After having a gallbladder removed, a person’s digestion changes, and that is a fact. I had to go through a lot of adjustments even if I have already started living healthier a year before the operation. Given a few dietary advice by my surgeon, he still recommended that I research more on it.
So being the bookworm that I am, I did my homework! I read a lot of articles, books and even asked other doctors the (reiterating) questions I had in mind just to make sure I was on the right track. Fortunately, the answers had common denominators.
What happens to the body post-surgery?
Commonly, you’ll experience frequent loose and watery stools the first few weeks to the first month, somewhat like having diarrhea. Yech right? Nope, it’s not so bad. And it’s actually a good thing because you know that your liver still makes enough bile. But because the bile is less concentrated (after the removal), it drains more into the intestines causing an effect similar to taking laxatives. Yes, my friend, expect a lot of visits to les toilettes.
Difficulty in processing fatty foods may also be one of the major adjustments you’d go through. As it becomes easier for you to digest smaller amounts of fat, take in mind that your body will have a hard time processing large amounts causing bloating, diarrhea and a LOT of gas.
Your gallbladder plays an important and functional role in your body but having it removed won’t leave you limping. But, it doesn’t stop there. It still pays to be cautious with what you eat and how you treat your body.
Is there a gallbladder removal diet that I need to follow?
Well, there are no specific diets that you need to follow (Thank goodness!). However, you need to carefully watch what you eat weeks after surgery and, well, if you’re like me, for the rest of your life.
Since digestive discomfort will come customarily, there are a few things you need to remember:
Gradual intake of food is important
Do not get too excited right after surgery!
I’m sure you’re pretty hungry after fasting for a few days but as with all things, it will take time for your stomach to adjust.
Stick with liquids, soups, gelatin and give it a good two to three weeks. I went with two and gradually added solid food into my diet.
Smaller proportions, frequent meals
Once you’re past the first few weeks and back on your feet consuming solids, it is best to keep your meals frequent and small. This improves mixing with the bile and at the same time you don’t starve yourself. Pretty common sense, huh? It’s really advisable to eat this way as you also don’t end up eating whatever you can get hands on. This way, you are most likely to eat foods that are healthier.
I never went back to full three-meal day since 2012. I did a lot of diet experiments years before the operation and I found that this was the best kind of diet. It seemed hard at first especially I was a big eater before surgery but the reset helped me a lot.
My body digested better and although I am constantly hungry, my metabolism stabilized and I haven’t gained that bad kind of weight.
A good way of ensuring you get to eat every few hours is to pack your own meals. For some it may seem time consuming but I always enjoy planning and preparing my food because I know I’m not just putting anything in my body. Nevertheless, I’m a woman with simple needs – healthy food readily available makes me happy.
Fatty foods? Take it easy.
Okay this might be tough for anyone to do. We all love fatty and easy to access types of food, that is true! But if you think about it, you already had that reset. Do you want that kind of temporary happiness of devouring the entire pizza box only to get sick again? Or would you rather have just a slice of pizza and enjoy slices of it spread out for rest of your life? I’d take the second option without any second thoughts.
Taking it easy doesn’t mean completely dropping everything. It just means everything should be taken in moderation. At the same time, a lot of fatty food intake will produce digestive discomfort. Who would want to have cramps or gas especially while you’re out or at work? Count me out on that one (ha! ‘Cause I know how that feels).
I take some of the following high-fatty and greasy foods (just for a taste at times) but I never binge on them because I want to limit and avoid/ worsen diarrhea:
- Fried food: (like) chips and fries
- Oils: (like) coconut and palm
- Meat, high in fat content : (like) bacon, sausage, ground beef, pork, bologna, gravy dips, chicken skin
- Dairy, high in fat content: (like) cheese, ice-cream, whole milk, creamy soups and sauces
- Anything with lard, butter
- Spicy food
Is there anything I can eat?
That was the same question I asked after my surgeon mentioned the list (above). His answer: Yes, of course! The trick is to gradually introduce yourself to a new kind of diet and learn to really enjoy it.
(Drum roll here) Non or low-fat foods and moderately increase your fiber intake until finally you get used to it.
It’s not necessary that you do this same thing as you might not like it but I drink at least five grams of Psyllium fiber (with warm water) first thing in the morning everyday and it’s helped me with my digestion.
Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But don’t forget to always include small amounts of fish, non-fat meat and dairy in every meal. Make your meals colorful so it wouldn’t bore you.
Also, replace what you can. As I said whole grains, right? Instead of having a cup of white rice, have a cup of brown rice. Making a sandwich? Make whole grain sandwiches! It is important to eat but at the same time, always choose the healthy option. It may not taste as salty or sweet like how it used to be, but you get to take care of your body and that is a reward by itself!
Any medications I need to maintain?
Unless advised by your doctor, you are good to go with just maintaining a healthy diet! But if you feel the following symptoms, I would suggest for you to see your doctor to avoid any major complications:
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Inability to pass gas or have any bowel movement more than three days after surgery
- Frequent diarrhea more than three days after surgery
- Severe nausea and/ or vomiting
Fast forward 2017!
Losing my gallbladder truly broke my heart but at the same time it brought me back to life. As I mentioned in the Goodbye, gallbladder, Hello a newer me article, I became more aware of my body, more attentive to its needs and what was truly essential to make myself well-rounded post-operation.
Yes, it’s a small ancillary organ, but hey, this small change can go a very long way! At the end of the day, it all depends on how you look at it. You can either let yourself go continuing with your old habits eventually discovering more ailments as years pass, or begin anew (as I did) and enjoy living a healthy and happier life. I believe that the way you think, behave and the way you eat influences your life 10, 20 or more years. Give it a thought.
Love and light,