If you have had your gallbladder removed, you might be wondering whether the keto diet is the right choice for you. Indeed, without your gallbladder, your body might struggle with digesting fat, especially in the beginning.
In that case, given that the keto diet can be somewhat high in fat, is keto the best option for you? Do you risk experiencing any side effects? How do you make sure you don’t experience any side effects and complications? And most importantly, what are the things to consider if you want to follow a ketogenic diet without a gallbladder and how do you do it?
In this article, we’ll be looking into the answers of all these questions.
Disclaimer: Make sure to consult with your doctor for your personal situation first before starting a keto diet or any diet/lifestyle change.
Is The Ketogenic Diet Safe If You Have Had Your Gallbladder Removed?
Yes, the ketogenic diet can be a perfectly viable and safe option even for people who have had their gallbladder removed, given that you pay special attention to a few things (which we’ll discuss below).
Most people with no gallbladder do very well on keto; nevertheless, some people do struggle with it and experience some unwanted side effects, so they might need to adapt a slightly different approach.
Sometimes keto might not be the best option for them, too. The only way you can know for sure is to try it out – and to take a few precautions in order to minimize the potential risks.
Another important thing to consider is that the amount of fat you’re eating when doing keto will entirely depend on your goals, body weight and lean body mass, and might not even be that high.
Compared to your previous diet (especially the one you had before you had your gallbladder removed), it might be more or less on par, if you weren’t tracking anything before and were eating the standard American diet.
Once you had your gallbladder removed, you were probably eating a lower in fat diet, but it’s likely that keto can be a good choice for you, and you just need to take a few things into consideration, as we’ll see in the current article.
How Can I Follow Keto Without A Gallbladder?
#1. Transition To Keto Slowly And Be Attentive To Any Signs Your Body Is Giving You
The usual advice we give to most people when starting the keto diet is to just dive in and lower their carbs at once, instead of going gradually lower.
Nevertheless, if you have had your gallbladder removed, this might not be the best approach for you, you might benefit from going slower and easing your way into keto by progressively upping your fats and lowering your carbs over the course of one or two weeks.
Be mindful of how you’re feeling while doing the transition. Some discomfort once you start lowering your carbs to keto levels is normal, because at some point you’ll reach ketosis and will likely experience the keto flu, so symptoms like mild fatigue, headaches, insomnia, bad breath and the like are to be expected.
If, however, you’re feeling miserable after a meal higher in fat, you might need to go slower, or redistribute your fat macro differently throughout the day. Which leads us to the next point:
#2. If Needed, Adjust The Amounts Of Fat You’re Consuming And Their Distribution Throughout The Day
You don’t need to go overboard with fats – in fact, as discussed above, your macros will entirely depend on your goals and keto isn’t a “one size fits all” type of diet, as far as your macros are concerned.
The most important thing to do in order to stay in ketosis is to keep your carbs very low, and not to keep your fats very high. In fact, if your goal is losing weight, some of the fat needs to come from your own stores, and not from your plate.
You should also consume enough protein to sustain your muscle mass, and If you’re highly active, you might need to keep your protein rather high.
If you experience any negative symptoms from consuming too much fat at once, you might wish to lower your fat macro slightly, and also to try to redistribute it evenly in the day, avoiding meals that are very high in fats.
Make sure that you’re not consuming most of your fats within 1 or 2 meals, but that you’re instead spreading them evenly, and combining them with proteins and some carbs.
Bulletproof coffee might not be for you (in fact, very few people “need” bulletproof coffee, and it would be mostly those who are maintaining or trying to gain weight and struggling with not eating enough).
You also might wish to have a few smaller meals, rather than 1 or 2 big ones, in order to make sure that your body can digest everything properly.
#3. Remember To Hydrate Well And To Keep Your Electrolytes In Check
Staying hydrated when you’re doing keto is very important, and so are electrolytes.
When you’re in ketosis, your body will be flushing water at a faster than usual rate, and if you’re dehydrated, your liver will struggle with bile production, too. To help your liver maintain a regular flow of bile, it’s important to stay hydrated.
Do keep in mind that you don’t need to drink excessive amounts of water, either – if you drink past what your body needs, you risk diluting your electrolytes too much, so it’s important to keep them in check.
For more information on which electrolytes you need to supplement and how much, check out our article here!
