Medical News Today: Weight loss after gallbladder removal: Causes and how to manage it

Gallbladder removal surgery is also called a cholecystectomy. It is a very common procedure. The gallbladder is a small organ that is part of the digestive system and is not essential for survival.

The gallbladder stores bile, which is a substance that is produced by the liver. Bile is necessary to break down and digest fats.

A person usually has a cholecystectomy if they get gallstones, which are collections of hardened substances that form within the gallbladder. These stones can cause ongoing episodes of abdominal pain, inflammation, or infection of the gallbladder.

Gallstones can also cause blockages in the duct of the gallbladder and the duct between the liver and pancreas. This can lead to further complications, such as pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas.

Fast facts on weight loss after gallbladder removal:

  • A person can live without their gallbladder.
  • When gallstones become a problem, surgery is usually required to remove the gallbladder.
  • It is not uncommon for people to lose a little weight after having a cholecystectomy.
  • There are several strategies, including exercise and diet, that can be used to make this short-term weight loss a more permanent change.

What causes weight changes after surgery?

Lady using scales in the bathroom
Weight loss after gallbladder surgery may be caused by pain medication, surgical side effects, or a bland diet.

There are several reasons for weight loss after gallbladder removal. These include:

Following a low-fat diet

Following a low-fat diet for a few weeks before surgery reduces the number of calories taken in. It is not uncommon for people to experience some weight loss as a result of these dietary changes.

Surgical side effects

Some of the side effects of surgery, such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting can also cause weight loss.

Some people experience prolonged diarrhea after a cholecystectomy. Doctors are not sure why this happens, but it may be the result of excess bile being present in the digestive system.

Some people also experience a decreased appetite for several weeks following surgery.

Pain medication

Pain medication administered after the surgery can cause constipation. Pain and constipation can also reduce the desire to eat, which could reduce caloric intake and cause weight loss.

Bland diet

While recovering from surgery, most people will be unlikely to tolerate anything too spicy or rich. Temporarily following a bland diet, which is also likely to be lower in calories can cause mild weight loss.

Surgical recovery

Recovering from surgery can be tough. How the surgery was performed can impact the recovery process.

Traditional surgery tends to come with a more difficult recovery and more pain. Additional pain medication may be required, which can lead to a diminished appetite.

In most cases, weight loss after gallbladder surgery is just a temporary issue. Once the body has adjusted, usually within a few weeks, weight loss will slow down or stop.

Weight management after surgery

healthful food, water and dumbells
After gallbladder removal, it is essential to eat a healthful diet and be more active.

People must understand that fad diets and “quick fixes” aren’t just ineffective; they can be dangerous. The safest ways to lose weight are:

  • following a healthful diet
  • being more active
  • eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and fiber
  • eliminating empty calories from sugars and fats, such as those in sweetened drinks and candy, can help both with weight loss and long-term health concerns

Living an active lifestyle is essential for weight loss after gallbladder removal. It is important to speak with a doctor about when it is appropriate to return to or begin an exercise routine after surgery.

Someone with a significant amount of weight to lose should speak with their doctor for advice and support.

The doctor will likely recommend taking a little time off after surgery before working out. Once cleared to return to activity, walking, biking, yoga, or swimming are excellent choices.

Diet after surgery

A high-fat diet can cause gallstones. As a result, people are frequently advised to follow a low-fat diet for a few weeks before the surgery. Once the surgery is over, most people can slowly return to a regular diet.

Though a doctor may not prescribe a special diet, a bland diet can minimize abdominal or digestive discomfort after surgery.

The diet may include:

  • avoiding fried, fatty, or greasy foods
  • not eating spicy foods
  • avoiding foods that cause gas
  • reducing caffeine intake
  • eating smaller meals
  • increasing fiber intake slowly

In order to minimize the risk of side effects after gallbladder surgery, it may be preferable to start with small meals.

Common side effects after surgery

surgeon passes scissors to another surgeon
After surgery, there may be some side effects, including indigestion and gas.

Side effects from the surgery should only last a few weeks after the procedure. If they last longer than a few weeks, report it to the surgeon.

Common side effects of gallbladder removal include:

Someone experiencing these side effects should check in with their doctor about medication or lifestyle changes that can relieve their symptoms. It can also be helpful to track what aggravates or triggers the side effects and avoid them if possible.

Report any other abnormal symptoms to a doctor. These include:

  • fevers
  • worsening stomach pain
  • nausea and vomiting that does not go away
  • jaundice – yellowing of eyes and skin
  • skin wounds that are warm, red, draining, or painful

Who is affected by weight loss after gallbladder removal?

People with gallstones are the most likely to have their gallbladder removed, and so are more likely to be affected by weight loss after surgery.

In some cases, gallstones don’t cause any symptoms. In other cases, they can be very painful, and irritate the gallbladder or pancreas. A cholecystectomy is the most effective treatment for frequent bouts of pain, inflammation, or infection due to gallstones.

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