I don't understand why I'm losing weight.
July 23, 2008 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Why have I lost weight following gallbladder removal?

I recently (7 weeks ago) had my gallbladder removed, which involved an open operation rather than the planned laparoscopic procedure (long story). This wasn't very nice but I have recovered just fine, now feel mostly great, and am now starting to get back to work.

I am puzzled, though, as to why I have lost about 5kg since the surgery. I have sat on the sofa for weeks, eating whatever I felt like (normal to large quantities of food, after the first few days) and doing no exercise because I was unable to do so. I would have expected weight gain to be the outcome of this, but apparently not.

I have been very tired indeed, and this makes me speculate that perhaps my body is using so much energy repairing the 15cm incision that it needs all the food energy I can give it and is also using some of my stored energy (I am overweight and weighed about 92kg before the operation). This would mean that once the incision is fully healed, normal service will resume. Alternatively, it could be that I now process food differently, in such a way that I am not absorbing food as efficiently as I used to.

This isn't an urgent issue as I feel fine and my surgeon tells me all is well and 'you can start weightlifting if you like', and I welcome the weight loss. But I am curious. Any ideas/evidence (most of the stuff I've found online relates to weight *gain* following this surgery)/similar experiences?
posted by altolinguistic to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The gallbladder is responsible for making and utilizing bile, which helps your body absorb fat. Also, after gallbladder remova people are usually your body advised to eat less fat because their bodies can't process it as well. Perhaps this relates to your weight loss?
posted by marlys27 at 5:10 AM on July 23, 2008

thanks marlys - the gallbladder does not make bile, but stores and concentrates it. My surgeon says I need not restrict my diet.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:28 AM on July 23, 2008

Consider yourself lucky. After having mine removed I have gained weight. I attributed it to being able to eat anything now. I was also told there was no need to restrict my diet. I did however have a short term drop in weight loss while recovering. And I remember eating everything in sight during that time to .
posted by jaythebull at 5:58 AM on July 23, 2008

You had a major operation and as your body heals itself it has to make a lot of protein and expend extra calories; you should expect to regain the weight as you continue to heal. Nitrogen balance is the clinical term for this sort of thing; in physiologic terms there is little difference between major surgery and major trauma.
posted by TedW at 6:30 AM on July 23, 2008

I had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically just about one year ago. I too have experienced weight loss of about 10-15 lbs and have yet to gain it back (despite all manners of crappy food I shovel into my pie-hole now that I don't have to worry about frequent gb attacks!)

My doctor said the weight loss was perfectly normal given that my body no longer absorbs fat like it used too because it doesn't always have an extra store of bile lying around ready to get to work (as you pointed out, the gb is the organ which stores bile). So whereas in the past, my body could digest the heck out of all the items I didn't want it to (fries, pizza, cakes, etc.) now it reaches an impasse and, after a certain amount of ingested fat, is much less efficient at turning the fat in those products into fat on my thighs.

There is also the issue of dumping syndrome which I have experienced here and there in small amounts after eating fatty foods. Having any food shoot through you that quickly means it has much less time than normal to be absorbed by your digestive system. There's a reason bulimics turn to laxatives for weight loss!
posted by elkerette at 8:30 AM on July 23, 2008

I've never had this surgery, but the following the two surgical procedures that I've had I lost quite a bit of weight. The second surgery was more traumatic than the first and my recovery period was slower and I lost a little more weight. We're only talking about ten pounds or so but the procedures weren't what anyone would call major surgery. So, I'm guessing that there are two things happening here, first the weight-loss due to the fact that your body is burning through calories as it tries to recover and then the secondary weight-loss due to the nature of the procedure.
posted by ob at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2008

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