Avoiding Constipation
After Gall Bladder Surgery

By Dr. Jeeno Jayan, MBBS

Constipation after gallbladder surgery - The function of the gallbladder

How to successfully avoid it

The liver constantly produces bile and stores it in a sac-like organ called the gallbladder. 

The gallbladder is located on the right side of the abdomen just under the liver. Once a meal is completed, the gallbladder pushes bile into the intestine where the bile mixes with food and helps with the digestion of fat.

Bile is absolutely essential for the smooth functioning of the digestive tract. It also aids in the movement of fats to elsewhere in the body where they are needed.

When is gallbladder surgery needed

Bile is comprised of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin. Sometimes these substances accumulate and harden into gallstones.

The pain caused by gallstones is the most common reason for gallbladder removal.

Gallbladder surgery is also known as cholecystectomy. In gallbladder surgery, the gallbladder is removed, removing the source of pain.  

Most people function fairly well without their gallbladder, since bile can flow out of the liver and through to bile ducts to the intestines without having to enter the gallbladder first.

Unfortunately, gallbladder surgery is not without risks. The removal of the gallbladder can affect the way we eat and digest food, and may result in constipation.

How gallbladder removal causes constipation

Temporary constipation

Some people become constipated after gallbladder surgery for the following reasons:

  • Anesthesia temporarily slows down bowel function

  • Decreased activity may contribute to constipation

  • Narcotic pain medications also dampen bowel activity

Eating a diet that is rich in fiber, including beans, bran, whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables, can help to prevent constipation.

The reduction in bile may cause long-term constipation

Constipation, diarrhea, lowered heart rate and fatigue are expected side effects following gallbladder surgery.

Once the gallbladder is removed, there is no place for the body to store bile. It must flow directly from the liver into the intestine to mix with the fat and food.

The results in a smaller amount of bile being available for digestion.

For some diets, this smaller amount of bile isn’t sufficient. Without adequate bile, digestion takes longer. Feces is held longer in the colon  to give the body more time to digest it.

The longer it stays in the colon, the more water the colon extracts from it. This results in dry, hard and compacted stool that is difficult and even painful to eliminate.

Effective home constipation treatments following gallbladder surgery

Consume foods rich in fiber, including nuts, leafy greens, peas, dried fruits, whole grains and strawberries.

  1. Take a fiber supplement

  2. Try to eat four or five smaller meals a day instead of 3 larger meals. This helps the body to better keep up with the demand for bile.

  3. Take a magnesium supplement. There are a number of benefits (health benefits of magnesium) to taking 300 to 400 mg. of magnesium each day, especially for the 80% of Americans who don’t get enough magnesium in their diet.

    Magnesium helps with digestion, and also has an osmotic effect, drawing water into the colon to prevent stool from drying out when it is retained longer in the colon.

  4. Avoid eating a lot of fatty foods and red meats. After gallbladder surgery the body just doesn’t have the extra bile to handle it.

  5. Drink 6 to 8 to glasses of water each day. Dehydration is a major cause of constipation, because extra water is drawn from the colon for use elsewhere.

  6. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, including tea, coffee. Also limit consumption of alcoholic drinks. They are diuretics, which cause the kidneys to flush extra water from the body, leading to dehydration.

  7. Avoid spicy foods, dried foods and pastries.

  8. Include foods like eggs, chicken, skinned fish, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, salads, skimmed milk and kefir to aid in digestion.

  9. Get some exercise,which helps to improve digestion and strengthen abdominal muscles.

  10. Eat foods that are low in carbs and high in protein.

  11. Right after surgery, eat liquid or partially liquid foods like soup or oatmeal.

Conclusion, constipation after gallbladder surgery

relaxing after gullbladder constipation

Gallbladder removal is done to ease the discomforts brought on by gallstones.

After the surgical procedure, common side effects can be experienced, including as constipation.

There are numerous measures that may be taken to avoid constipation after gallbladder surgery.

(Return from Constipation After Gallbladder Surgery to Causes of Constipation)

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