Did your doctor forgot to tell you some important details about gallbladder removal? What happens after removal?
Definition Of The Gallbladder And Its Functions
The gallbladder is a small, muscular and pear-shaped structure on the underside of the liver, on the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder's function is storage of the bile (bile tastes bitter, hence the word bitterness). The gallbladder holds about a quarter of a cup of a yellowish-green, pasty material called bile. Bile is produced in the liver before the bile is secreted into the intestines, which then helps the body to digest fats.
The gallbladder, when healthy, keeps bile moving in several ways: mucosa, the inner lining, secretes hydrogen ions into the gallbladder contents, which maintains an acidic environment, that keeps calcium from precipitating, and consequently forming gallbladder stones. Next, as food is digested, bile is washed away by water and electrolytes.
Formation Of A Gallbladder Stone
First of all, bile is composed of three components: cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin. The functioning of the gallbladder is described above (definition of gallbladder and its functions), and if the gallbladder is not functioning properly, the components of the bile become unstable, which causes the formation of solid crystals, also known as gallstones. Stones form when a speck of calcium becomes coated with either cholesterol or the pigment bilirubin. However, more than 80% of stones are composed of cholesterol. Stones are different in size, but not only that: they can also be single or multiple.
Interestingly, about half of people with gallbladder stones do don't even know that they have them, and they can float freely in the gallbladder. Of course, these are painless stones, but they are painless only until they grow large enough to pass through and lodge in either the cystic duct or in the common bile duct.
Symptoms Of Gallbladder Disease
Symptoms and their severity depend upon where s stone lodges. First of all, a large number of patients with gallstones do not even have symptoms, so they do not even know they have stones. Their stones are found 'incidentally' during medical tests. However, a classic gallbladder attack consists of abdominal pain in the right upper quadrant, just under the rib cage on the right side, and is usually followed by nausea and vomiting.
Pain may be severe and can last up to several hours, and is often followed by soreness of the abdominal area for at least a few days. Attacks are usually caused by fatty meals. In some cases, patients even have fever and chills. In more severe cases gallbladder stone symptoms indicate jaundice.
Who Is Most Likely To Develop Gallbladder Stones?
Medicine actually cannot predict who'll get gallbladder stones, but statistics indicate that women are twice as likely to have gallbladder problems as men. This is due to hormones: estrogen is known to increase the rate of lipid synthesis. Also, women should be careful with birth control pills, since they contain estrogen, which increases the cholesterol content of bile. It is proved that women under 30 who have taken birth control pills for less than 5 years, heighten the risk of gallbladder disease.
The next factor is pregnancy, which raises risk by altering the chemical composition of bile to favor stone formation.
Some studies also show that gallstones are more common in some countries than others: the western world is more affected (for example, in Sweden 45% of the population is affected), while in Africa and Asia gallbladder stones are rare. The fact is that gallbladder stones occur more often in cultures with high fat and low fiber diets, such as the USA or Europe.
However, the greatest risk for developing gallbladder disease is obesity. Even moderate overweight can raise the risk, while the New England Journal of Medicine warns that very obese individuals face a six-fold higher risk.
Read More: Diet After Gallbladder Removal
Gallbladder Disease Treatment, Risks And Diet
One option for gallbladder disease treatment are drugs: they are prescribed for small stones or if a person cannot tolerate surgery.
Another option is gallbladder removal surgery, which is most often the solution for gallbladder problems. The treatment involves removing the gallbladder, and in most cases this is done by using laparoscopic surgery.
However, even after surgery certain risks are still present. Since with the removal of the gallbladder, the liver may be 'overloaded', a patient must reduce all kinds of chemical overload on the liver. This includes pre-packaged food, minimizing the use of perfumes, cosmetics and even personal care products.
To avoid any sort of complications, patients must strictly adhere to an albeit unofficial "cholecystectomy diet". This means that one must eat low-fat, high in fiber and preferably organic food. Refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils must be avoided. Highly recommended are probiotic products, such as yogurts, although it is often recommended to avoid (overconsumption) of dairy products.
Why is diet and elimination of all those products so important?
Once the gallbladder is gone, there's nowhere for that bile to collect. Instead of that, fat cannot be modulated as it was before when the person still had a gallbladder. And without bile (its function was to break down the fat), the small intestine can become flooded with water. This happens because the fat draws water from surrounding regions of the body. This can be combined with activities of intestinal bacteria, which can cause bloating, bad restroom experiences, and stomachaches. This is the main reason proper diet is so important during a patient's recuperation. In the long run, the body adopts to the gallbladder 's absence, and a few months after the surgery a patient should be able to resume more or less regular eating habits.
Gallbladder Removal Recovery
So, your gallbladder is gone. Right after your cholecystectomy, it is crucial to follow your surgeon's instructions to aid a speedy and optimal recovery. Prepare to take it easy for around two weeks if you had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy and for up to six weeks if you had an open cholecystectomy. Take painkillers as prescribed, and gradually reintroduce varied foods to your diet.
A full gallbladder removal recovery depends on more than what you do during the immediate post-surgery period, however. You need to commit to a healthy lifestyle that minimizes your discomfort. Now it is important to educate yourself on getting better and eating healthier. If you follow the suggestions above, your digestive system will operate to its fullest and will help you to alleviate many of the side effects from gallbladder removal.