Foods to Avoid When You Don't Have a Gallbladder

After you have your gallbladder removed, you may find you can't eat like you did before the surgery. You might have pain after eating. You might also have to run to the bathroom soon after eating.

This happens because your digestive system doesn't work the same way it used to.

Your liver produces bile as an ordinary part of digestion. The gallbladder stores the bile produced by your liver. When you eat fat, your gallbladder releases bile to help you digest it.

Without your gallbladder, there is no longer a place to store bile. Instead, the bile drips from your liver continuously. This means there is less bile available to break down fats. The bile can also end up in the large intestine. There, it can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain.

This is why you need to be careful about the foods you eat after surgery. You may no longer be able to enjoy some of your favorite foods. On the plus side, gallbladder removal may force you into a healthier way of eating.

This article will discuss some of the specific foods and types of foods you should avoid after you have your gallbladder removed. It will also look at eating habits that may contribute to pain and discomfort after meals.

Certain health conditions can cause ongoing digestive symptoms. This includes postcholecystectomy syndrome. This is a post-surgery condition associated with pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms. 

It is important to speak with your doctor about your post-surgery symptoms. This will ensure you get a proper diagnosis and the right course of treatment. 

Fried Foods

Sweet Potato Fries

TheCrimsonMonkey / Getty Images

Fried foods are hard on most people's digestive systems. They are even worse when you don't have a gallbladder.

Fried foods contain a lot of fat. Since you are no longer storing bile in a gallbladder, it's much harder for your body to digest and process fat.

You do still need to eat fats. But since it's harder for your body to break them down, you will want to save your bile for fats that are good for you.

Foods you should avoid now that you no longer have a gallbladder include:

  • French fries
  • Fried chicken
  • Fried fish
  • Chicken-fried steak
  • Hash browns
  • Onion rings
  • All other deep-fried foods

Greasy Foods

Turkey Bacon

Jenna Greenwell / GettyImages

Avoid greasy foods for the same reason you avoid fried foods. Without a gallbladder, it's just too hard for your body to digest fats.

A food that makes your hands greasy or leaves oil on the plate is probably too greasy for you to eat. The grease in these foods will make its way to your digestive tract. Without a gallbladder, your body won't be able to process it comfortably.

Greasy foods you should avoid include:

  • Hamburgers
  • Bacon
  • Cheese pizza
  • Heavy or creamed gravies
  • Fatty cuts of meat

Vegetable Oils

Different types of olive oil
Nico Tondini / Getty Images

It is important to get a balance of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. The typical Western diet tends to include too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

Omega-6 fatty acids are fats found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthier fats that have heart, eye, and brain benefits. These fats are found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseed.

Without your gallbladder, you have a limited ability to absorb fats. Because of this, you should eat fewer foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Instead, focus on foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegetable oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Avoid eating anything prepared with:

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Shortening
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil

Avoid these foods, too. They also contain vegetable oils:

  • Cooking oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Store-bought salad dressings

It might be challenging to find store-bought salad dressings and mayonnaise that are made with healthy oils. If you can't find good options, try making your own at home.

Whenever possible, choose extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. These are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Convenience Foods

Potato chips
Krystian Nawrocki / Getty Images

Convenience foods aren't usually healthy. They often contain lots of sugar and refined grains. These ingredients can raise your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Convenience foods also tend to be high in omega-6 fatty acids. This is because they are often made with soybean oil.

Avoid store-bought versions of the following:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Potato chips
  • Tortilla chips
  • Other pre-packaged baked goods or snack food items

Recap

After gallbladder removal, foods containing a lot of fat are harder for your body to digest. Avoid fried and greasy foods, vegetable oils, and convenience foods.

Liquids During Meals

Multi-generational family sitting around a dinner table

10'000 Hours / Getty Images

You may find it's easier to digest your food if you don't drink as much liquid before and during a meal.

This may be because too much liquid can dilute stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Without a gallbladder, you depend more on these substances to help you digest food.

Because water in the stomach is absorbed rapidly, though, it doesn't play a large role in acid and enzyme secretion. So drink water when you are thirsty.

Large, Heavy Meals

A full plate at Thanksgiving dinner

James Pauls / Getty Images

Large meals are harder to digest. Eating a large meal causes the stomach and intestines to have to work harder. This may make abdominal pain and diarrhea worse.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may help you avoid these uncomfortable symptoms.

Recap

You may find it helpful to limit how much liquid you drink before and during a meal, and to eat smaller meals throughout the day.

Other Potentially Troublesome Foods

Fried corn

Sino Images / Getty Images

Not everyone reacts to the same foods in the same way. Eliminating obvious problem foods may not be enough.

Certain foods can cause digestive upset for many people. This even includes those who still have a gallbladder.

You may need to try an elimination diet. On this kind of eating plan, you start by cutting out large groups of foods. Then, you gradually add foods back in. This helps you identify your problem foods.

Foods that cause problems for many people include:

  • Gluten-containing foods
  • High-FODMAP foods
  • Dairy products
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Excessive sugar
  • Corn
  • Soy

Summary

Your gallbladder stores bile, which helps you digest food. Without a gallbladder, there are some foods you may no longer be able to eat comfortably.

Avoid fried and greasy foods, as well as foods containing a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, like vegetable oils. Convenience foods also tend to be high in oil, sugar, and refined grains. You may also find it helpful to drink less while eating, and to eat smaller meals. 

If none of these things help prevent discomfort after eating, you may need to try an elimination diet. 

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shin Y, Choi D, Lee KG, Choi HS, Park Y. Association between dietary intake and postlaparoscopic cholecystectomic symptoms in patients with gallbladder disease. Korean J Intern Med. 2018;33(4):829-836. doi:10.3904/kjim.2016.223

  2. Arora D, Kaushik R, Kaur R, Sachdev A. Post-cholecystectomy syndrome: a new look at an old problem. J Minim Access Surg. 2018;14(3):202-207. doi:10.4103/jmas.JMAS_92_17

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.