Most people never think twice about the health of their gallbladder.
While a small and often unknown organ in the human body, the gallbladder plays a major role in helping to store bile, the product responsible for digesting the fat in the foods we consume.
One of the most common problems people experience with their gallbladders is the formation of gallstones.
Forming for a variety of reasons, gallstones are often comprised of excess cholesterol.
These small pieces of hard material can cause severe pain and even block the ducts connecting to the gallbladder. They can range in size from as small as a piece of grain to even as large as a golf ball.
Although most people never experience issues, even if they have gallstone formations in their gallbladder, those that do experience symptoms will complain of:
- Pain in the upper abdomen and back, especially near the right shoulder blade
- Bloating, indigestion, belching, and heartburn
If the symptoms persist and are causing extreme discomfort, the gallbladder may require removal by a specialized gallbladder surgeon using Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy.
Gallbladder Disease and Diet
Body weight is a major factor in gallstone formation; those that are overweight increase their likelihood of developing gallbladder disease at some point in their lives.
Having gallbladder disease, especially gallstones, will make it difficult for your gallbladder to break down food properly placing you at risk for other digestive disorders if untreated.
In some cases, should the disease progress, you may need to have the troubled gallbladder removed by a gallbladder surgeon specializing in gallbladder removal procedures.
However, by following a healthy diet aimed at gallbladder health, those who are at risk for developing gallbladder disease may be able to control the disease more efficiently.
Generally, your new diet will look very similar to a normal, healthy, and balanced diet. It has been theorized that diets that are high in fat and cholesterol as well as those low in fiber appear to play a role in a gallbladder disease. Cholesterol is one of the main culprits in gallstone formation, therefore avoiding excessive cholesterol in your diet is an essential first step to preventing a future gallbladder surgery.
Lowering your overall cholesterol intake and upping the nutrients and fiber necessary to keep your digestive system functioning at its highest possible level will aid in gallbladder disease prevention.
You will also need to decrease your intake of fatty foods that place a great deal of strain on your gallbladder to break them down and move them through the digestive system.
Diet Tips for Those with Gallbladder Issues
There are many things you can incorporate into your diet to keep your gallbladder running efficiently and without issue.
Take a look at some of the best diet tips that can be used before gallbladder disease forms, during gallbladder disease episodes, and even after your gallbladder surgeon removes a diseased gallbladder:
Decrease your body weight
If you’re overweight, even by only 10 pounds, try to lose the extra weight.
- The extra strain on your body from being overweight is harmful to not only your gallbladder but the rest of your body.
- Lose weight gradually — There is a link between quick weight loss and gallstone formation. If you lose weight too quickly the liver has to release more cholesterol into the bile, disrupting the normal balance of cholesterol and bile salts. That increase in cholesterol can harden and form gallstones.
Avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats
If you currently have a gallstone blocking a duct, when your gallbladder attempts to squeeze the necessary bile out into the body for digestion, it has to squeeze extra hard due to the blockage and the end result is pain.
- If you eat fatty foods or refined carbohydrates, you gallbladder is forced to squeeze more because digesting those foods is more difficult and requires a higher quantity of bile, therefore making the pain increase noticeably.
Good food choices:
- Apples – Apples contain acids that help break down cholesterol. 80% of gallstones are made up of cholesterol so eating apples may be able to help soften or even dissolve gallstones.
- Artichokes – Artichokes encourage bile production reducing the amount of cholesterol in your gallbladder, again lessening your chances of gallstone formation.
- Beets – Beets help thin your bile to break down sludge and small gallstones in your gallbladder and bile ducts because they have high amounts of insoluble fiber, also beneficial to overall health.
- Leafy Greens – Eating greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens can reduce the leftover residue caused by meat, dairy products, sugar, grains, and alcohol. This lessens the burden on the liver (which is responsible for this residue removal) and consequently, the gallbladder.
- Peanuts/Cashews – Some studies have shown that women who regularly consumed peanuts or cashews have had as much as a 20 percent increase in their overall gallbladder health.
- Magnesium – This may be one of the best tips you can follow when aiming for an increase in gallbladder health. Studies have shown that people with the highest average magnesium intake were about 30% less likely to develop gallstones than people with the lowest average intake. The idea behind this is that magnesium helps to maintain HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) which in turn lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
Food to Avoid:
- Fats – Many types of fats can cause pain because they require excess bile to digest. If there is a blockage due to a gallstone, that excess bile will have trouble getting through.
- Meats – Most notably red meats (which are difficult to digest) and anything fried.
- Dairy – Ice creams, high-fat milk, and eggs
- Drinks – Alcohol, black tea, sodas, and coffee
- High sodium foods – Excess sodium strains the body’s system and ultimately the gallbladder in the process.
High fiber foods (after gallbladder removal)
Too much fat in the diet may cause diarrhea because the bile (normally stored in the gallbladder) irritates the digestive system. Eating foods high in fiber can decrease this symptom.
- Avoiding some dairy products, spicy foods and caffeine after a gallbladder removal may help decrease these symptoms as well.
Do not completely remove fat from your diet
This can cause your gallbladder to shut down completely and stop producing the bile necessary for digestion. The key is to take in the right type of fats so that your body can get the oils it needs without causing harm to the gallbladder.
- Flax oil and omega 3 fats can be consumed with meals or as supplements to help break down foods without the added cholesterol some foods contain.
An Overview: What You Should and Should Not Eat if You Have Gallbladder Issues
|Foods to Eat||Foods to Avoid|
|Leafy Greens||High Fat Milk|
In the end, each gallbladder problem and the severity of its disease differs from person to person.
It is important to experiment with these diet tips and see what works for you because no one reacts exactly the same to diet changes. However, implementing a healthy diet into your daily lifestyle will only have added benefits to your overall health while also helping to control or even prevent gallbladder problems such as gallstones.
Should you think you are having severe gallbladder issues, including gallstones, consider contacting your favorite Maryland gallbladder surgeon, Dr. Fraiman. He is ready to consult with you and develop a plan of action so that living with gallbladder disease can become something of the past for you or your loved ones.