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Gallstones can make you miserable. Gallbladder surgery can make you miserable, too. Whether you, like most people, have the small-incision laparoscopic surgery, or you can't tolerate the carbon dioxide the surgeon uses to inflate your abdominal cavity and you have to have conventional open incision, your pain can and often does persist for weeks or even a few months after your procedure.

Let's consider the kinds of problems just about everyone has after any kind of gallbladder surgery. Certain kinds of foods just aren't going to agree with you. That's because you no longer have a "bladder" to store fat-dissolving bile so it can be excreted in relatively large amounts when your small intestine needs it.

Bile dissolves fat. When you don't have a gallbladder, your liver's production of bile trickles out more or less constantly. It's ready to dissolve fat when it's not present in your intestine, and causes irritation. On the other hand, it's not present in large enough amounts to dissolve as much fat as you get from a fatty meal. That fat tends to float. This is not a good thing in the pressurized, confined space of your bowel. Liquid waste matter is forced out with pressure (diarrhea), while the fat comes out later and floats in the toilet (steatorrhea).

But losing your gallbladder can also cause constipation, the non-fat parts of your waste tend to stick together like concrete. Or it can cause a combination of constipation and diarrhea, so that you are "plugged." Eventually there is so much pressure from the fatty mass in the top of your gut that the hard mass nearest your rectum has to come out, whether you are ready or not. You have hard stool and then softer stool ad then watery stool and it feels like you are pooping your gut out, because you are.

Here's the main thing to remember when you are recovering from gallbladder surgery:

Never, ever overeat. Especially do not overeat fatty or fried foods.

Simply eating less saves you a lot of pain. Eat about half of what you would normally eat and save the rest for later. If you can go a few hours without pain, eat some more. 

Be sure you get some fiber from fruits and vegetables, about 3 or 4 servings a day. But don't get too much fiber, because your system isn't ready for that, either.

It also helps to make sure you are hydrated. You don't have to drink so much water that you can feel your stomach slosh, but the often-recommended eight glasses of water a day will help.

What about pain from the incision itself that just doesn't go away? 

  • It takes about a week for the carbon dioxide to escape from your abdomen. Until it does, you may have pain across your torso and in your shoulders. Sorry, but there isn't anything to do this but to take the painkillers your doctor prescribed.
  • If you have pain and bruising (red then purple then yellow, as compounds in the blood break down), take the over the counter plant-based compounds that usually recommended for bruising, either citrus bioflavonoids or horse chestnut extract. (Do not eat unprocessed horse chestnuts.) They will help clear out the vascular damage from the incision itself causes inflammation.
  • Try drinking peppermint tea or eating mints after a meal. Peppermint stimulates the release of bile at the time your gut will need it. 
  • Be aware that, however very unfair it may be, you can still get gallstones even after you have your gallbladder removed. Avoid supplements like chenodeoxycholic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid (bear bile). They will break up the "gravel" but they can damage your liver. Try eating a little soy in your diet. The choline in the form in which it is found in soy foods dissolves fats and may substitute for the bile your body can't provide you.

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