Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) is usually the recommended treatment solution for someone suffering from painful gallstones or another form of gallbladder disease that would be fully resolved by the organ’s removal.
Your gallbladder is a non-essential organ that stores and delivers an essential digestive fluid — bile that’s produced by the liver — to your small intestine when you eat fatty foods. After an unhealthy gallbladder is removed, the liver simply assumes its function.
Board-certified general surgeon Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, specializes in minimally invasive and ultra-minimally invasive (UMI) gallbladder surgery, using advanced laparoscopic techniques to help reduce the risk of complications and optimize healing.
While you can lead a normal, healthy life without your gallbladder, your digestive system may go through a period of adjustment in the days and weeks following surgery. Here, Dr. Serrano offers five helpful tips for avoiding digestive discomfort after gallbladder removal.
In the first few days following gallbladder removal, when your body is recovering from surgery and your digestive system is actively readjusting to restore balance, a simple diet is best.
This means sticking with clear liquids, broths, and gelatin for a day or two until your appetite returns to normal. Once your appetite increases, eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, rather than three larger ones, to support an easier transition for your digestive system.
Many people don’t experience much of a digestive adjustment following gallbladder removal surgery simply because their gallbladder wasn’t functioning well to begin with. Those who do experience digestive changes after surgery often report irregular bowel movements, usually in the form of loose, watery stools.
It’s not unusual to have diarrhea for a few days or even a few weeks after a cholecystectomy, as your small intestine adjusts to the direct flow of bile from your liver. Drinking plenty of clear fluids (water is best) can help you stay hydrated when you have diarrhea, and avoiding certain foods can reduce the severity of the problem.
When your gallbladder was healthy, it delivered concentrated bile from your liver directly into your small intestine any time the dietary fats in your stomach triggered the release of gallbladder-stimulating hormones. Now that your gallbladder is gone, bile is less concentrated and drains more continuously into your intestines.
Besides having a potential laxative effect that can trigger diarrhea, this can make it harder for your digestive system to break down fats efficiently and effectively, at least temporarily.
After gallbladder surgery, it’s helpful to limit your fat intake for a few weeks. Smaller amounts of fat are easier for your body to break down as your digestive system adjusts; larger amounts of fat, on the other hand, may remain undigested and cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
An ideal post-cholecystectomy meal includes a healthy balance of lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and a small amount of plant-based fats, such as the kind found in avocados, nuts, olive oil, and salmon.
In the first week or so following gallbladder removal surgery, a low-fiber diet can help your digestive system rest, recover, and recalibrate. Once you’re ready to move beyond the basics, it’s important to increase your fiber intake gradually — consuming higher amounts of fiber too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and digestive discomfort.
Getting enough fiber is important for maintaining optimal digestion and gut health. Aim to get 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day, or about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids as you gradually increase your fiber intake, as fiber needs water to work properly.
You probably know that getting enough rest following gallbladder surgery can help you recover faster, but did you know that going for a daily walk has powerful healing effects, too?
Try to start walking soon after surgery. By boosting blood flow throughout your body, taking a daily walk promotes healing, calms and supports the digestive system, and helps prevent constipation. Begin with a short walk if that’s all you’re up for, gradually increasing your effort each day by walking a little more than you did the day before.
If you have questions about gallbladder surgery, we have answers. Call 623-321-5663 to reach Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with our experienced general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, any time.