How to Support Digestion after Gallbladder Removal
If you have had your gallbladder removed, it's important to take extra steps to support your gut health. The gallbladder plays an important role in digestion: it concentrates, stores, and releases bile produced by the liver when we ingest fats.
Having it removed means you will need to replace its actions for the rest of your life.
Without your gallbladder to sense when you ingest fats and release enough bile to digest them, you will not be able to digest fats properly. This can cause bloating, constipation, gas, cramping, and diarrhea.
With the gallbladder removed, the liver is now constantly dripping bile into the small intestine. Your small intestine is not designed to receive bile unless it is mixed with food, so the highly alkaline pH of bile can irritate the intestinal lining and in some cases even cause diarrhea.
Once your gallbladder is removed, it's important to make sure you're supporting your liver health, digestive function, and your intestinal lining every day.
The following are 7 ways that you can support your digestion after you've had your gallbladder removed:
1. Take Digestive Enzymes with Ox Bile
You will need to take ox bile with your meals for the rest of your life. Because your gallbladder’s job is to release bile when it senses you’ve got food incoming, that bile will no longer be available at mealtimes. This can cause all kinds of digestive drama, but it’s an easy problem to solve with the right digestive enzyme.
Look for a digestive enzyme with ox bile. Ideally, speak to a professional to determine the best option for you with regards to supplementation.
2. Take L-Glutamine
With bile constantly dripping into the small intestine, it can be really irritating to the lining. This can cause "Leaky Gut" which can lead to issues like eczema, brain fog, and autoimmune disease.
L-glutamine can be a great option to keep your intestinal lining healthy, combined with an anti-inflammatory diet and taking the right digestive enzyme to help with fat digestion.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that's been shown to have huge benefits for our gut lining. Glutamine is the primary energy source for the cells that line the gut, and taking it can help to repair any damage to the intestinal lining due to this irritation.
3. Getting Enough Omega-3's and Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Gallbladder removal can mean that you are now at risk of omega-3 and fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Even if you are getting enough of them in your diet, you need to ensure you’re absorbing essential fatty acids and the nutrients that rely on fat to make it into your bloodstream: A, D, E & K.
To ensure you're getting enough of these nutrients, try to include the following foods:
SMASH fish (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) three times per week
Hemp seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts
Grassfed red meat (beef, bison, venison, elk, lamb)
Green and orange veggies (like sweet potatoes and kale)
Fibre and fermented foods
Remember, it's not just about what you eat, it's about what you absorb. Taking the bile-containing enzyme mentioned above will help ensure these nutrient dense foods are properly digested so your body can access those nutrients. ⠀⠀
4. Eat Liver Loving Foods Daily⠀
Having issues with your gallbladder that lead to its removal is usually a sign that the liver needs support too. Functional health professionals like me think of the liver and gallbladder as one organ, if the gallbladder got sick, it likely started in the liver. Certain foods can thin bile and improve the flow to prevent stones from forming in your liver the same way they did in your gallbladder.
Try to include a serving of one or two of these foods daily:
Bitter greens like radicchio, arugula, and dandelion leaves
Citrus like lemon and grapefruit
5. Eat Every 3-4 Hours to Avoid Bile Acid Irritation
Eating every 3-4 hours can help to reduce the build-up of bile acids in the small intestine. If the small intestine can't keep up with the reabsorption of bile, a build-up can be really irritating and even cause diarrhea for some. If you've noticed that going a long time without food makes your symptoms worse since having your gallbladder out, this is why.
Ingesting foods frequently enough allows the bile to be used for its purposes in helping to digest fats, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. This also makes sure that the MMC (migrating motor complex), has enough time to do its clean-up in the GI tract.
6. Get Consistent Fiber
Now you know that the constant secretion of bile from the liver can cause irritation to the intestinal lining, as well as diarrhea in some cases. This is called bile acid malabsorption and happens because the liver is now constantly dripping bile into the intestines. Fiber can come in handy here. Soluble fiber binds to the bile acids in the small intestine, helping to eliminate them via stool.
Some great fibers you can incorporate into your daily nutrition are:
Ground flax seeds
Apples and pears
Beans and lentils
Nuts and seeds
Remember that fibre intake needs to be consistent meaning that every meal and snack should have a fibre source to help bind the bile acids.
7. Take Anti-inflammatory Herbs
Inflammation can occur in the intestine as a result of constant exposure to bile. Upping anti-inflammatory foods and herbs can be supportive here.
Some anti-inflammatory herbs that can be helpful are:
Enjoy these as a tea, or supplement with them in a capsule or tincture form. I always recommend speaking with a health-care provider prior to taking any form of supplementation, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or have any underlying health concerns.
If you've had your gallbladder removed, and are looking for some professional support to dive deeper into supporting your digestive health, I'm here to help! Check out my Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive.