Gallbladder Removal Side Effects (Including Weight Loss or Gain)

Gallbladder Removal Side Effects - Including Weight Loss or Gain

Gallbladder removal can help to relieve intense pain associated with a gallbladder attack, however, there are some side effects to it. Although you can live without your gallbladder, gallbladder surgery can leave you with a number of short-term and long-term digestive problems. Having your gallbladder removed can cause side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, indigestion, pain, and bile duct stones.

For many people, the side effects of a gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) are just temporary. However, for some people, the consequences of a gallbladder procedure can be long-lasting. Postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS) can cause long-term diarrhea and discomfort long after gallbladder removal. You may also find that it is more difficult to control your weight after gallbladder surgery.

In this article, you will learn about the potential problems after gallbladder removal. You will also learn how to avoid weight gain after gallbladder surgery and how to maintain a healthy weight. I will also discuss the gallbladder diet that can help to prevent many of the side effects of gallbladder removal.

The Gallbladder: What Is It and What Does It Do?

Your gallbladder is a small sac just below your liver that stores concentrated digestive bile. Bile is released into your small intestine to help break down and absorb fat from digested foods.

According to PubMed Health, the small pear-shaped hollow organ is about 7 to 10 cm in size and can store about 2.7 fl. oz. (80 mL) of bile. This digestive fluid, which is a yellow to green color, is made up of bile salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin – a bile pigment that gives urine and stool their distinctive colors.1

If you have a surgery to remove a gallbladder, bile from your liver goes straight to your intestine. Gastroenterologist Dr. Jay W. Marks says that the most common side effect of gallbladder removal is diarrhea. This is because food tends to pass through the digestive system quicker when you have no gallbladder.2

When Do You Need to Have Your Gallbladder Removed?

In some cases, it might be necessary to remove your gallbladder. Doctors on Mayo Clinic say that gallbladder removal is done if you suffer pain from gallstones that block the bile flow, or you suffer from complications they cause, such as gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) or pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis).23

Most gallbladder removal surgeries are done through small incisions in the abdomen (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). However sometimes one large incision may be needed to remove the gallbladder (open cholecystectomy).

Complications and Risks Associated with Cholecystectomy (Gallbladder Removal)

As with any type of invasive procedure, gallbladder removal has its own complications. Even though you can recover relatively quickly after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, there are some associated risks.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that some gallbladder surgery complications can include the following:3

Infection. If the wound becomes infected, you may have right upper abdominal pain, tenderness, and possible pus oozing from the area.

Bile leakage. Another of the gallbladder surgery risks is bile leaking into your abdomen. This can cause abdominal pain right after the cholecystectomy or for a longer time if the bile continues to leak.

Bile duct injury. The bile duct may get damaged during the gallbladder procedure. This may cause upper abdominal pain on the right side even after the wound has healed.

Deep vein thrombosis. There is a chance that having a cholecystectomy can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. This may result in leg pain and swelling with signs of redness on your leg.

Postcholecystectomy syndrome. This can cause intense abdominal pain even years after gallbladder surgery and can feel like a gallbladder attack.

Side Effect of Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)

Let’s look in more detail at some problems after gallbladder removal that you may experience.


Diarrhea in the first week or two after gallbladder surgery is one of the most common side effects. In some cases, diarrhea can become a chronic side effect, resulting in frequent bouts of digestive upset.

Short-term diarrhea after gallbladder removal

Dr. Jay W. Marks, a qualified gastroenterologist, reports that many people suffer from frequent diarrhea after meals as a consequence of gallbladder removal. Because bile in the small intestine is less-concentrated and comes direct from the liver, food passes through the digestive tract quicker. This complication of a gallbladder removal usually resolves itself in a few weeks.2

Long-term diarrhea after cholecystectomy

In some cases, diarrhea can be a long-term side effect of gallbladder removal.

According to the Asian Journal of Surgery, around one-quarter of people who have had their gallbladder removed experience diarrhea for a week after a cholecystectomy. For some people, however, diarrhea lasted for 3 months after their gallbladder was removed. This is often referred to as postcholecystectomy diarrhea.4

To help alleviate diarrhea after eating a meal, try consuming more ginger to soothe your digestive system and stop watery stool.

Abdominal pain

You may still continue to have some right-sided abdominal pain for a few weeks after gallbladder surgery.

The journal Surgery Endoscopy reports that most people experience upper right abdominal pain after gallbladder removal for between one and 3 weeks. Interestingly, taking curcumin helped to reduce inflammation during the recovery time and boosted the effectiveness of analgesics.5

In some cases, gallbladder attack can even occur a few months after a gallbladder procedure. The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine reports that burning abdominal pain after eating a meal can occur. The severe right upper quadrant (RUQ) pain can be a result of stones in the cystic duct that cause cramping and right-side pain. In fact, there are some reports showing that pain from stones in the biliary tract can cause severe pain as long as 25 years after a cholecystectomy.6


A post cholecystectomy diet can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of indigestion that can occur after the procedure.

The Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases reports that many of the problems after gallbladder surgery are related to abdominal discomfort. One of these side effects of gallbladder removal is indigestion. This often results in upper abdominal pain on the right side after eating a meal. Some patients even continued having indigestion symptoms for up to 2 years after a cholecystectomy.7  

Drink baking soda and water to help soothe burning chest pain that is a result of indigestion after a cholecystectomy. The alkaline effect of baking soda acts as a natural antacid to relieve digestive discomfort.


Jaundice can be a side effect of gallbladder removal surgery that causes the skin ans eyes turn yellow.

According to the journal Diagnostic and Therapeutic Endoscopy, symptoms of jaundice are among the complication of gallbladder removal. This can happen if the bile duct is damaged during the gallbladder procedure. The result can be infection, or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).8

If you notice that your skin has a yellowish tinge in the weeks following gallbladder surgery, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible.


Immediately after your gallbladder removal, there is an increased risk of developing a fever.

Dr. Steen W. Jensen, a surgeon from Plumas District Hospital, reports that fever can occur in around 40% of all cholecystectomies. This can happen if there is an infection present and your doctor will prescribe appropriate medication.9

However, according to the journal American Family Physician, fever after a cholecystectomy doesn’t always indicate an infection. Steady upper abdominal pain with nausea and a fever could indicate a biliary tract issue. Doctors say that this can sometimes be a risk of gallbladder removal and only shows up after an operation.10


Problems after gallbladder removal can occur years later if strictures develop in your bile duct. Bile duct strictures are when the bile duct becomes narrow due to operative trauma or injury.

Dr. William R. Brugge from Harvard Medical School explains that most symptoms of bile ducts strictures happen months to years after the gallbladder procedure. In fact, strictures as a late complication of a cholecystectomy happen after more than 5 years in 30% of patients.11

The side effect of strictures in the biliary tract is intermittent intense upper abdominal pain under the right ribs. Other gallbladder surgery side effects accompanying strictures can include jaundice, low blood pressure, and chronic cholestasis (low bile flow).11

Dropped gallstones

Another risk associated with gallbladder removal that can have long-term consequences is dropped gallstones.

The British Journal of Radiology reports that dropped gallstones can be a complication of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The gallstones “spill” into the abdominal cavity and can stay there undetected for many years.12

According to the International Journal of Surgery, dropped gallstones can be difficult to diagnose because they usually cause complications months or years after surgery. One such complication of dropped gallstones is an abscess in the biliary system.13

Bile duct stones after gallbladder removal

For some people, stones in the biliary system continue to cause complications long after a cholecystectomy. This can cause symptoms like severe upper abdominal pain that comes on suddenly.

The journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice reports that common bile duct stones can cause complications as soon as 6 months after complete removal of the gallbladder. In some cases, bile duct stones caused abdominal pain as long as 2 years after the cholecystectomy.14  

Other symptoms associated with stones blocking the bile duct can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting long after the gallbladder removal
  • Jaundice soon after surgery
  • Continual pain in your right abdomen

Gallbladder attack after gallbladder removal

It is possible to experience symptoms of gallbladder pain even without a gallbladder. A gallbladder attack can occur some years after gallbladder surgery. A buildup of cholesterol in the biliary system can cause stones to develop and block a bile duct.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, symptoms of a gallbladder attack can occur in people who have undergone a cholecystectomy. This can cause symptoms like sharp, persistent abdominal pain, indigestion, cholangitis (bile duct infection), pancreatitis, nausea, or vomiting.15

Problems After Gallbladder Removal (Even Years After): Postcholecystectomy Syndrome

If you continue to suffer from gallbladder symptoms years after a cholecystectomy, it could be that you have postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS).

Postcholecystectomy syndrome describes a number of complications of gallbladder surgery that can cause abdominal discomfort for many years. Although the main symptoms of PCS are mild to intense RUQ pain and indigestion, there are a number of other associated complications.

Dr. Steen W. Jensen (quoted earlier) says that side effects of gallbladder removal that last for many years can include any of the following:

  • Colicky abdominal pain (the main gallbladder removal side effect)
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Excess gas
  • Bloating

The Connection Between Your Weight and the Gallbladder

Doctors have pointed to connections between a person’s weight and their risk of developing gallstones.

According to scientists from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, rapid weight loss can increase your risk of needing a gallbladder surgery. When you quickly lose weight, the liver produces more cholesterol in bile that can build up and form stones in the gallbladder. Also, gastric bypass surgery can lead to gallstone problems.16

Being overweight can also increase your risk of gallbladder attack and the need for a cholecystectomy. The European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology reports that a high BMI increases a person’s risk of gallstones.17

Weight Loss After Gallbladder Removal

Gallbladder removal can result in some weight loss, which is good for some people if obesity was a cause of their gallstones.

Why you may lose weight after gallbladder removal

Sticking to a gallbladder surgery diet may result in losing weight after you have had your gallbladder removed. Knowing what to eat after gallbladder removal can help you avoid many of the side effects of gallbladder surgery and help lose weight at the same time.

