Your gallbladder acts as a storage sac for bile, a product that helps to break down and digest food. If gallstones or other problems develop and prevent the organ from releasing bile as needed, it can lead to pain or an infection. Instead of trying to clear the blockages, it’s often easier to just remove the entire gallbladder and allow bile to flow directly from your liver, where it’s produced.
So while you can live without your gallbladder, the loss of this storage hub means you’ll need to make a few adjustments to your daily life in order to avoid discomfort. In today’s blog, we share some tips for staying comfortable as you recover from gallbladder surgery and as you transition to a new life without the organ.
Avoiding Discomfort After Gallbladder Surgery
There are a number of small adjustments you’ll want to make to avoid discomfort related to the operation itself and as your body adjusts to life without its bile storage center. Some of those adjustments include:
- Slow Diet Progression – Most people find it easiest to start with a liquid or soft food diet in the first food days after surgery. These foods pass through your system more easily, which means bile won’t need to have as much of an impact in breaking down these substances. Foods like soups, broths and yogurt are great for the first few days, then slowly start to add some simple solids to your diet. Stick to low fat items and avoid spicy foods, as these will be less taxing on your digestive system, which is still figuring out the new routine.
- Avoid High Fat and Fried Foods – We’re not saying you can never have a french fry again, but when combined with bile, these oily and fatty foods can lead to gas, bloating or more frequent bowel movements, all of which can be uncomfortable when you’re recovering from surgery. Grilled chicken and fish or steamed veggies are great ways to great protein and fiber into your diet while also limiting your fat intake.
- Small Meals – Your gallbladder stored bile and released it as necessary when you ate. A smaller amount was released for small meals, and a larger amount was needed to break down bigger meals. Because bile will now be released directly from the liver, it can’t release as much at a time when needed to break down food, so digestion can be a little uncomfortable after larger meals. Most patients can help prevent bloating and discomfort by eating more smaller meals instead of a few large meals.
- PT or Moderate Exercise – Exercise and controlled strength training can also help to aid in digestion and keep you fit. You may have some activity restrictions right after your surgery, but a lot of modified exercise and strengthen training programs can begin shortly after you’re discharged, so talk with your physician about the best exercise routines to aid in recovery.
- Food Journals – Finally, a lot of patients find it helpful to document what they eat for the first couple weeks in a food journal. Write down what you ate, how you felt afterwards and if you had any discomfort or uncomfortable bowel movements. This way you can have a personalized dietary chart that maps out what your system handles well and what foods to avoid for a little longer.
Over time, your body is going to get used to life without a gallbladder, and things will only get easier. But if you follow these tips in the first few days and weeks after gallbladder removal, we’re confident you’ll have a good chance of limiting discomfort during recovery. For more tips, or to talk to a specialist about a gallbladder issue of your own, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.