Weight Gain After Gallbladder Removal: Causes and What to Do

Weight Gain After Gallbladder Surgery

It is possible to live without your gallbladder, but for some people, weight gain after gallbladder removal is a common side effect. Gaining weight after a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) can make losing weight a constant battle because of metabolic changes in the body. Also, some people gain weight because they resort to eating fatty foods after their gallbladder surgery.

Your weight is connected to conditions that affect your gallbladder. Doctors say that rapid weight loss can lead to the formation of gallstones which may result in removing the gallbladder to resolve the pain. However, being overweight can also increase your risk of requiring a cholecystectomy. Many people find that weight issues continue to be a real problem after gallbladder removal.

To help you understand more about the reasons for weight gain after gallbladder surgery, I’ve researched what medical studies have revealed. This knowledge will help you avoid gaining weight after a cholecystectomy. You will also learn how to manage weight better in the months and years following a cholecystectomy.

Gallbladder Function and Location

Your gallbladder looks like a small sac in the shape of a pear that stores concentrated digestive bile. Dr. Vinay Kumar Kapoor on Medscape says that digestive bile is required to digest fat from foods. When you no longer have a gallbladder, bile gets released from the liver directly into the small intestine to break down fats from foods.1

Doctors on PubMed Health say that your gallbladder is located just below your liver in your upper right abdomen. This small, hollow organ forms part of your biliary system and assists in digestion. The gallbladder is between 7 and 10 cm in size and can hold about 50mL of bile. Bile contains bile salts, cholesterol, and bile pigments, and is a yellow to green color.2

Because your gallbladder is directly connected to your digestive system, digestive upset like diarrhea is a common side effect of gallbladder surgery.

Common Reasons for Weight Gain After Gallbladder Removal

Gallstones are the most common reason for doctors recommending a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. If gallstones block a bile duct, the result can be sudden intense pain under the ribs in the upper right side. Pain in this area is usually a sign that you are having a gallbladder attack.

What is the connection between gallbladder removal and weight gain?

Researchers in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition published a study showing that weight gain is common after gallbladder procedures. The study found that many patients experienced weight increase in the 6 months following gallbladder removal.3

Medical research has pointed to 2 main reasons for weight gain after gallbladder removal – metabolic syndrome and poor dietary habits.

Weight gain due to metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome seems to be one of the side effects of gallbladder removal that can cause weight gain. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic describe metabolic syndrome as a combination of factors like excess belly fat, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and high cholesterol.4

According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, people who have undergone a cholecystectomy are at a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Researchers found that people who have gallstone disease and who had their gallbladder removed were at a 50% greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This puts a person at a greater risk of becoming obese and having symptoms associated with being overweight.5

You can help prevent the consequences of metabolic syndrome by making drastic lifestyle changes. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic advise that you should commit to increasing physical activity, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and managing stress better. These changes can help you lower your blood pressure naturally and boost your metabolism.


One of the biggest contributing factors causing weight gain after gallbladder surgery is your diet and eating habits.

Research published in the British Medical Journal found that many people gain weight after having their gallbladder removed. Some patients initially lost weight following the gallbladder removal. However, as many as 75% of the people in the study started gaining weight around 3 months after gallbladder surgery. Around 6 months after their gallbladder procedure, most were around 6% heavier than before the surgery.6

The researchers concluded that increasing consumption of fatty foods post-cholecystectomy was probably the greatest risk factor for weight gain after gallbladder removal. However, metabolic changes could also play a role.

According to a study published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, weight gain in women after a cholecystectomy was more common than in men. Scientists pointed to the fact that increased food intake after gallbladder surgery was probably to blame for weight gain.7

Interestingly, the study from Ireland also found that those who had regular exercise didn’t put on as much weight after the gallbladder procedure.

Diet to Prevent Weight Gain after Gallbladder Surgery

After gallbladder removal, a healthy long-term diet plan can help you maintain a healthy weight. In fact, immediately following gallbladder surgery, a “gallbladder removal diet” can help prevent many of the initial side effects.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that there is no specific gallbladder diet following surgery. However, limiting certain foods and increasing others can help to improve your digestion and prevent weight gain after gallbladder surgery.8

What is the best kind of long-term diet following a gallbladder procedure to prevent weight gain?

Foods to consume after gallbladder removal to prevent weight gain

According to Dr. Jan Sambrook on Patient.info, foods that are easy to digest can prevent many side effects of gallbladder surgery. Interestingly, many of these foods are also recommended for long-term weight loss and may prevent weight gain in the months following a cholecystectomy.9

What should your gallbladder diet include to help prevent weight gain?

High-fiber foods. After having your gallbladder removed, you should gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet. This includes foods like wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, beans, and legumes. Some studies have shown that increasing fiber content in food can help lose abdominal fat as part of a long-term diet.10

Low-fat sources of protein. To help prevent uncontrollable weight gain after gallbladder removal, your diet should include low-fat protein. The journal Nutrition & Metabolism reported that high-quality sources of protein can help to reduce your waistline and prevent accumulation of abdominal fat.11 Some good sources of protein include eggs, lean red meat, white fish, and poultry. Non-meat sources of protein include beans, lentils, avocado, and nuts.

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Any healthy diet to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight should include fruits and vegetables. For example, green leafy vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You should also include in your diet multiple colored fruits and vegetables for their high antioxidant content.