For example, the gallbladder diet includes healthy eating options that can result in gradual, healthy weight loss. What are these?

  • Eating foods with less fat in them
  • Enjoying smaller meal portions frequently throughout the day
  • Change in your eating habits

How to manage weight after gallbladder surgery

Most people find that in time, their digestion system returns to normal and they gradually experience fewer digestive side effects from gallbladder removal.

However, if you had gallbladder surgery because of being overweight, it’s important not to return to “old eating habits.” Some of the best healthy eating tips to keep your digestion healthy include:

  • Eating whole grain foods like wholemeal pasta, brown rice, buckwheat, and wholemeal bread.
  • Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet.
  • Cutting back on red meat and including fish, poultry, and lean meat in your diet.

Can You Gain Weight After Gallbladder Removal?

For some people, weight gain after gallbladder surgery is a big complication to deal with. Some research suggests that gaining weight is a common issue after a gallbladder removal.

For example, the Irish Journal of Medical Science reported on a study showing that women tend to gain more weight than men after a cholecystectomy. Even though they stuck to the recommended low-fat gallstone diet, their body mass index increased by about 2 points.18

A study from China found that gallbladder removal can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Some reports indicate that over 60% of people post-cholecystectomy struggle with weight gain after the procedure.19

Diet After Gallbladder Surgery (Post-Cholecystectomy Diet)

If you want to avoid short-term and long-term complications after a cholecystectomy, doctors from the Cleveland Clinic recommend the following:20

Consume foods high in fiber. After your gallbladder procedure, introduce high-fiber foods gradually to your diet. This will help to improve the health of your digestive system and put less strain on your intestines.

Avoid fatty foods. In the few weeks after your gallbladder removal, avoid consuming fatty foods to prevent diarrhea and digestive upset. This is also a healthy habit to continue for many years after your gallbladder operation to prevent any long-term complications.

Choose low-fat dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, check out some of these great alternatives to dairy that are good sources of calcium.

Eat smaller portions frequently. Eating smaller portions throughout the day can help to prevent cholecystectomy side effects and may also be a reason for losing weight after a cholecystectomy.

Keep a food journal. Keeping track of what you are eating and any digestive symptoms after a gallbladder removal can help to spot any trigger foods. This will help to avoid any foods that cause diarrhea or stomach pain after consuming a meal.

Artichoke leaf extract

To help prevent long-term cholecystectomy complications, take artichoke leaf supplements regularly to improve the health of your liver.

Research published in the journal Monaldi Archives for Chest Disease found that artichoke leaf extracts have a beneficial effect on biliary function. Artichoke leaf has choleretic effects that stimulate the production of bile and can improve digestion. There is also some evidence to suggest that artichoke helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.21

If you are prone to gallbladder attacks, taking artichoke leaf extract may help to get rid of gallstones naturally and prevent the need of gallbladder surgery.

You can find more detailed information about foods to eat and foods to avoid in my article “Best Diet After Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)“.

When to See a Doctor

Modern surgical techniques mean that serious complications of gallbladder removal are quite rare. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures are minimally invasive and cause less risk than open gallbladder surgery.

However, if you notice any complications after your gallbladder surgery, you should contact your doctor. Doctors from the American College of Surgeons advise seeing your doctor if you have the following cholecystectomy complications:22

  • Severe abdominal pain persists for many days after the gallbladder has been removed.
  • After the cholecystectomy, you experience frequent nausea and continuous vomiting.
  • You have signs of an infection like a fever, redness around the wound, and pus draining.
  • Abnormal swelling of your abdomen.
  • You are unable to pass stool for 2 or 3 days after your gallbladder operation.

Related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. NCBI. How does the gallbladder work?
  2. MedicineNet. Do I need to change my diet after gallbladder surgery?
  3. NHS. Gallbladder removal.
  4. Asian J Surg. 2017 Oct; 37(4): 171-177.
  5. Surg Endosc.2011 Dec;25(12):3805-10.
  6. Cleve Clin J Med. 2011 March; 78(3): 171-178.
  7. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2009 March; 18(1): 67-71.
  8. Diagn Therap Endosc. 2011; 967017.
  9. Medscape. Postcholecystectomy syndrome clinical presentation.
  10. Am Fam Physician.2006 Jun 15;73(12):2211-2212.
  11. Medscape. Bile duct strictures clinical presentation.
  12. Br J Radiol. 2013 Aug; 86(1028): 20120588.
  13. Int J Surg. 2010; 8(1): 15-17.
  14. Gastroenterol Res Prac. 2012; 417821.
  15. CMAJ. 2012 May 15; 184(8): 884–892.
  16. NIDDK. Dieting & gallstones.
  17. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol.2000 Dec;12(12):1347-52.
  18. Ir J Med Sci.2004 Jan-Mar;173(1):9-12.
  19. PLoSOne. 2014 Feb.
  20. ClevelandClinic. 5 Ways to avoid discomfort after your gallbladder removal.
  21. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis.2013 Mar;80(1):17-26.
  22. FACS. Cholecystectomy.
  23. Mayo Clinic. Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

Healthy and Natural World