Fat-Free/Low-Fat Suggestions for Post-Gallbladder Removal Recovery?
April 17, 2014 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I think my gallbladder’s coming out in the months to come. I seek guidance about fat-free/low-fat foods that would be safe to eat afterwards -- any advice appreciated, but I would find non-cooking options (frozen foods/delivery/restaurant) particularly useful.

I had a mild attack in late March; an ultrasound showed stones and a contracted gallbladder. I meet with a surgeon in late May. I’d be surprised if a removal doesn’t follow.

I read that one should eat fat-free/low-fat after its removal, and gradually re-introduce foods with higher fats.

I am currently without a partner, and cooking alone is a process very unappealing to me. So I usually eat at a restaurant, order delivery, or heat frozen food (Lean Cuisines, Stouffer’s, Tyson, etc.).

Now ... I’d appreciate any suggestions for low-fat/fat-free breakfast and lunch/dinner foods, whether or not I have to cook.

But I’d especially appreciate those that involve zero or very little cooking, such as frozen food or safe restaurant/delivery options. (And I suspect the surgery may fall during early or mid-summer, when one least wants to heat up one's apartment anyway.)

Are Lean Cuisines low-fat enough to be tolerated during that period? And as for restaurant/delivery, I live in Chicago so I may have more delivery options as an urban-dweller.

I also would appreciate any guidance as to the reintroduction of fats. How exactly would one plan the transition back upward to "normal" fat intake?
posted by WCityMike to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My dad had his removed around Christmas. He ate bland foods for about a week afterwards then went back to a normal diet. YMMV
posted by kathrynm at 1:38 PM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bananas, toast, omelette with a little olive oil, high fiber cereal with low fat milk were good options for breakfast. If you can do some cooking, less fatty fish (salmon) and chicken are good protein options, served with rice noodles and/or steamed veggies and rice. For prepared meals, I found Amy's Kitchen were reasonably low-fat and easy to digest, while managing to be quite tasty.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:53 PM on April 17, 2014

I just had mine out in January during an acute attack, and I ate the low-fat frozen meals (like Lean Cuisine) for about a week before going back to my normal diet. I just eat smaller meals than I did before, that's all that's really required. Again YMMV.
posted by patheral at 2:05 PM on April 17, 2014

Previously. Your gallbladder will be a very individual thing. Salad was a nightmare for me but rich foods were not a problem. It is extremely frustrating but there really is no universal post-gallbladder diet.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:10 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I read that one should eat fat-free/low-fat after its removal, and gradually re-introduce foods with higher fats."

Yeah, I read that too, and I pretended to do that for a few days and then basically went back to eating whatever I wanted. It's been six-seven months now and while not everything is back to absolute normal I no longer worry one bit about what I'm eating.

Personal experience: avoid eggs and butter and greasy meat the first little bit. Past that I didn't really make any changes. See also my comment here about my diet pre-removal.

Here's another way to look at it: if your diet is not currently causing you to have frequent gallstone pain - if you have not yet had to specifically identify and remove trigger foods from your everyday consumption - then your diet post-cholecystectomy probably won't have to be any different than what you're eating right now.
posted by komara at 2:11 PM on April 17, 2014

Had my gallbladder removed in '99 (at 18 years old). If you can prevent getting your gallbladder removed, I highly suggest trying any route that will allow you to do so. Many people erroneously believe the gallbladder doesn't 'do' anything - and its removal is the equivalent of having your tonsils out - but that couldn't be further from the truth.

That said, when your gallbladder is removed you no longer have a place to store bile (which is released when you eat meals requiring high levels of fat-digesting enzymes). Instead, bile continues to leak/trickle into the intestines. This is why high-fat meals are discouraged when you have no gallbladder - your body doesn't have a reserve to call on to digest meals that may contain too much fat.

