Do I need to change my diet after gallbladder surgery?

Most people don’t need to follow a special diet after having surgery to remove their gallbladder because, although the gallbladder is useful for digestion, it is not essential.

What does the gallbladder do?

The gallbladder is a pouch under your liver that stores bile. This is a fluid made by the liver that is released during digestion to help break down fatty foods. If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, your liver will still make enough bile to digest your food but, instead of being stored in the gallbladder, the bile drips continuously from your liver into your intestine.

Your diet after gallbladder surgery

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

You may have been advised to eat a low-fat diet for several weeks before surgery, but this doesn’t need to be continued afterwards. Instead, you should aim to have a healthy well-balanced diet (including some fats), which can aid your recovery and help improve your general health.

If you experience any side effects of surgery - such as indigestion, bloating, flatulence or diarrhoea - it may help to make some small adjustments to your diet, such as:

  • avoid drinks containing caffeine – such as coffee and tea
  • avoid foods that make the problems worse – such as spicy and fatty foods
  • gradually increase your intake of fibre – good sources of fibre include fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain rice, wholewheat pasta and bread, seeds, nuts and oats

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

Side effects of gallbladder surgery usually only last a few weeks, although diarrhoea can be a problem for a small number of people for many years.

If you have had other organs removed as well as your gallbladder, such as your pancreas, you may have problems digesting your food. In these cases, your surgeon and healthcare team will give you advice about any changes you need to make to your diet after surgery.

Read the answers to more questions about healthy eating.

Further information:

Gallstones

Gallstones are the most common cause of emergency hospital admission for people with abdominal pain. About 8% of the adult population has gallstones and 50,000 people a year have an operation to remove their gallbladder.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 19/03/2016