In my previous post, I talked about why a low-carb diet is the best way to go if you have gallstones—and why you should ignore misguided advice to cut out healthy fats. Today, I want to address a trickier question: Can you still eat those healthy fats if you’ve actually had your gallbladder removed?
Before I tackle that question, let’s look at what happens if you lose your gallbladder. Normally, your gallbladder stores bile produced by your liver. It releases this bile when you eat, so you can break down fats. If a surgeon removes your gallbladder, bile will drain continuously into your small intestine instead. However, it’ll be less concentrated than the bile that your gallbladder previously stored.
Obviously, this will dramatically change how your body digests fat. To help your body adapt to this change, mainstream doctors typically recommend a low-fat diet after gallbladder removal.
To a limited degree, this diet advice works. However, you’ll pay a high price for eating this way, because you’re cutting down on the healthy fats your body needs to build strong cells, make hormones, use fat-soluble vitamins, and keep your brain functioning optimally. And to keep from going hungry you’ll need to greatly increase your intake of carbs, increasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Moreover, an interesting thing happens when people disobey the conventional wisdom: After a period of adjustment, many of them feel better. In fact, in my two decades in practice as a naturopathic physician and certified nutritional consultant, I’ve found that people without a gallbladder typically get healthier, and have fewer issues with digestive discomfort and diarrhea, when they give up grains—not fats. (Here’s an interesting post about this phenomenon that I came across online.)
However, this doesn’t mean that if you’re missing your gallbladder, you should immediately boost your intake of fats. Your body isn’t ready for that, and you could suffer painful consequences. Instead, change your diet step-by-step and give your body time to adjust after gallbladder removal.
Here’s what I recommend:
- First, get rid of gluten. Cut out wheat, rye, durum, spelt, graham, semolina, triticale, and kamut flours, as well as wheat bran and wheat germ. Cook from scratch as much as possible—and when you can’t, read labels to make sure there’s no “sneaky” gluten in the food you buy.
- Second, phase out other grains. If you’re like many people dealing with the side effects of gallbladder removal, you’re going to discover that grains are a big cause of your digestive problems.
- Next, add fats very cautiously. Coconut oil is a good fat to emphasize at first. Be sure to choose healthy fats—butter or ghee and coconut, avocado, and olive oil.
- If you go for a long stretch between one meal and the next, go easy on fats at the second meal so you don’t overwhelm your system.
- Add bone broth to your diet! A cup a day will help you heal your gut. And add fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, which help optimize your gut flora. All of this will help you digest food better.
- Eat carby fruits and veggies every day. Going too low-carb isn’t a good idea if you don’t have a gallbladder.
- Be patient. Over time, your ability to digest fats is likely to increase.
- Finally, if you’re still experiencing problems, try taking a beef bile supplement.
If you follow these steps, you’re likely to discover that stubborn problems like diarrhea—a huge issue for many people after gallbladder surgery—start to clear up. In addition, I’m betting you’ll feel healthier, stronger, and more energetic overall. Give it a try—carefully—and see what happens!
This is Part Two of a two-part series. In Part One, I discuss the benefits of eating a low-carb diet with plenty of healthy fats if you have gallstones.
Keep thinking big and living bold!