Eating fiber-rich foods is good for your digestion as well as your accessory digestive organs, such as the gallbladder. The Cleveland Clinic explains that the gallbladder is a small pouch that lies just below the liver. When your liver makes bile—a substance that helps break up fat for absorption—it releases the bile into a duct, and the bile partially drains into the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores the bile until you eat a fatty meal.Then it releases bile into the bile duct, which empties into the intestine to help digest the fats in your diet.
Digestive disorders may include problems with the gallbladder and bile duct. If the narrow bile duct that transports bile in and out of the gallbladder becomes blocked, the tissue around it may become inflamed. This can lead to severe pain, nausea, and vomiting, especially when you’ve just eaten a big meal and the gallbladder tries to send bile through the blocked duct to your intestine. According to the National Institutes of Health, the blocking culprit is often gallstones, which are usually made of cholesterol, bile acid, or a mixture of these. In some people, gallstones stay in the gallbladder and do not cause any symptoms. However, if the stones become stuck in the bile duct, they can severely irritate and inflame the gallbladder in a condition called cholecystitis.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating more fiber to prevent gallstone formation, thereby reducing your risk of duct blockage and inflammation. Specifically, they suggest a flaxmeal supplement. Take 1 teaspoon of ground flaxseed up to three times a day, mixed with food or juice. This may help to prevent gallstones because the fiber removes excess dietary cholesterol before it can get absorbed by the blood. If you do develop gallstones, you may require medical treatments such as surgery to remove the gallbladder or a treatment called lithotripsy, which relies on sounds waves to dissolve the stones.
If you have gallstones that are causing severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of your gallbladder, which is called a cholecystectomy. The MayoClinic.com notes that the procedure will solve the pain and discomfort; however, it can lead to side effects such as diarrhea. This may occur because without a gallbladder, bile from the liver cannot be stored and, as a result, it drips into your intestine at a slow, steady rate. This means that you have more bile than you need when you’re not eating and less bile than you need when you’ve just eaten a fatty meal. Both extra bile and non-absorbed fat from food can act as laxatives, causing minor diarrhea. In most cases, the diarrhea resolves within a few weeks to a few months as your body adjusts to the gallbladder removal.
If you suffer from diarrhea after gallbladder removal, a modified diet can help ease these unpleasant symptoms. MayoClinic.com suggests adding fiber to your diet. Fiber-rich foods help to absorb and remove excess bile and undigested fats and also give form to stools. The American College of Surgeons recommends adding foods such as beans, bran, raspberries, sweet corn and nuts. However, it is important to increase your fiber intake gradually. Too much too soon can make you feel gassy and bloated; talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the best diet plan for you after surgery. Doctors also recommend limiting your fat intake and eating smaller, more frequent meals if you have had gallbladder removal.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallbladder Disease
- MayoClinic.com: Can You Recommend a Diet After Gallbladder Removal?
- Cleveland Clinic: Gallstones - Digestive Disease Overview
- National Institutes of Health: Acute Cholecystitis
- American College of Surgeons Division of Education: Cholecystectomy
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.