Having gallstones can be a problematic health issue. About one in three women and one in six men develop gallstones at some stage during their lifetime. The risk of gallstones increases with age. To avoid the risk of gallstone formation or the onset of its symptoms, you must follow a low-fat diet. In addition, there are certain foods that you must avoid to prevent gallstones from bothering you.
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ situated below the liver. It stores bile produced by the liver and releases the bile into the small intestine to help digest food, especially fatty food.
In some people, gallstones may develop. These are hard deposits of cholesterol or bilirubin that develop in the gallbladder.
Most of the time, they do not cause any problems. However, some people may develop symptoms such as gallbladder pain (biliary colic), nausea, and vomiting, which frequently cause trouble.
The choice of treatment for gallstones is surgery to remove the gallbladder. To prevent any symptoms or complications from setting in and till such time you are operated on, you must follow a gallbladder-friendly diet.
Some risk factors increase your risk of developing stones and some trigger symptoms in a gallstone patient.
For example, gallbladder pain typically sets in after eating high-fat meals because the liver secretes more bile to digest the fats so that the body can absorb them.
When foods high in fats are ingested, the gallbladder responds by contracting to secrete the bile into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) to digest the fats. And, when your bile ducts are blocked by gallstones, this can cause severe pain.
It becomes necessary for the patient with gallstones to prevent this onset of pain. He can do this by incorporating the right foods into his diet and also by avoiding foods that can cause gallstone problems.
While surgery is the most common treatment for gallbladder stones, milder cases can be treated through diet and lifestyle changes. These dietary and lifestyle improvements will also reduce the chances of gallstone recurrence.
Some foods promote the health of the gallbladder. You should eat such foods. Some foods can promote gallstone formation and gallbladder inflammation. You should avoid such foods.
Eighty percent of gallstones are made of cholesterol. Diets that are high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber increase your risk of gallstone formation and the onset of symptoms in a gallbladder patient.
The risk of gallstone formation is higher in people who are overweight and obese. If you are overweight, losing those extra pounds and attaining a healthy weight will be beneficial. You should lose weight gradually because rapid weight loss is linked to gallstone formation. The recommended safe weight loss is 1-2 lbs (0.5 to 1 kg) per week.
You can, as an overweight or obese person, significantly lower your risk of gallstone formation by following a healthy eating plan and getting regular physical activity to help attain a healthy weight.
Follow the dietary advice explained below even if you have had your gallbladder removed for gallstones. It will prevent or minimize the side effects such as diarrhea and bloating experienced after surgical removal of the gallladder.
What foods to eat and how?
You should eat smaller meals more frequently. This will ensure that the food is better mixed with available bile. A healthy gallbladder meal should include small amounts of lean protein, such as poultry, fish, fat-free or low-fat dairy, along with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Fruits and vegetables
Eat foods that are high in fiber, Vitamin C, calcium, and B vitamins because these nutrients are essential for gallbladder health. Fruits and vegetables can help improve the health of your gallbladder and prevent gallstone formation or its symptoms if present.
Some fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your gallstone diet are:
- bell peppers
- citrus fruits
- dark, leafy greens
You can eat bananas with gallstones, as their fat content is low. In addition, they contain vitamins C, B6, and magnesium, which are all good for your gallbladder.
Foods high with a high vitamin C content that are good for your gallbladder health include capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, citrus fruits, pawpaw, kiwi fruit, strawberries, and pineapple.
Fiber is a known digestive health promoter. It promotes proper peristalsis and the movement of food through the gut. It also lowers the need and production of bile. This can significantly lower the risk of gallstone formation and its symptoms.
Foods that are high in fiber and which you must eat include:
- whole grains products, such as bread, pasta, and rice
If you like dairy products such as cheese, curd, or yogurt, there is no need to stop having them. Instead, use low-fat dairy products.
Low-fat dairy, like milk or cheese, helps reduce the amount of fat in the diet. A low-fat diet can help prevent gallstones. You can use milk alternatives, such as almond milk, oat milk, or soymilk.
Red meat is high in fat, which can stimulate the liver to produce more bile and can put pressure on the gallbladder and stimulate it to contract and secrete bile. You should, therefore, avoid red meat.
Low-fat proteins, like poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, and soy products, contain less fat and protect you from gallstone formation and its symptoms.
You can have eggs with gallstones because they are high in protein and low in fat.
Drink plenty of water and maintain an adequate fluid intake: Drink at least two to three liters daily.
Foods to avoid for gallstones
Certain foods that are higher in fat or cholesterol are more likely to cause inflammation of the gallbladder or cause gallstones. They can even trigger a gallstone attack. Therefore, limit the amounts of foods high in cholesterol and sugars.
Avoid the following foods for a healthier gallbladder:
- Refined bread
- High-fat dairy
- Peanut oil
- Processed foods
Foods that may trigger gallbladder attacks and should be avoided include:
- Fatty foods
- Fried foods
- High fat dairy products
- Sugary and carbonated soft drinks
- Acidic foods