Weight Loss After Gallbladder Removal: Know the Facts

Medically reviewed by Katie Mena, MD on October 25, 2016Written by Ann Pietrangelo on October 25, 2016

Does your gallbladder affect your weight?

If you have a tendency to develop painful gallstones, the remedy is usually removal of the gallbladder. This procedure is called a cholecystectomy.

The gallbladder is the part of your digestive system that stores bile, which is produced in the liver. Bile helps with the digestion of fatty foods. Removing the gallbladder doesn’t stop the liver from making the bile necessary to digest fats. Instead of being stored in the gallbladder, the bile will continuously drip into your digestive system.

There may be some connection between diet and gallstones. Obesity and rapid weight loss are risk factors for developing gallstones. There’s also an increased risk for gallstones if you have a diet high in refined carbohydrates and calories, but low in fiber.

Your digestive system will continue to function without a gallbladder. The surgery may affect your weight in the short term, but certain lifestyle changes may help you lose or maintain weight in the long term.

Will gallbladder removal cause me to lose weight?

After having your gallbladder removed, it’s quite possible that you’ll experience some weight loss. This may be cause of:

Eliminating fatty foods: After surgery, you may have some trouble digesting fatty foods until your body adjusts. For that reason, your surgeon may instruct you to avoid high-fat and fried foods until your body is better able to handle them.

Eating a bland diet: During recovery, you may also find that spicy foods and foods that cause gas can lead to gastrointestinal upset. This can make you shy away from some of your favorite dishes.

Selecting smaller portions: For a few weeks after surgery, you may not be able to eat large amounts of food at one sitting. You’ll probably be advised to eat more frequent, but smaller meals.

Recovering: If you had traditional surgery rather than laparoscopic surgery, you may experience more post-surgical pain, discomfort, and a longer recovery time, all of which can affect your appetite.

Experiencing diarrhea: One potential side effect of gallbladder surgery is diarrhea. This should improve after a few weeks.

During this time, you might be taking in fewer calories than you were before the surgery. If so, you’re likely to lose weight, at least temporarily.

Managing your weight post-procedure

Despite having your gallbladder removed, it’s still possible to lose weight. As always, short-term and quick weight-loss plans are not healthy and may make matters worse in the long run.

Instead, strive to make weight loss part of an overall healthier way of living. That means making good dietary choices and engaging in regular exercise. It doesn’t mean starving or completely depriving yourself of the foods you love.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, ask your doctor how you can do it safely. You may also find it helpful to work with a dietician or nutritionist.

Tips for weight management

Whether you want to lose weight or maintain your current weight, doing it the healthy way means making lifestyle changes you can live with. Unless your doctor recommends a particular diet for medical reasons, there’s no need for a special diet.

A basic healthy diet should:

  • Focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat milk products. If fresh produce is a problem, frozen and canned are just as nutritious, but only if they don’t have added sugars, sauces, or salt.
  • Include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Be low in added sugars, salt, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. That includes processed snack foods and fast foods that are high in empty calories.

It’s also important to watch your portions and not take in more calories than you can burn.

Physical activity plays a vital role in weight management, plus it provides a host of other health benefits. If you want to maintain your current weight, but haven’t been exercising, start slowly and gradually increase your time. Walking is a good place to start. For moderate-intensity aerobic activity, aim for 150 minutes a week. With vigorous aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week should do it. Or, you can do some combination of moderate and vigorous activity. For weight loss to occur, you may need to exercise more than that while still making healthy dietary choices. If you have any underlying health conditions, check with your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.

Other effects of gallbladder surgery

The gallbladder can be surgically removed through an abdominal incision. These days, it’s more likely that your doctor will choose laparoscopic surgery. This procedure involves a few tiny incisions. Your hospital stay and total recovery time will likely be considerably shorter after laparoscopic surgery.

Aside from the usual risks of any surgery and anesthesia, temporary effects of the surgery may include loose, watery stools, bloating, and gassiness. This may last for a few weeks to a few months.

Contact your doctor if you have:

The bottom line

For a few days after surgery, a bland diet may be best. To avoid indigestion and bloating right after surgery, you should:

  • Eliminate fried and fatty foods.
  • Don’t eat spicy foods or those that cause gas.
  • Go easy on caffeine.
  • Eat smaller meals with healthy snacks in-between.
  • Slowly increase your fiber intake.

After the first week, gradually start adding new foods to your diet. In most cases, you should be able to eat a normal, well-balanced diet within a short period.

Once you’ve fully recovered and your digestive system is back on track, you shouldn’t have any dietary restrictions due to gallbladder removal.

Keep reading: 10 pounds in 2 months: Weight loss meal plan »

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