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Diet for Gallbladder Problems

Dietary habits influence the functioning of gallbladder, an organ involved in the storage and release of bile. The current article gives a brief overview of the dietary recommendations and tips for people suffering from gallbladder diseases.
Sonal Panse
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Dietary habits directly affect the organs involved in the digestion, transport, and assimilation of food/chyme in the body. These organs mainly include esophagus, stomach, intestines, as well as the gallbladder.
Gallbladder is a small sac located below the liver, and is responsible for storage and concentration of bile synthesized by the liver. This bile is released in to the small intestine in response to hormonal cues and aids the process of digestion.
Malfunctioning of this organ may occur due to formation of gallstones, inflammation, and certain types of cancers.
Such gallbladder diseases may arise due to old age, obesity, rapid weight loss, and unhealthy dietary habits.
Given below is brief account of this vital organ as well as a few sample plans and dietary guidelines for individuals suffering from, or at risk of, gallbladder problems.
About the Gallbladder
Structure:
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped membranous sac located just below the liver. It is approximately 8 cm long and has an approximate diameter of 4 cm. It is connected to the liver, pancreas, and the duodenum of the small intestine.
Function:
Bile produced by the liver is stored in the gallbladder. Here, absorption of water and salts takes place, leaving behind concentrated bile. This concentrated bile is then released into the duodenum in response to endocrine action. Bile salts emulsify fats, thus aiding their breakdown by lipolytic enzymes.
Diseases:
The excess amount of cholesterol in bile salts leads to the formation of hard crystals called gallstones (cholelithiasis). In certain cases, crystal formation may occur due to excess amounts of bilirubin and calcium salts in bile. Such gallstones may lead to blockage in the neck and ducts of gallbladder. This may even lead to gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) and cancer. The major symptoms of gallbladder diseases include pain in the upper right side of the abdomen (especially after meals), intolerance to fatty foods, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Diet and Gallbladder
The most important step is to reduce the fat intake, since fat triggers gallbladder attacks. In addition, the intake of fiber must be high, since certain components of dietary fiber bind to the excess bile acids. Given below are a few sample plans as well as an exhaustive list of foods to be included in the diet as well as the ones to be avoided.
Sample Meal Plans
Sample Meal Plan 1

Breakfast
  • 1 bowl oatmeal with dried fruit
  • 1 egg-white omelet with 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup watermelon juice
Mid-morning Snack
  • 1 cup mixed berries with low-fat yogurt
Lunch
  • 1 bowl chicken consomme
  • ½ bowl vegetable salad
  • 1 turkey wrap made with a whole-grain, fat-free tortilla, non-fat cream cheese and fresh veggies
Mid-afternoon Snack
  • 2 fat-free cookies
  • 1 cup decaffeinated coffee
Dinner
  • 5 baby carrots
  • 1 bowl tomato soup
  • 1 serving of plain pasta
Bedtime Snack
  • 2-3 graham crackers

Sample Meal Plan 2

Breakfast
  • 1 glass skim milk
  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread spread with 2 tsp. jam
  • 1 pear
Mid-morning Snack
  • 2-3 saltine crackers
  • 1 glass grape juice
Lunch
  • 1 bowl mixed vegetable soup
  • 1 cup boiled pulses
  • 1 serving of brown rice
Mid-afternoon Snack
  • 1 whole-grain, low-fat muffin
  • 1 cup cocoa made with skimmed milk
Dinner
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup steamed veggies
  • 1 serving of whole-grain pasta
Bedtime Snack
  • 2 vanilla wafers

Sample Meal Plan 3

Breakfast
  • 3 scrambled egg whites
  • ½ cup strawberry juice
Mid-morning Snack
  • 5 vanilla wafers
Lunch
  • 1 cup steamed veggies
  • 3-4 oz. lean chicken
  • 1 cup rice
Mid-afternoon Snack
  • 1 small baked apple
  • 1 cup decaffeinated tea
Dinner
  • 1 serving of baked halibut
  • 1 dinner roll
  • ½ cup fat-free pudding
Bedtime Snack
  • ½ cup pretzels

Sample Meal Plan 4

Breakfast
  • 1 cup green tea
  • 2 slices of whole-grain toast
Mid-morning Snack
  • 2 fat-free cookies
Lunch
  • 1 bowl green salad
  • 1 turkey sandwich made with fat-free tortilla, 2-3 oz. turkey and low-fat cheese
Mid-afternoon Snack
  • ½ cup berry smoothie
Dinner
  • ½ bowl tossed salad with tomatoes and lettuce
  • ½ cup cooked green beans
  • 1 serving of plain pasta
Bedtime Snack
  • ½ cup fat-free ice cream

