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Gallbladder issues after weight loss surgery

Digestion, Diets, Liver | August 6, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

diet, Digestion

Gallbladder issues after weight loss surgery

It is estimated that around 10% of Australians are obese and many of these people are opting for different forms of weight loss surgery. Aside from the risks of surgery, there are additional complications which include problems with the gallbladder, mainly gallstones. Gallstones are very common among obese people and occur when cholesterol levels are very high or when fatty deposits are higher than normal levels. The chances of having gallstones and other gallbladder issues is even higher following weight loss surgery. Learn what you can do to reduce your risk and support your liver and gallbladder following these surgeries.

Types of weight loss surgeries

The most common forms of weight loss surgery are gastric stapling and gastric banding (lap band). The procedures involve forming a small pouch in the top part of the stomach – reducing the volume of the stomach so that less food can be eaten. This aids in a feeling of fullness a lot sooner and reduces hunger, even after a very small portion of food is consumed. If too much food is eaten, this results in a bloated and overfull feeling which may result in regurgitation of food.

What are gallstones?

What are gallstones?Bile is the substance produced in the liver and is responsible for emulsifying fats in the digestive system. The gallbladder sits just under the liver and stores concentrated bile. This yellow-brown liquid helps keep cholesterol in a suspended form. However, when cholesterol levels reach very high levels and the bile is unable to keep it suspended, it begins to form lumps and stones. These are known as gall stones.

Gallstones after weight loss surgery

The chances of having gallstones after weight loss surgery is quite high. Obesity increases your risk as it reduces the bile salts in bile, leading to the formation of stones. Having a high fat and low fibre diet contributes to this. Add to this rapid weight loss (where cholesterol is concentrated in the bile) and the risk increases again. About 1/3 of weight loss surgery patients will end up having gallbladder surgery, which is a very worrying statistic!

Ways to reduce your risk

There are many ways in which you can reduce your risk of gallbladder complications following weight loss surgery. This includes consuming a diet higher in healthy fats and supplementing with herbs that support your liver/gallbladder.

Healthy fats

I know it seems odd to recommend a diet higher in fat after weight loss surgery as many people believe in the notion of a low-fat diet for weight loss. However, to avoid gallstones, this kind of diet has been proven to be effective. It is also important to note that there are different kind of fats:

Healthy fatsSaturated fats are found in meat and animal products. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (unsaturated fats) are mainly found in plant products.

Saturated fats are healthy in small amounts but in high amounts have been found to raise cholesterol levels. On the other hand, unsaturated fats may help improve your cholesterol levels.

Trans fats should be avoided all together which includes margarine, commercially fried foods and baked goods.

High intakes of trans fats are associated with an elevated risk of gallstones, especially in males.

Including good fats in the diet

To get your gallbladder working, try to eat a source of fat with each meal. This could include nuts and seeds (they could also be ground up), avocado, lean meat, fish, coconut milk and a tsp of olive oil. Supplementing with an omega-3 fatty acids could be helpful, as it has been shown to prevent gallstone formation in obese women during rapid weight loss.

Helpful Herbs and Spices


Turmeric, while well known for its anti-inflammatory properties has long been used in herbal medicine as a liver protector and to promote the release of stored bile from the gallbladder.

Gall bladder issues after weight loss surgeryIn animal models, turmeric, along with capsaicin (the active component of red pepper), fenugreek, garlic and onion, has been found to prevent the induction of cholesterol gallstones.

These spices have also been shown to regress pre-established stones because of their ability to reduce fats in the blood and improve the ratio of cholesterol and bile.

Dandelion root

Considered the key herb for gallstones. Dandelion root helps to improve the function of both the liver and the gallbladder by diluting bile and reducing stone formation. It decreases inflammation and in animal studies has been shown to improve lipid (fat) profiles when fed a high-cholesterol diet. Dandelion root can be found in a liver/gallbladder formula and drunk as a herbal tea. It has a lovely mild bitter flavour which is a great substitute for coffee.

Globe artichoke

Although there are no studies found on this herbs effect on gallstones, there are some that do report favourable findings on bile composition, cholesterol lowering and increasing the release of bile. Globe artichoke can be found in a liver/gallbladder formulation but can also be added to the diet. Buy fresh and stuff with rice, pine nuts and other veggies. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven.

St Mary’s thistle

The ripe seed from this herb is used as a digestive tonic and to improve disorders affecting both the liver and gallbladder. Milk thistle can help purify the body of metabolic wastes, thereby regulating the function of the gallbladder. Milk thistle is found in the majority of liver formulations, either in powdered or liquid form.

Note: The herbs mentioned above are suitable to be taken before and after surgery, just avoid a few days prior. Reducing weight gradually and incorporating small amounts of healthy fats into every meal are other ways to reduce your risk of developing gallstones after weight loss surgery.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Stokes CS, et al. Ursodeoxycholic acid and diets higher in fat prevent gallbladder stones during weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Jul;12(7):1090-1100.e2;quiz e61

Méndez-Sánchez N, et al. Fish oil (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids beneficially affect biliary cholesterol nucleation time in obese women losing weight. J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9):2300-3

Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Choi UK, et al. Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root and leaf on cholesterol-fed rabbits. Int J Mol Sci. 2010 Jan 6;11(1):67-78

Srinivasan K. Anti-cholelithogenic potential of dietary spices and their bioactives. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 May 24;57(8):1749-1758

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