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Can you recommend a diet after gallbladder removal?

I recently had my gallbladder out and I keep having diarrhea. Is there a gallbladder removal diet I should follow?

After having their gallbladders removed, some people develop frequent loose, watery stools that characterize diarrhea. In most cases, the diarrhea lasts no more than a few weeks to a few months. There isn't a specific gallbladder removal diet that you should follow, 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 the release of bile directly into the intestines. Normally 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, while 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 minimize problems with diarrhea after you've had your gallbladder out:

  • Go easy on the fat. Avoid high-fat foods, fried and greasy foods, and fatty sauces and gravies. Instead, choose fat-free or low-fat foods. Low-fat foods are those with no more than 3 grams a serving. Check labels and follow the serving size listed.
  • Increase the fiber in your diet. This can help normalize bowel movements. But be sure to increase the amount of fiber in your diet 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 and fat-free dairy, along with vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

You may also try limiting foods that can worsen diarrhea in general, including:

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Greasy foods
  • Very sweet foods

Talk with your doctor if your diarrhea doesn't diminish or becomes more severe, or if you lose weight and become weak. Your doctor may recommend medicines such as loperamide (Imodium A-D), which slows down intestinal movement, or medications that decrease the laxative effect of bile, such as cholestyramine (Locholest, Prevalite).

Updated: 4/27/2012

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