good. My brother-in-law can eat a packet of chocolate biscuits, but pork fat makes him hurl. Dairy is off limits for a few post-gallbladder friends.

And what ended up happening with me was my digestion just slowed down a lot which was hugely unpleasant. Spasming intestines and vomiting unpleasant. Once we got that sorted (basically a flush and reset) and I avoided certain foods, it mostly came good. But my digestion still slows if I eat badly which seems to be the opposite of a lot of post-gallbladder experiences.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:24 PM on September 20, 2013

I had my gallbladder out mid-August, not during an emergency. It was light soups for a few days, plus sherbets because my throat was a bit sore from the intubation. I slowly began getting back to how I was eating before and have mostly been fine. I think there's been 3 episodes of running to the bathroom with the trots, so I've kept the imodium handy, but I could never pin it on any specific thing I had just eaten, nor did it seem to follow over-eating.

I've eaten a fair bit of plain food – plain yogurt and brown rice together was my mainstay, but I like that so it's no hassle. My breakfast mainstay is hummus on rice crackers and that's never been a problem.

On the other hand I wasn't eating fried food before, so I'm not eating it now. I don't keep butter in the house either, so that's not different. I've used moderate amounts of olive oil and sesame oil while cooking things as before and they haven't been an issue, and I've eaten some good-quality small-batch salami without any issues. Probably the most egregious thing I've had so far was a shish-taouk platter with rice and salad and garlic mayo sauce, just the other day. Was fine.

Basically, reintroduce things one by one, don't overeat any given food, and see how they make you feel. I would avoid over-processed junk like Cheerios on principle, but that's just me. Low-fat salad dressings are also a waste of money. Just use a little olive oil and good vinegar and you will know how much actual oil you've consumed and there won't be dubious chemical fillers you can't identify.
posted by zadcat at 10:39 AM on September 21, 2013

Response by poster: Well, it's hard to know because (TMI altert) I just resumed pooping after five days of fasting and vomiting followed by a day and a half of light food, but everything seems okay and I've eating soup, salad and yogurt so far. We're about to have a real dinner, so we shall see.

I still think the fact that there isn't even a basic post-operative diet (soup? wholegrain toast? cereal?) is pants, but I get why that is. It's been a rough week, probably I am just crabby in general but I am feeling better today than yesterday and the food thing doesn't seem quite so totally OH MY GOD WHY IS FOOD SO HARD?!?! Thank you for all of the advise.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:21 PM on September 21, 2013

As they say, everyone varies, so it's hard to advise.

I would add to all the advice: stop eating when you've had enough, even if your reflex is to finish what you've taken.

It's not a diet point and you may have been told, but I will add this: do not lift anything for a month. I was told "nothing heavier than a phone book" (getting to be an obsolete reference) but quite seriously, nothing more than about 5 kg or 10 lbs.

If you've ever done exercise practice that taught you to use your abs, try to unlearn it for a few weeks. You can tighten up those abs later. Don't engage them much for a month if you can help it.
posted by zadcat at 12:41 PM on September 21, 2013

After I had my gallbladder out, my surgeon advised me to eat low fat for a little while, then gradually return to my normal diet. It's been over a year and a half and I eat what I want now. Once in a while I can tell that I've exhausted my available bile, but it's not anything catastrophic, just [tmi]weird poop[/tmi]. Right after my surgery I ate low fat (turkey and mashed potatoes with skim milk, that sort of thing), and just slowly started broadening my food choices. I would be cautious about too much fiber or too much food at one time for a week or so.
posted by biscotti at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2013

« Older Looking for a way to make Japanese language...   |   Can I make amends for backing out of a childcare... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.