Foods List

Foods to Eat Foods to Avoid
Fruits
  • ✔ Apples
  • ✔ Apricots
  • ✔ Berries
  • ✔ Coconuts
  • ✔ Figs
  • ✔ Grapes
  • ✔ Guavas
  • ✔ Lemons
  • ✔ Melons
  • ✔ Papaya
  • ✔ Pears
  • ✔ Prunes
  • ✘ Grapefruit
  • ✘ Olives
  • ✘ Oranges
Vegetables
  • ✔ Artichokes
  • ✔ Beets
  • ✔ Carrots
  • ✔ Celery
  • ✔ Cucumber
  • ✔ Sweet potatoes
  • ✔ Okra
  • ✔ Garlic
  • ✔ Green beans
  • ✔ Squash
  • ✔ Sweet potatoes
  • ✔ Swiss chard
  • ✔ Tomatoes
  • ✘ Broccoli
  • ✘ Cabbage
  • ✘ Cauliflower
  • ✘ Corn
  • ✘ Legumes
  • ✘ Onions
  • ✘ Pickles
  • ✘ Radishes
  • ✘ Turnips
Grains, Breads and Cereals
  • ✔ Brown rice
  • ✔ Buckwheat
  • ✔ Millet
  • ✔ Oatmeal
  • ✔ Plain pasta
  • ✔ Quinoa
  • ✔ Rice
  • ✘ Egg breads
  • ✘ Granola-type cereals
  • ✘ White flour
Meat and Meat Substitutes
  • ✔ Egg whites
  • ✔ Fish and shellfish
  • ✔ Lean cuts of meat
  • ✔ Skinless poultry
  • ✘ Bacon
  • ✘ Duck
  • ✘ Ground or marbled beef
  • ✘ Lamb
  • ✘ Pepperoni
  • ✘ Pork
  • ✘ Salami
  • ✘ Sausages
  • ✘ Tofu
Dairy
  • ✔ Fat-free cheese
  • ✔ Non-fat sour cream
  • ✔ Skim buttermilk
  • ✔ Skim milk
  • ✔ Skim ricotta cheese
  • ✔ Non-fat frozen yogurt
  • ✘ Cheese and cheese spreads
  • ✘ Cream
  • ✘ Cream sauces
  • ✘ Ice cream
  • ✘ Whipped cream
  • ✘ Whole milk
Beverages
  • ✔ Cocoa made with skimmed milk
  • ✔ Decaffeinated coffee/tea
  • ✔ Fruit smoothies made from fruit and non-fat yogurt
  • ✔ Vegetable and fruit juices
  • ✘ Liquor
  • ✘ Black tea
  • ✘ Coffee
  • ✘ Cola
  • ✘ Sodas
  • ✘ Soft drinks
Soups
  • ✔ Bouillon
  • ✔ Consommé
  • ✔ Fat-free broths
  • ✘ Cream based soups
  • ✘ Soups made from high-fat meat stock
Fats/Oils
  • ✔ Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ✔ Flaxseed oil
  • ✔ Hemp oil
  • ✔ Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings
  • ✔ Omega-3 oils
  • ✘ Butter
  • ✘ Coconut oil
  • ✘ Oil and vinegar dressings
  • ✘ Margarine
  • ✘ Mayonnaise
  • ✘ Nuts and nut butters
  • ✘ Hydrogenated oils
  • ✘ Shortening
Snacks
  • ✔ Fat-free tortillas
  • ✔ Saltines
  • ✔ Rice cakes
  • ✔ Unbuttered popcorn
  • ✘ Crackers
  • ✘ Crisps
  • ✘ Granola bars
  • ✘ Potato chips
Sweets/Desserts
  • ✔ Fat-free cookies
  • ✔ Fat-free puddings
  • ✔ Fruit ices
  • ✔ Gelatins
  • ✔ Gingersnaps
  • ✔ Jams and jellies
  • ✔ Maple syrup
  • ✔ Marmalades
  • ✔ Vanilla wafers
  • ✔ Pies
  • ✘ Chocolate
  • ✘ Doughnuts
  • ✘ French toast
  • ✘ Fritters
  • ✘ Muffins
  • ✘ Pancakes
  • ✘ Sweet rolls
  • ✘ Waffles
Please Note:
Experts at Mayo Clinic state that there is no specific diet to follow after a gallbladder removal, which is usually the solution of gallbladder problems. This is because the guidelines vary from one person to another. The bottom line is to avoid foods that are greasy/fatty in nature, and the ones that may cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. The food items listed above―in the "Foods to Avoid" section―are those that may cause these problems. The aforementioned list is a general guideline and doesn't intend to be taken as a standardized dietary outline. You know your body better, and how it responds to certain foods. Just avoid foods that cause uneasiness when consumed.
Few More Tips...
  • Instead of having three or four big meals a day, try having six smaller meals a day (one every two hours).
  • If you are recovering from cholecystectomy (surgical removal of gallbladder), consume smaller amounts of fibrous foods, and gradually increase the fiber intake. Sudden intake of fiber can cause diarrhea and constipation.
  • With the increase of fiber intake, also make sure you increase your water consumption. Drinking less water can cause constipation.
  • Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  • Substitute your cooking oil with healthier oils like olive oil.
  • Drink a glass of warm lime water first thing in the morning.
  • Add more of ginger and garlic to your food.
  • Increase the intake of calcium-rich foods.
  • Consume monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats.
  • Choose lean meats. Trim visible fat before cooking.
  • Cook your food in healthier styles. Grilling, baking, casseroling, dry-roasting, microwaving, poaching or boiling the food is better than frying or roasting it with fat.
  • Minimize the intake of sugars.
  • Choose breakfast cereal without added sugars.
  • Use low-fat spreads instead of butter or mayonnaise.

Gallbladder plays an important role in the digestion of fats, and often malfunctions due to unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. Gallbladder problems demand immediate medical attention, since neglect and ignorance may lead to the development of gallbladder cancer, which may not be curable by cholecystectomy.
Disclaimer:
This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.