Cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal surgery, is a procedure performed on patients with diseased gallbladders or gallstone problems. Unfortunately, the procedure is not the end of symptoms for all patients. These individuals suffer from post cholecystectomy syndrome.
What is a Cholecystectomy?
The gallbladder is an organ that acts as a reservoir for bile, a digestive fluid that breaks down fats. The liver continuously produces bile, which is normally stored in the gall bladder. When a meal is eaten, the gallbladder contracts to dump bile into the intestine for digestion. In some people, the bile forms crystalline bodies called gallstones. When gallstones cause pain or other symptoms and cannot be cured through medication or ultrasound shock (a procedure called lithotripsy), a cholecystectomy may be performed. Gallbladder removal is also done for infected, burst, or dysfunctional gallbladders.
Because of the importance of bile in digestion, following proper post cholecystectomy diet is important.
Post Cholecystectomy Syndrome
Post cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS) is a collection of symptoms that affects some patients after gallbladder removal surgery. Estimates of its occurrence vary widely, ranging from 5-30% (Jensen 2008) or even as high as 40% (Graefer 2007). PCS is the persistence of symptoms that were attributed to the gallbladder and that continue after its removal. Post cholecystectomy syndrome symptoms may include gastritis, esophagitis, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome, pain where the gallbladder was (right upper abdomen), and colicky lower-abdomen pain. PCS may be caused by the removal of the gallbladder and the resulting problems with bile regulation, or by problems unrelated to the biliary system that are misinterpreted as gallbladder-related (Jensen 2008).
Post Cholecystectomy Syndrome and Diet
Post cholecystectomy syndrome is a “preliminary diagnosis” with multiple possible causes. In some cases, the symptoms may be either caused by or treated by diet. Following the post cholecystectomy diet recommended by doctors is important to help prevent post cholecystectomy syndrome symptoms.
Good post cholecystectomy foods include beets, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes, avocados, acidic foods, and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods to be avoided after gallbladder surgery include trans fats, saturated fats, dairy, eggs, coffee and black tea, most fruit juices, alcohol, chocolate, cabbage, and radishes. (Graefer 2007)
According to one study (Porr et al. 2004), some cases of post cholecystectomy syndrome are caused by magnesium deficiency. In the study, these patients’ symptoms were relieved by magnesium supplementation. Foods high in magnesium may be beneficial when incorporated into the post cholecystectomy syndrome diet. Many high-magnesium foods, unfortunately, are on the list of foods to be avoided post cholecystectomy, but some good choices include avocado, brown rice, and especially halibut and spinach (National Institutes of Health).
If post cholecystectomy syndrome symptoms are experienced, the patient should always start by telling his or her doctors and following their directions. However, a proper post cholecystectomy syndrome diet can help reduce or prevent symptoms for some patients. And as long as the person continues to eat a variety of foods, following a proper post cholecystectomy diet certainly cannot do any harm.
- Deborah Graefer, L.Ac. M.T.O.M. Gallbladderattack.com website, 2007.
- National Institutes of Health Dietary Fact Sheet: Magnesium.
- Paul J. Porr, Ph.D., János Szántay, Ph.D., Margareta Rusu, M.D. “Post-Cholecystectomy Syndrome and Magnesium Deficiency.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004;23(6):745S–747S.
- Steen W. Jensen, M.D. “Postcholecystectomy syndrome.” 2008, eMedicineHealth.com.