Can You Live Without a Gallbladder?

You can definitely live without a gallbladder. This also shouldn't have any effect on your life expectancy.

Updated: September 28, 2019

It is possible to live a long, full life without a gallbladder. Although you can survive without a gallbladder, you will likely need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle and eating habits to avoid any problems. With these changes, you probably won't notice any major differences in your day to day life after having your gallbladder removed. You can definitely live without a gallbladder. This also shouldn't have any effect on your life expectancy. The dietary changes you will need to make may even help you live a longer, healthier life.  
Gallbladder removal is called cholecystectomy. Gallbladder can be removed for several reasons, including:

  • infections
  • inflammation, called cholecystitis which can lead to pancreatitis
  • gallstones, when gallstones move to the common bile duct and potentially cause a blockage that prevents the gallbladder and rest of the biliary tree from draining
  • gallbladder polyp

You need to also remove the gallbladder when the gallbladder doesn't empty bile correctly due to a defect.

Function of a Gallbladder:

The gallbladder is a tiny digestive organ that sits in your abdomen, just behind the liver. There is a common bile duct which connects the gallbladder and the liver.
This duct transports bile from the liver through the hepatic ducts, into the gallbladder, and into the first part of your small intestine called the duodenum.
Bile is a substance that helps to helps your body break down foods and digest fat. The main function of gallbladder is to store bile and releases some bile into the small intestine when you eat, where it gets to work on breaking down fats. There is no place for bile to collect without a gallbladder. In such case, your liver releases bile straight into the small intestine which allows you to still digest most foods. However, large amounts of fatty, greasy, or high fiber food become harder to digest. This can result in gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Changing diet without a gallbladder:

Making a few basic dietary changes will help your body adjust to changes in the way bile is released.

Limit your fat intake:

Try to avoid foods that contain more than 3 grams of fat in a single serving. Always look the labels on processed meats, dairy products, sauces, and toppings for the fat contain it has before purchasing.
Limit the intake to moderation for the below listed food:

  • full-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese
  • cream
  • skin on poultry
  • sausage
  • beef
  • fried foods
  • chips
  • chocolate
  • foods that contain a lot of vegetables, peanut, canola, or olive oil

Try to consume low or non-fat versions of these foods. As fat should only make up about 30 percent of your diet, keep a watch on what are you eating throughout the day. If you consume roughly 2,000 calories per day, aim for under about 60 to 65 grams of fat.

Eat regular, small portions throughout the day:

When you do not have your gallbladder, your liver doesn't produce enough bile to effectively digest large amounts of food. Therefore, try not to eat most your food over the course of three large meals. Instead divide the meals to six meals containing 300 to 400 calories at a time. Try to include lean meats, such as fish or skinless chicken, or other non-processed protein sources. You can also add lots of variety of fruits and vegetables.  

Limit your fiber intake:

Eating high fiber foods right after having your gallbladder removed can make the after surgery complications worse. Any bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea that you are experiencing can get worse. Therefore, try to limit your intake of the following high fiber foods after the surgery:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • beans
  • nuts, such as peanuts and almonds
  • high-fiber breads, such as wholegrain or wholewheat
  • high fiber cereals, such as bran

You don't need to completely cut these foods out of your diet. Instead, start with smaller amounts, and gradually increase your portions as you feel comfortable and how much your body can handle.

Limit your caffeine:

Things like tea, coffee, or soft drinks has caffeine that can also increase gas, abdominal pain, and bloating after having your gallbladder removed. This is because caffeine increases stomach acid production, which can make your stomach empty out faster than usual. The typical symptoms of gallbladder removal can be aggravated without enough concentrated bile to help break down stomach contents headed into the intestine.

Lifestyle changes after Gallbladder removal:

Try keeping a note or recording your diet. This can help you modify your eating and drinking habits more mindfully. It may also limit the pain and discomfort of potential side effects. Pay close attention to how your body reacts to specific foods, especially those high in fats, spices, or acids, and record the response of your body. List the foods you eat and how much of each food you eat at a time.
Monitoring this way can help you identify specific foods to avoid, limit, or have more of. This can make the recovery process and your overall adjustment easier and more comfortable.

Life Expectancy after Cholecystectomy:

If you are successful in making overall adjustment of your diet, gallbladder removal doesn't have any impact on your life expectancy. In fact, some of the dietary changes that you have made for your condition might actually increase your life expectancy. Eating smaller amounts of fats, oils, dairy products, and processed foods usually leads to weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and many more health issues. Eating fewer calories per day can help your body digest food easily and use energy more efficiently. Hence, help you live longer. 

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