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How To Eat Without A Gallbladder

The gall bladder is a small organ located on the underside of your liver on the right side of your abdomen. Its primary role in the body is to store bile that is made in the liver.

Bile is necessary for the proper digestion (emulsification) and absorption of fat molecules. Bile is made up of bile salts, phospholipids, cholesterol and bilirubin and typically is a dark green color.

After you eat a meal, the food contents get digested in the stomach and mixed with gastric juices. From there, the food bolus (now called chyme), enters into the first portion of the small intestine called the duodenum. Here is where the bile is released from storage in the gall bladder to mix with the food contents entering the duodenum. This allows for better emulsification of fat molecules into fatty acids and absorption of the fatty acids into the intestinal walls to the bloodstream.

Bile is also important for excretion of bilirubin and excess cholesterol from the liver and it provides an alkaline (basic) fluid in the duodenum of the small intestine to neutralize the acidic contents of the chyme that comes from the stomach.

So, why would anyone get this little organ removed? Your doctor may recommend a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) if you have:

  • Gallstones in the gallbladder (cholelithiasis)

  • Gallstones in the bile duct (choledocholithiasis), the ducts that connect the liver to the gall bladder and/or the gall bladder to the intestine

  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis), sometimes surgeons can place a drain to help empty fluid in cases of severe inflammation

  • Large gallbladder polyps not easily removed with surgery

As a dietitian, I really don't like when surgeons remove organs, regardless of how benign it can be (I also don't like when doctors prescribe medications for everything but that's for another blog for another time). The gall bladder is one of the organs we actually can live without. Typically, I don't like to see it removed unless absolutely medically necessary. But if it does have to come out, then the liver takes over full management of the bile. However, your liver does not have the storage capacity for bile. So, your liver will continue to make bile and the bile will constantly be delivered into the small intestine since there's not where to store the bile now. This can cause diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, food intolerances and other GI related issues.

If you just had your gall bladder removed, you should have been instructed to limit the amount of fat in your diet. While the liver will take over bile management, immediately after surgery, you should be giving your digestive system some rest while is works to regain it's functionality post-op. A low fat diet is helpful for the first month depending on your abdominal symptoms and severity. As you start to heal and your liver takes over full bile management, you can return to a regular general healthful diet likely without issues.

Below is the Gall Bladder Removal Nutrition Therapy advice from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with a sample meal plan as well. As I said earlier, this is not a plan you have to follow indefinitely! Monitor your abdominal symptoms and reintroduce foods with fat slowly as tolerated.


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