People with gallbladder diseases would benefit enormously from a specialized gallbladder diet, as there are definitely foods that irritate the gallbladder and foods that can help it do its job.
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ of the digestive system located under the liver in the upper right part of the abdomen. The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile made by the liver. Bile is composed of cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, electrolytes, bile acids, and water, and it has different digestive functions, including the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients, the excretion of bilirubin, and the promotion of bowel movements.
A variety of gallbladder problems can occur when there is a dysfunction of bile production and secretion. The common types of gallbladder disease include gallstones and acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). There are chronic gallbladder inflammation problems such as choledocholithiasis, acalculous gallbladder disease, sclerosing cholangitis, cancer, polyps, abscesses, and gangrene.
Does Diet Influence Your Gallstone Risk?
The most common gallbladder problem is gallstones. It’s estimated that 20 million Americans suffer from gallstones with one million developing the condition every year. Gallstones are thought to occur in 95% of patients with gallbladder inflammation and pain. People with gallstones may not experience any symptoms, or they may have periods of intense abdominal pain that travels to the upper back.
There are a number of risk factors that lead to gallstone formation, including age, a family history of gallstones, sex (women are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men), excess weight (and conversely, rapid weight loss), insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and constipation.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) or Western diet is another major factor in the development of gallstones, which form as a result of bile becoming saturated with cholesterol. American or Western diets are particularly high in cholesterol and fat and low in dietary fiber. Fat and cholesterol will both play a role in gallstone formation.
The best approach in the prevention and treatment of gallstones is to remove the foods that cause them, including high-fat food and high-cholesterol foods. It’s also a good idea to remove known food allergies and sensitivities from the diet, decrease consumption of animal proteins and refined carbohydrates, and increase your fiber intake through vegetables. As a result, you will see gradual weight loss. When you lose weight too quickly, the liver may release more cholesterol into bile, interfering with the balance of bile salts and cholesterol, which can lead to the formation of gallstones.
Diet after Gallbladder Removal
It’s estimated that over 300,000 people get their gallbladders removed every year due to the presence of gallstones. There are many ways to prevent a painful gallbladder attack, but removing your gallbladder shouldn’t be one of them. People with a gallstone disease or a history of gallbladder removal are known to have shorter lifespans. That said, your doctor may recommend gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy). If you decide to get your gallbladder removed, there are some dietary modifications you should consider while recovering.
What is the best gallbladder diet after surgery? First of all, you may find that digestion is an issue for a while after having the surgery, so it’s a good idea to reintroduce foods slowly to the diet. At first, you should mostly consume clear liquids such as gelatin-rich broths made of beef or chicken bones and marrow.
You should avoid fat right after surgery; over 50% of patients with recent gallbladder surgery have problems digesting fats, likely because there is no longer a gallbladder to control the release of bile into the intestines. Bile flow can also be improved by eating smaller and more frequent meals, and it’s a good idea to keep a food journal after gallbladder surgery. This will help you understand the impact of the foods you are eating while helping you eat without pain.
There will be a period of adjustment after gallbladder surgery, and the person may experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea after eating fatty foods.
Good Foods to Eat for Gallbladder Health
What should be included in a gallbladder healthy diet plan for those with gallbladder diseases? One option for a gallbladder diet menu may be a vegetarian or even vegan diet, high in fiber. In a study published in The BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal), researchers found a link between vegetarian diets and the reduced formation of gallstones.
Some plant-based foods are particularly helpful for gallstones and gallbladder disease. A gallbladder diet should include lots of organic and locally grown foods. Here are some you should definitely include:
- Vegetables: The diet should include a heavy amount of raw or lightly steamed green vegetables. Artichokes, dandelion greens, and beets are all known to improve the flow of bile. Other good vegetables include okra, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and shallots.
- Fruits: Fruits that should be included on the gallbladder diet are apples, berries, pears, and papaya.
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat is a good hypoallergenic alternative to wheat. Some research suggests that buckwheat can significantly reduce the formation of gallstones.
- Good fats: Include good fat sources such as avocados, flaxseed oil, and hemp oil. Olive oil is another common fat used to improve bile flow.
The following gallbladder diet table includes healthy and unhealthy foods for gallbladder conditions.
|Type of Diet||Foods to Eat||Foods to Avoid|
|* Beets, cucumber,
green beans, okra,
|* Eggs, pork, onions,
fried foods, fowl,
dairy, gluten, corn,
legumes and beans,
nuts, trans fats,
margarine, saturated fats,
red meats, coffee,
black tea, chocolate,
spicy foods, turnips,
|Gallstone Diet||* Same as above
* Organic foods
* Other foods include
ginger root, flax oil,
figs, prunes, and
|* Same as above|
|* Essential fatty acids
like borage oil and
* Broths made from
beef and chicken
|* Fried foods, trans fats,
Foods to Avoid to Keep the Gallbladder Healthy
What foods shouldn’t be included in the gallbladder diet? The list of foods to avoid may very well include some of your favorite foods, so you might have to make an adjustment. Here are some of them:
- Sugar: A diet high in refined sugar and carbohydrates is linked with increased cholesterol concentration in bile and a greater risk of gallbladder cancer and gallstones. White-flour foods like desserts, pasta, and white bread should be avoided.
- Dairy products: Avoid dairy products such as milk, cheese, ice cream, and some chocolate products.
- Animal products: It’s best to avoid some animal products such as eggs, fowl, pork, and red meat.
- Processed foods: All processed and fried foods are off the gallbladder diet menu. This includes potato chips, and anything deep-fried.
- Food allergies and sensitivities: If you have food allergies and/or sensitivities, they might be at the root of your gallbladder problems. Common food allergies include eggs, onion, pork, poultry, coffee, milk, corn, nuts, beans, and citrus fruit.
- Coffee: Coffee is known to trigger gallbladder contractions; those with gallstones should avoid drinking coffee.
Will a Gallbladder Flush be Helpful?
Is a gallbladder cleanse, or gallbladder flush, a good idea? A gallbladder flush is a natural method recommended by naturopathic doctors or other holistically minded practitioners. The gallbladder cleanse will help flush the liver and gallbladder. Besides gallbladder problems, a gallbladder flush can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. It’s also used for weight loss and as a natural treatment for acne and other skin problems. A gallbladder cleanse can also help people avoid gallbladder surgery.
Some may argue that a liver and gallbladder cleanse may not work; however, a parasite cleanse and gallbladder cleanse should both be done before a liver and gallbladder cleanse to improve effectiveness and avoid side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
When to Seek Medical Help
While it’s common to experience some food-related symptoms after gallbladder surgery, contact your doctor if you experience more serious symptoms such as consistent or severe abdominal pain, severe vomiting or nausea, jaundice, and frequent diarrhea and inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement more than three days after gallbladder surgery.
Other Natural Remedies for Gallbladder Health
There are also other natural remedies that can help for gallbladder and liver health. To help with gallbladder and liver problems, consider natural remedies such as dandelion root, turmeric, wild yam root, milk thistle, lipase enzymes, vitamin C, bile salts, digestive enzymes, phosphatidylcholine, and high-potency probiotic supplements.
There are also homeopathic remedies that help with gallbladder problems, including berberis vulgaris, calcarea carbonica, chelidonium majus, colocynthis, dioscorea, lycopodium, magnesia phosphorica, nux vomica, china officinalis, and pulsatilla.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 274–280
Murray, M., M.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 605–614.
Pixley, F., et al., “Effect of vegetarianism on development of gall stones in women,” The BMJ, 1985; 291(6487): 11–12; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.291.6487.11.
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