I recently had my gallbladder taken out and I keep having diarrhea. Is there a gallbladder removal diet I should follow?
Answer From Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.
Surgery to remove the gallbladder is called cholecystectomy. Some people get loose stools, also called diarrhea, after having this surgery. In most cases, the diarrhea lasts no more than a few weeks to a few months. There is no specific gallbladder removal diet that you should follow if you have this problem. But there are a few things you might consider.
First, it helps to understand why you're having diarrhea. Diarrhea after gallbladder removal seems to be related to the release of bile directly into the intestines. The gallbladder collects and concentrates bile, releasing it when you eat to aid the digestion of fat. When the gallbladder is removed, bile is less concentrated and drains more continuously into the intestines, where it can have a laxative effect.
The amount of fat you eat at one time also plays a role. Smaller amounts of fat are easier to digest. Larger amounts can remain undigested and cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Although there isn't a set gallbladder removal diet, the following tips may help reduce problems with diarrhea after you've had your gallbladder out:
- Go easy on the fat. Don't eat high-fat foods, fried and greasy foods, and fatty sauces and gravies for at least a week after surgery. Instead, choose fat-free or low-fat foods. Low-fat foods are those with no more than 3 grams of fat in a serving. Check labels and follow the serving size listed.
- Increase the fiber in your diet. This can help make bowel movements more regular. Add soluble fiber, such as oats and barley, to your diet. But be sure to increase the amount of fiber slowly, such as over several weeks, because too much fiber at first can make gas and cramping worse.
- Eat smaller, more-frequent meals. This may ensure a better mix with available bile. A healthy meal should include small amounts of lean protein, such as poultry, fish or fat-free dairy, along with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Also try limiting foods that tend to worsen diarrhea, including:;
- Dairy products.
- Very sweet foods.
Talk with your health care provider if your diarrhea doesn't go away or becomes more severe, or if you lose weight and become weak. Your provider may recommend medicine to slow down intestinal movement, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D). Medicines that decrease the laxative effect of bile, such as medicine containing cholestyramine (Prevalite), may also help. Your provider also may suggest that you take a multivitamin. The multivitamin can help your body get the vitamins it needs.
Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.
April 12, 2023
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- Blasco YR, et al. Low-fat diet after cholecystectomy: Should it be systematically recommended? Cirugia Espanola. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.cireng.2019.12.006.
- Disease process. Nutrition Care Manual. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2023.
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- Gallbladder nutrition therapy. Nutrition Care Manual. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2023.
- Diarrhea nutrition therapy. Nutrition Care Manual. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2023.
- Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea. Accessed Feb. 17, 2023.