gallbladder removal

What Happens if You Don’t Have Your Gallbladder?

March 8, 2017

The story of the removal of the gallbladder shows just how adaptable our bodies can be.  The body is able to work as a well-oiled machine even when it has been removed.  Gallbladder removal may leave you “an organ lighter” but fret not because chances are you will hardly miss it.  You can live a perfectly normal life without a gallbladder.

The gallbladder is a tiny, pouch-like organ which is located in the upper right quadrant of your stomach.  It stores bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver that enables the breakdown of fatty foods.

Painful small stones can form in the gallbladder as a result of an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. Sometimes gallstones cause zero symptoms and patients do not realize that they even have an issue with their gallbladder but sometimes the gallstones can block the flow of bile and irritate the gallbladder or pancreas.  This is called acute cholecystitis or acute pancreatitis.

Gallbladder Removal Surgery

Gallbladder removal is a very common surgery (one of the most common of all operations performed) and can help to alleviate very painful digestive distress that comes with a badly functioning gallbladder.  On rare occasions, it may be a possibility to take prescribed medications to dissolve gallstones but surgery is the most effective treatment in the majority of cases.  There are two main ways of removing a gallbladder: Laparoscopic surgery (keyhole) or open surgery.

Laparoscopic Keyhole Gallbladder Removal Surgery: there are several small incisions made in your abdomen and very fine surgical instruments are used to find, access and then remove your gallbladder.

Open Gallbladder Removal Surgery: a single larger incision is made in the stomach to find, access and remove the gallbladder.

Today, laparoscopic surgery is the preferred option due to the faster recovery, shorter hospital stay and minimal scarring involved. Most patients will stay for one night in the hospital post-surgery.  Patients are able to return to normal activities after 14 days.  It takes much longer to recover from any open surgery.  An average hospital stay will be four days and it will take six to eight weeks before patients are feeling back to normal.

General anesthesia is used for both laparoscopic and open gallbladder surgery.  Patients are asleep during the surgery and do not feel any pain or remember anything about the surgery while it is being performed.

Living Without a Gallbladder

There's a percentage of patients that may notice a bit of a change in their digestion post gallbladder removal. Having said that, most patients are able to return to life and business as normal with their dietary needs as soon as a few days or weeks postoperatively.  It’s important to maintain a very balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Once you have had your gallbladder removed, the way you treat your liver becomes very important.  Your gallbladder and your liver are connected.  The gallbladder stores the bile that our liver produces. Once we have eaten, the gallbladder releases the concentrated and stored bile into our small intensive.  The bile helps to regulate the levels or beneficial microflora, destroying pathogenic organisms and helping to digest fats while stimulating the muscle action that moves waste material out of the body.  When your gallbladder is gone, bile travels from your liver directly into your small intestine.

You can lead a perfectly normal life minus your gallbladder.

Without your gallbladder, your liver will still make sufficient bile to digest your food but instead of being stored in the gallbladder, it will drip continuously into your digestive system.  You may have been told to follow special food guidelines prior to surgery but this will not need to be continued post-operatively.  You should aim for a balanced healthy diet.

There are patients who experience trouble such as bloating or constipation post-operatively but this should improve over the first few post-operative weeks. There could be specific foods that trigger this for you so may wish to avoid them for the first few weeks after surgery, adding them back to your diet at a later stage.

While your body adjusts, it’s a good idea to avoid high-fat foods for a few weeks after having gallbladder removal surgery.

High Fat Foods

  • Food that are fried, i.e. french fries and potato chips
  • High-fat meats such as bacon, sausage, ribs
  • High-fat dairy products such as cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk and sour cream
  • Pizza
  • Foods made with lard or butter
  • Creamy soups or sauces
  • Meat gravies
  • Chocolate
  • Oils such as palm and coconut oil
  • The skin from chicken or turkey

If you need to have your gallbladder removed, you can go back to living a normal and healthy life. You may need to make a few adjustments in the beginning but with time and a healthy diet, the outlook is very promising.

Sheri Burke RHN


Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana & Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery patients for 10 years & provides nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric patients. Sheri is passionate about supporting patients so she created a VSG Blanket & a VSG Plush.

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