So the key is having smaller meals throughout the day and dispersing your fat intake between those. This will allow you to continue taking in fat - which your body needs - without overdoing it and taxing your already overloaded gallbladder (should it not be removed). It may also have the added benefit of helping to prevent loose stools - which is very common in people who've had their gallbladders removed (again, thanks to that steady trickle of bile into the intestines).

To offer a bit of personal experience: I was put on a low-fat/no-fat diet by military doctors shortly after having my gallbladder removed. This diet was extremely high in fiber and carbohydrates (and subsequently sugar) and absolutely destroyed my stomach. Constipation was frequent and without fats (especially 'good' fats) I was always dehydrated, skin was dry, hair became brittle and fell out, and weight would not stay on. Then there was the onset of depression (which can be caused by low levels of essential fatty acids such as omega-3). After I started working in the natural health field (and took some nutrition courses), I began to incorporate good fats into my diet and have seen the previous symptoms disappear.

To give you an idea of how much fat I consume now (without problem), I have a handful of nuts in the morning for breakfast (19g of Total Fat, 3.5g Saturated), 1/2 of an Avocado for lunch (10.5g of Total Fat, 1.5g Saturated) and either a fatty fish (like Salmon - 27g of Total Fat) for dinner OR a cup of coconut yogurt (6g of Total Fat) for dessert.

Your Lean Cuisines are fine - as are normal fatty things you eat, just do smaller portions more frequently should it come to having to have your gallbladder removed.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:20 PM on April 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Stubbehtail – I greatly appreciate everything in your response, but as for the question of whether or not to remove it, I’d rather it not be part of this thread. I’m not one of those who thought of the gallbladder as useless. I’ve probably done too much reading, in fact. I'd rather deal with removal issues than attacks, and my contracted gallbladder and certain existing issues suggest to me that my gallbladder could potentially already be nonfunctional. My understanding is that the bile duct grows in size to takes over storage duties [1, 2, 3]. Even if that’s not the case, I suspect this surgeon probably got it right when he said that the gallbladder was especially useful in the feast-or-famine times of cavemen when we'd eat a deer after three days of hunting, but that our comparative "trickle" of food (3-5 meals a day) works satisfactorily with the "trickle" of bile for the vast majority of people. With some, it does not, but I plan to ask about that on another occasion.
posted by WCityMike at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2014

When I had mine out, I ate a lot of turkey, mashed potatoes without butter, fat-free gravy (you can make a yummy meal out of that). Fat free Jello and pudding is good. Toast. Chicken sandwiches with fat free mayo. There is a lot of frankenfood out there now that is fat free.

I ate low fat for about a month, gradually reintroduced fat, and I eat normally now. No problems.

(and you didn't ask, but I had my gallbladder out laparoscopically at 8 AM and was home on my couch by 3 - be proactive about pain management, my surgeon said I'd be fine with alternating Tylenol and ibuprofen, but I needed codeine. It was a pretty easy surgery all things considered)
posted by biscotti at 3:27 PM on April 17, 2014

When people say YMMV, they are *not* kidding. I had mine out about six years ago and the night I was released from the hospital, went out and had indian food and popcorn at the movies with friends and was fine. (The bumpy cab ride home was less so.)
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2014

My surgeon told me that I could eat whatever I wanted after surgery and I followed his advice and ate normally once I stopped feeling nauseous from from the pain medication. YMMV of course, but the internet is full of horror stories, so I thought I'd share mine easy experience.
posted by parakeetdog at 6:10 PM on April 17, 2014

I had loaded potato soup the day after my gall bladder was removed and a bacon cheeseburger two days later. My diet is completely unchanged from my diet before the gall bladder decided to be a dickhead. I have gained some weight since then, but that's mostly because I eat like shit and I'm almost 40.

My father in law ended up in the hospital due to severe dehydration from excessive bile dumping.

YMMV, indeed.
posted by teleri025 at 8:12 PM on April 17, 2014

Response by poster: If anyone wants updates, to avoid a need to triplicate-post, please see here for updates.
posted by WCityMike at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2014

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