Gallbladder removal surgery rarely leads to hormonal imbalance, but this is one potential risk.

After gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy), your body might feel a little off. You might be wondering if you’ve developed a hormonal imbalance.

Certain hormones are linked to the gallbladder and its role in the digestive system. These hormones may potentially be affected if you have your gallbladder removed, but this is not a common complication of the procedure.

Your gallbladder is a small, pear-sized organ near your liver and pancreas. Its primary function is to store and release bile, a digestive liquid your liver produces to help break down dietary fats. Your gallbladder is a part of your digestive system, but it’s affected by your endocrine system, which produces and regulates your hormones.

Language matters

We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to gallbladder removal. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into hormone imbalance after gallbladder removal.

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When the gallbladder is removed, the body still produces bile. But instead of being stored and released from the gallbladder, the bile flows directly into your digestive system.

Changes in bile output after gallbladder removal could lead to an imbalance of certain hormones in the body, but very little research has been done on the topic.

Stress hormones

Research shows that an open gallbladder removal surgery (or any open surgery) can activate the body’s stress response. As a result, levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, may be elevated after the procedure.

But a specific connection between gallbladder removal and cortisol is not well understood.

Sleep hormones

Melatonin, often referred to as the “sleep hormone,” can be found in the gallbladder. Undergoing gallbladder removal surgery can disrupt melatonin levels in the body, which may lead to disrupted sleep.

A 2018 study noted that supplemental melatonin may help combat sleep disruption. However, more research is needed on this topic.

Thyroid hormones

Thyroid dysfunction is common in people who develop gallstones and eventually have their gallbladder removed. However, gallbladder removal hasn’t specifically been shown to impact thyroid function.

More research is needed to better understand the link between thyroid hormones and gallstones and how gallbladder removal surgery may alter this connection.

Reproductive hormones

Estrogen and progesterone are female reproductive hormones that may relate to the body’s production and use of bile.

Researchers suggest that sex hormones may play a role in certain decreased gallbladder secretions. But there’s no evidence gallbladder removal would affect sex hormones in any way.

Any surgical procedure can throw off your menstrual cycle, including gallbladder removal. If you notice changes in your cycle after having your gallbladder removed, consider discussing this with your doctor.

Any changes to your menstrual cycle from gallbladder surgery should be temporary. Talk with a doctor if your symptoms don’t resolve within a few months.

Menopause marks the end of your menstruating years and causes major shifts in hormone levels. As natural estrogen levels drop, many women choose to take estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). Some research has suggested that ERT increases your risk of gallbladder disease and gallbladder removal.

If you’re on ERT and having your gallbladder removed, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

Signs of a hormonal imbalance after gallbladder removal may include:

  • mood changes
  • sleep disruptions
  • fatigue
  • irregular periods
  • weight changes

Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after gallbladder removal surgery.

Gallbladder removal could lead to minor hormonal fluctuations. As a result, it’s possible to experience symptoms of a hormonal imbalance after gallbladder surgery. But this is not a known or common complication of gallbladder removal surgery.

Talk with your doctor about your specific symptoms to determine your best next steps.