Drink plenty of fluids. After your gallbladder surgery, get into the habit of drinking plenty of fluids to improve your digestion. Drinking plenty of water doesn’t just help flush toxins from your liver but can help to prevent belly fat from accumulating.

Foods to avoid after gallbladder surgery

It is very important to avoid certain foods after having your gallbladder removed to help with weight loss after gallbladder removal.

Many studies have shown that the major cause of weight gain after gallbladder removal was eating fatty foods and having a poor diet.7

Eating foods high in fat and cholesterol after surgery could put you at a greater risk of postcholecystectomy syndrome. A study in 2018 found that patients who had gallbladder surgery suffered more complications if they consumed too many foods that are high in cholesterol. Symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight gain continued for 3 months or more.12

Some foods to avoid to help prevent weight gain after a cholecystectomy include:9

  • Fatty foods. Foods high in saturated fats like fatty red meat, pork, butter, and pastries should be avoided as part of a long-term gallbladder removal diet.
  • Processed meats. Meats like sausages, salami, burgers, and bacon tend to be high in fat and low in fiber content. Consuming these types of food can make it difficult to lose weight after a gallbladder removal.
  • Sugary foods. Drinking sodas that contain lots of sugar, ready-made sauces, or flavored coffees, can make losing weight very difficult. If you want to lose weight after gallbladder surgery, quit consuming processed sugar.

Other Ways to Prevent Weight Gain after Gallbladder Removal

If you are having weight issues after your gallbladder surgery, there are other ways to help you lose weight:

Regular exercise

Regular exercise can help you lose weight quickly and boost the effectiveness of a diet program for weight loss.

Studies have shown that people who regularly exercise following gallbladder removal surgery lower their risk of gallbladder problems that cause weight gain.7

How soon can you start exercising after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy? The journal Surgery reported that, if there are no complications with the procedure, a person can return to normal activities after 3 days or so. However, you should consult with your doctor before undertaking any strenuous physical exercise program.13

One easy way to increase your physical activity is walking more every day to help you lose weight.

Can Gallbladder Removal Cause Weight Loss?

In some circumstances, having your gallbladder removed can result in weight loss. For some people who had gallbladder surgery because of obesity, weight loss as a side effect of gallbladder removal can be a positive change.

However, it is good to be aware of the reasons for losing weight after gallbladder removal. Many people who experience weight loss after a gallbladder removal do so because of positive changes in their diet. The gallbladder diet includes foods that are low in fat and high in fiber which help you lose weight and keep the pounds off.

So, it is good to keep a good and healthy diet after gallbladder surgery to lose weight.

Side Effects After Gallbladder Removal

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a minimally invasive procedure and usually is associated with few, if any complications. Most of the side effects associated with having your gallbladder removed are connected to problems with your digestion. Let’s look briefly at some of the most common ones.


Diarrhea can be an acute side effect of a gallbladder removal or it can become a long-term problem.

Dr. Jay W. Marks on MedicineNet reports that frequent bouts of diarrhea are common in the few weeks following gallbladder surgery. This happens because the lack of concentrated bile from the liver means that food passes through your digestive system faster.14

Abdominal pain

Even though you have had your gallbladder removed, it is still possible to have symptoms of gallbladder attack without a gallbladder.

Research published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that severe upper abdominal pain on the right side can still happen if you have a blockage in your biliary system. Some people have even reported severe “gallbladder” pain years after their cholecystectomy.15


Apart from weight gain and digestive upset, indigestion is another side effect of gallbladder surgery.

Disruption to your digestive system can result in symptoms of reflux. According to the Journal of Gastrointestinal Liver Diseases, indigestion can happen post-gallbladder removal. For some people, this causes a burning sensation in the chest after eating a meal. In some cases, these symptoms can last for up to 2 years after the gallbladder removal.16

Dropped gallstones

A common side effect of laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery is when gallstones “drop” into the abdominal cavity. There the gallstones can remain for many years.

Dropped gallstones can cause long-term side effects of gallbladder removal because abdominal pain can flare up years after the surgery. The International Journal of Surgery reports that in some cases, the dropped gallstones can cause an abscess in the biliary ducts and require further surgery to drain the infected fluid.17


Another long-term complication of gallbladder surgery is a condition of the biliary system called strictures. Strictures are when the biliary ducts narrow and reduce the flow of bile.

According to Dr. R. Brugge from Harvard Medical School, severe pain in the upper right abdomen after gallbladder removal could be a sign of strictures. In some cases, this can happen as long as 5 years after the gallbladder has been removed.18

When to See a Doctor

Thankfully, most surgeries that remove the gallbladder result in few, if any, serious side effects. If you eat sensibly after your operation, you can avoid many of the gallbladder removal side effects like weight gain and diarrhea.

However, there are some complications of gallbladder removal that may require medical help. If you had your gallbladder removed, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

Jaundice. A block in the bile duct can cause bile to get into your bloodstream. This can result in yellow skin and eyes.19

Fever. An infection in your biliary system can happen and cause a fever along with cramping abdominal pain. In some cases, a post-op problem with your gallbladder removal can damage the biliary tract which can also cause a fever without infection.20

Bile duct stones. Getting rid of gallstones by removing the gallbladder doesn’t always mean you will never have problems with cholesterol stones. According to research in the journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice, bile duct stones can cause cramping right-sided abdominal pain years after the gallbladder removal.21

Severe abdominal pain. You should see your doctor if you continue to have intense abdominal pain after your gallbladder has been removed.

Related articles:

Medical Sources

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