Common Health Questions

Do I need to change my diet after gallbladder surgery?

Most people can continue to eat a healthy well-balanced diet after they have their gallbladder removed. However, if you get side effects, such as mild diarrhoea, it may help if you:

  • eat more high fibre foods
  • avoid any foods that make your diarrhoea worse

What does the gallbladder do?

The gallbladder is a pouch underneath your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps to break down fatty foods. When you eat food, the gallbladder releases bile into your duodenum (the top part of your small intestine).

If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, your liver will continue to produce enough bile to digest your food. Instead of being stored in the gallbladder, the bile drips continuously from your liver into your intestine.

Before your operation

You may be advised to eat a low-fat diet for several weeks before your gallbladder is removed (cholecystectomy).

After your operation

You can eat normally soon after your operation. Most people can start eating later the same day. You will probably prefer to eat small meals to start with.

You don't need to continue to eat a low-fat diet. A healthy well-balanced diet is important, so your diet can include some fats. However, if your diet includes too much fat, you may put on weight. 

Side effects

For the first few weeks, after meals some people may:

  • get increased wind (gas)
  • have indigestion
  • feel bloated

Some people also find that:

  • they pass stools (faeces) more often
  • their stools are less solid

About 20 in every 100 people have diarrhoea after gallbladder surgery. Diarrhoea usually improves over time, but for a small number of people it can last for many years.

If your stools are more frequent or loose than usual or if you have diarrhoea, it may help to:

  • increase the high fibre foods in your diet, such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, to make your stools more firm
  • avoid foods that may make your diarrhoea worse, such as dairy products, spicy foods and fatty foods
  • avoid drinks containing caffeine, such as tea and coffee, that can make diarrhoea worse

You may also want to get advice from your GP, who can recommend medication if you have diarrhoea.

Complications

Complications after gallbladder surgery are rare.

If you have had other organs removed as well as your gallbladder, such as your pancreas, you may have problems digesting your food. Your healthcare professional will give you advice about your diet after your surgery.

Last Updated: 07 December 2011