Time your consumption of liquids in a way that you don’t drink lots of water before, during or right after your meals, to make sure that you’re not diluting your own digestive enzymes, either. If you’re thirsty, aim to drink only little amounts of water within the 30 minutes window before eating.
#4. If Necessary, Supplement With Ox Bile And Digestive Enzymes
Supplementing with ox bile and digestive enzymes might be a great idea for some people who get unwanted side effects from transitioning to a higher fat diet.
It will help with the digestion of fats and will help your body to adapt to the new diet. After a while, you might not need to supplement any longer, or only do it occasionally (unfortunately the best way to check would be to just try not supplementing, which might leave you with some discomfort if you’re not ready just yet).
Ox bile will help with the digestion of fats and many people who have their gallbladder removed take it, at least in the beginning. Digestive enzymes help with adequate stomach acid production and with digestive function in general, so it might make it easier for you to transition to keto.
Supplementing with ox bile and digestive enzymes might not be necessary for the long run, but could give your liver the help it needs in the beginning when you’re adapting to keto.
#5. Concentrate On Medium-chain Fatty Acids Rather Than On Long-chain Ones
Long-chain fatty acids require more bile to digest and it might be challenging for your liver to keep up with sufficient bile production.
Long-chain fatty acids are typically found in meat, egg yolks, olive oil, and avocados. Now, you don’t need to avoid these foods altogether. In fact, some of them can be your staples for keto, you just need to be mindful about the amounts you’re consuming and making sure you’re not eating too much long-chain fatty acids at once.
Short-chain fatty acids are typically produced by your gut bacteria, while medium-chain fatty acids are found in grass-fed butter and in coconut oil and MCT oil.
#6. Pair Fat With Soluble Fiber
In order to ensure good digestion, make sure to not eat huge amounts of fat at once, and also to pair it with some dietary fiber. Fiber is typically found in veggies, including green leafy ones, so if you’re eating enough of those, your body will have an easier time digesting fat.
Some excellent keto-friendly sources of fiber include flax seeds, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and mushrooms.
For more ideas on what high-fiber foods to include in your diet, check these best sources of fiber for a keto diet.
#7. Are There Any Symptoms Or Signs You Should Watch Out For?
If you have had your gallbladder removed, you are probably already familiar with the signs of fat indigestion. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Vomiting, nausea
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Stool that is floating or smells particularly bad
- Yellowing of the skin
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially after a meal higher in fat, it might be a direct indication that your body is not yet ready to digest such amounts of it.
Take a step back and lower your fat consumption slightly, or redistribute it in more frequent but smaller meals, or consider supplementing with ox bile and digestive enzymes. Your symptoms should gradually resolve – if they don’t, a trip to the doctor might be necessary.
#8. What If You Need To Have Your Gallbladder Removed While You’re Doing Keto?
If you’re already doing keto and need to have a gallbladder removal surgery, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference, unless you’re eating excessive amounts of fat (if that’s the case, you might need to reconsider your approach altogether).
You might wish to redistribute your fats within a number of smaller, more frequent meals, but apart from that, if you experience no side effects, there isn’t any need to stop doing keto.
Some people might have a harder time adapting to having no gallbladder and might need to lower fat and reintroduce some carbs for a while, but in most cases, this isn’t necessary. Remember, your liver is still making bile – the only difference is that you cannot store it for later.
Is the keto diet possible if you have had your gallbladder removed? Certainly, if you do it correctly and are mindful of any side effects and symptoms. You need to go slow and ease your way into keto, but once your body adapts to the higher amounts of fat you’re consuming, you shouldn’t have trouble with it.
It might not be for everyone, though – while most people experience no problems, some might have a harder time adapting to it, especially if the gallbladder removal surgery was done recently, and might want to either go even slower, or do keto at a later stage.
On the other hand, people who have gallbladder issues might find the keto diet hugely beneficial to help them not have their gallbladder removed, so if that’s your case, this would be yet another reason to give keto a try.
Either way, if you want to do keto without a gallbladder, that’s perfectly possible and safe – just listen to your body and reassess your approach as necessary.
What is your experience with keto and having no gallbladder? Have you tried the diet yet? Have you experienced any side effects, and what was the best way to deal with them? Share your thoughts with us and our readers – we’d love to hear from you!