Your gallbladder is one of those important parts of your body that you never notice until something goes wrong with it. Your gallbladder is a small organ, shaped like a pear, which collects and stores bile. Bile helps the body digest fats. Though the gallbladder does an important job, it is not absolutely necessary to bodily function.
For some people, gallbladder problems can develop. This can lead to serious pain or discomfort, bloating, nausea and vomiting. When the problems become especially uncomfortable, it might be time to remove the gallbladder.
Why do We Need a Healthy Gallbladder Diet?
Like most other parts of your body, your gallbladder needs a healthy diet to work at optimum potential. A healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent gallbladder problems, including gallstones. Diets that are low in fiber and high in cholesterol are the worst possible diets for gallbladders.
Gallbladder problems, including gallstones, can be caused by many problems, but usually diet is the biggest culprit. If you have a family history of gallstones, are overweight or obese or engage in crash diets, you are more likely to have a problem. Your risk is higher if you are woman - studies show that twice as many women develop gallstones than men.
Gallstones can be created by an unhealthy diet, including high levels of cholesterol, fat and proteins. A diet that is very low in fiber can also contribute to them. Gallstones are a very painful buildup of crystals in the gallbladder, resulting in pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Watching your diet and including plenty of fruits, veggies and fiber can help.
Some people know they are at risk for gallstones, while others might never know they could develop a problem until suddenly, they do. So it is always a good idea to maintain a healthy weight, eat a diet that is moderate or low in calories, and include foods that are healthy for your body, such as fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and plenty of fiber.
Foods and Drinks to Have
Below is a list of foods that are good to incorporate into your diet.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. These powerhouses of fiber are excellent additions to a good diet. Avocados, berries, grapes, beets, cucumbers and apples are all foods that can help you avoid gallstones, as well as control diarrhea. Almost anything in the produce section will help: Carrots, onions, broccoli, cranberries and even Brussels sprouts! Look to include at least one serving at each meal.
- Whole Grains. Whole grains include oats, brown rice, whole-wheat bread and bran cereal. Look for other foods that contain whole grains, such as breads made with various grains and cereals that offer a significant amount of fiber.
- Lean Meat, Fish and Poultry. Look for meats that say "round" or "loin" to help ensure you get the least fatty cuts. Poultry without the skin and any type of fish, pork and lamb are also great options for a low-fat diet.
- Low-fat Dairy Foods. When you shop for any type of dairy food, make sure it is labeled low-fat or fat-free. You can indulge in buttermilk, goat's milk, soy milk, yogurt, all types of cheese, sour cream and more - just make sure to pay attention to the fat content.
- Caffeinated Coffee and Alcohol. Studies have shown that alcohol and caffeine might actually reduce the risk of gallstones. However, there haven't been enough studies to make caffeine or alcohol a clear recommendation. As always, caffeine and alcohol should be used only in moderation.
Foods and Drinks to Avoid
Just as there are plenty of foods that are great for you, there are some you should avoid. These actually make the gallbladder work harder, and that can mean a greater risk for gallstones.
- Refined Carbohydrates. Refined carbs include things like table sugar, syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and any other foods that contain empty calories. Anything made with white flour is also filled with refined carbs. Avoid these foods whenever possible, and if you do have them, careful moderation is key.
- Sweeteners. Though sweeteners are always tempting, sugars should be kept to less than five percent of all your daily calories. That means only about five teaspoons for women and about nine teaspoons for men. Unfortunately, most of us eat much more than that! Keep a close eye on how much you use to keep your gallbladder healthier.
- Beverages. Anything that has been sweetened, including tea, wine, soft drinks, beer, and even sweetened fruit juices can be tough for your gallbladder to handle.
- Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables. Though fruits and veggies are recommended for a healthy diet, those that are frozen or canned might have additives that make it harder for the gallbladder to work. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits but make sure they are fresh!
- White Flour Foods. If it was made with white flour, it is loaded with refined carbohydrates. These foods not only lead to gallbladder problems, but also to issues such as obesity and high blood pressure. They also increase your chances of developing diabetes.
- Snacks. Most snacks are heavily processed, so they have lots of things in them that are bad for your body. This can include anything from pies to potato chips.
- High-fat Foods. Foods that have a high fat content make it difficult for your gallbladder to work against them. Fried foods, fatty cuts of red meat, whole-milk dairy products like cheese or ice cream, and foods that are highly processed can all contribute to the problem. If you already have gallstones, eating foods like this can result in serious discomfort.
- Very Low-calorie Diets. These diets usually consist of less than 1,000 calories each day. But if you cut calories abruptly and stay on the diet for a while, you could face serious health problems, such as gallstones.
Post Gallbladder Surgery Diet
Gallbladder surgery can mean the end of all that pain and discomfort, but it also means a short recovery period. If you have your gallbladder removed, you have just gone through major surgery, and you need to be careful to not injure yourself. Take it very easy, take any medications as directed and follow your doctor's advice exactly.
You might want to jump right in by eating all your favorite foods, especially those that are fatty or fried. But even when your gallbladder is gone, there are foods you should avoid.
- Foods to Have. During the first few days after surgery, stay on a liquid diet. Eventually you can add some soft foods, and then work your way back to a normal diet within one to two weeks. Go for things like oatmeal, mashed potatoes, toast, fruits, soups, applesauce and a bit of chicken, if your tummy is ready for it.
- Food to Avoid. After your surgery, avoid fried foods, alcohol, peanut butter, red meats, any greasy foods, raw vegetables, caffeine and alcohol. The goal is to avoid foods that will make your body work too hard. Start out slow and easy by avoiding these foods.