The gallbladder is a small organ located below the liver. It stores bile produced by the liver, and releases the bile into the small intestine to help digest food.

The gallbladder is a sensitive organ. Maintaining a healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods can help you prevent gallbladder disease. On the other hand, a diet rich in ultra-processed foods may increase your risk for gallbladder-related conditions.

If your gallbladder isn’t kept in good health, it may need to be removed. So eating a gallbladder-healthy diet is something to consider.

Eating a healthy diet can help you maintain good health and prevent disease, including gallbladder disease.

Some of the factors that may increase your risk for conditions like gallblader cancer are outside of your control. Factors like your age, sex assigned at birth, and ethnicity can affect your overall risk for gallbladder disease.

Eating a health-promoting diet is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

Mediterranean and DASH diets

Certain diets may lower your risk for developing symptomatic gallstone disease, according to a large 2018 study. The study included males only.

Both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet were associated with reduced risk of gallstone disease.

A Mediterranean diet includes whole foods and healthy fats, and limits processed foods and refined grains. The DASH diet also focuses on whole foods, but specifically limits sodium, red meat, and fat.

Both diets emphasize eating lots of whole fruits and vegetables, and limiting added sugars.

Vegetables and fruits

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve and protect your gallbladder’s health. Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients and fiber, the latter of which is essential to a healthy gallbladder.

Fiber helps speed up your digestion, which may reduce your risk for gallstone disease.

Research suggests the following foods may support gallbladder health:

Healthy fats

Research suggests that foods rich in healthy fats may promote gallbladder health. This protective effect may be related to lowering triglyceride levels, improving the quality of bile, and regulating gallbladder contractions.

Foods to consider include:

  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • fish and fish oil supplements

Plant-based protein

It’s thought that eating more plant-based protein could also help prevent gallbladder conditions. Following a vegetatian diet typically lowers your cholesterol, which can reduce your risk for gallstone disease.

Foods like beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, and tempeh (as long as you aren’t allergic to soy) are excellent alternatives for meat.

Regular and frequent mealtimes

As much as possible, eat meals on a regular schedule and avoid long gaps between meals.

You can also try eating frequent smaller meals throughout the day. Eating a meal causes your gallbladder to empty, and when this happens on a regular basis you may be less likely to develop gallstones.

If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation

For those who consume alcohol, you might be happy to hear that regular, moderate intake of small amounts of alcohol may be associated with better gallbladder health.

Keep in mind that more research is needed on this topic. What is known for sure is that long-term, heavy alcohol use is associated with a higher risk for gallbladder problems.

The following foods may increase your risk for gallbladder problems:

  • refined sugars, such as fructose
  • foods high in added sugars, such as baked goods, desserts, and sweets
  • fast food
  • foods high in fat, especially saturated fat
  • foods containing trans fats, such as deep-fried foods
  • eating a diet that is overall low in fiber

Trans fats are associated with a range of health concerns, including gallbladder conditions. They are found in fried foods and some commercially baked products.

Trans fats are thought to interfere with your gallbladder’s regular functions by raising the level of triglycerides in your blood. This may increase your risk for gallstones.

If you have gallstones, eating high-fat foods can increase your risk for painful complications caused by biliary colic. This is because dietary fat triggers your gallbladder to contract and empty, which can be irritating if you have gallstones.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations when recovering after gallbladder surgery. Your doctor will likely recommend that you return to a regular, balanced diet as soon as possible.

If you need to have your gallbladder removed, you may experience diarrhea, bloating, and farting in the first few weeks after surgery. This is due to the more continuous release of bile into your intestines.

You may be advised to increase your fiber intake temporarily. This can reduce digestive side effects while your body adjusts after surgery.

Some high fiber foods include:

  • whole fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grain breads
  • brown rice

There are two primary types of gallbladder problems: cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) and cholestasis (gallstones). Some people with gallstones don’t experience any symptoms. In those that do, symptoms of gallbladder problems can include:

  • pain on the upper right side of the abdomen, especially following meals and eating fatty foods
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • jaundice, if the gallbladder ducts are blocked
  • low-grade fever
  • tea-colored urine
  • light-colored stools

Gallstones can be painful. If large enough, they can also block the duct that leads out of the gallbladder. Over time, this can become life-threatening. In these cases, removal of the gallbladder is often necessary.

Women are more likely to develop gallstones than men. Pregnant women, women using hormonal birth control, and women who use hormone replacement therapy are at increased risk for the formation of gallstones. Other risk factors include:

Gallbladder problems can be painful and, in some cases, dangerous. Eating the right foods — and avoiding the wrong ones, namely those high in fat — can help improve and protect the health of your gallbladder.

Ultimately, a diet for a healthy gallbladder will benefit your overall health, keeping your whole body healthier in the long run.