The gallbladder is a fairly misunderstood organ.

The primary reason I say this is because we can have it removed and pretty much go about life normally, and this leads experts intuitions to believe that we don’t really need it. That it doesn’t serve a purpose.

This is simply incorrect.

The gallbladder acts as a reservoir for bile, which is produced by the liver and helps to digest dietary fat. In about 10% of the population, the gallbladder contains stones made of cholesterol or other substances.

Women are more susceptible to gallstones than men, and gallstones most commonly occur when people are in their 40s and 50s. In addition, being overweight or having lost weight rapidly predisposes one to gallstones.

Gallbladder diseases are diseases that affect the gallbladder. Symptoms can include pain, nausea and jaundice. Gallstones and inflammation of the gall bladder are two types of gall bladder disease.

Before we get into the weeds here, it’s worth noting there is a highly significant association of increased BMI with risk of symptomatic gallstone disease.

The list of foods below should be avoided up to one-month post-surgery and ideally should be minimized moving forward to limit adverse reactions. While most patients are able to return to their regular diet, it is helpful to keep this list in mind.

Furthermore, many people are also able to find relief by supplementing with digestive enzymes that include ox bile, as this helps with the digestion of fats.

1. Junk Food

Most store bought, pre-packaged foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids, because most are made with soybean oil. Either look for products that don’t contain vegetable oils, or better yet, make your own! These products include:

  • Cookies
  • Cakes and cake mixes
  • Crackers
  • Potato Chips
  • Tortilla chips

In reality, while there are some truly healthy snack food items out there, they are expensive and can be hard to find. You are better off avoiding these products, learning how to make healthy substitutions, and sticking to healthy snacks such as cut up veggies and fruits.

2. Deep Fried or Greasy Foods

Extremely fatty, deep fried foods are a challenge for even those with healthy, fully functioning digestive systems. Without a gallbladder to store enough bile to break down all of those fats, fried foods are out of the question. This includes:

  • Fried chicken of any kind
  • Fried fish
  • Tempura anything
  • Donuts
  • French fries
  • Onion rings

Essentially all deep fried foods are on the no-fly list, even those that sound potentially healthy like deep fried vegetables or falafel. Instead you’ll need to switch to low-fat, home baked or pan-seared versions.

Any food that leaves grease on your hands after touching it contains too much fat for your digestive system to handle. This goes for most fast foods, like burgers and pizza, as well as bacon, most cheeses, heavy sauces and gravies, and fatty cuts of meat (dark meat and most sausages included).

3. Vegetable Oils

As mentioned already, your limited ability to consume fats means that you have to stick to the healthy ones that your body actually needs. Vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which are already higher than they should be in a typical western diet.

If you consume too many of these, you won’t have room left to eat the ever important Omega-3 Fatty acids that your body needs to fight inflammation and disease. Oils you should avoid include:

  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Corn oil
  • Shortening

Also watch out for ingredients such as cooking oils and sprays, mayonnaise, and store bought salad dressings, as these are usually made with vegetable oils.

You will have to either find products made from other oils, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil, or you will have to learn how to make your own.

4. Large Meals

Indulging at Thanksgiving, Christmas, All-You-Can-Eat Sushi, and other occasions will have to be a thing of the past for you.

Large, heavy meals put too much strain on the digestive system, which causes more forceful contractions of the digestive and intestinal muscles, which can cause more pain and diarrhea.

Offer to bring items to group dinners so you know there will be foods there that you can eat, eat a small snack or meal before going so you aren’t starving upon meal time, and keep your portions small.

You can always save some leftovers to eat later, and it will be well worth not spending most of your holiday celebrations in the bathroom.

5. Trial and Error Potential Foods to Avoid

Beyond just fatty foods, there may be other foods that activate problems for you. It’s different for everyone so the best thing to do is to slowly eliminate each item from your diet until the symptoms go away:

  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Excessive sugar consumption
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • High FODMAPs foods
  • Soy products
  • Corn and corn products

Taking a meticulous food journal is the only real way to get at the bottom of this and discover what diet works best for you.