Every time you digest a meal, you can thank your gallbladder. It’s only about four inches long, but it’s big enough to perform its very specific job — concentrating bile from your liver and releasing it into your small intestine to break down your food.
When it malfunctions, becomes inflamed, or develops gallstones or polyps, you notice the symptoms right away, pain in the upper right area of your abdomen, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and lightheadedness are clear signs that you have gallbladder disease.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, expert help is available at Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia in Reston, Virginia. Our team of specialists conduct a thorough exam, determine an accurate diagnosis, and offer the least invasive treatment options possible.
In some cases, gallbladder disease responds well to medication and lifestyle changes, but often, it’s best to remove your gallbladder to eliminate the symptoms completely. Afterwards, you may need to make a few adjustments. Here’s how to sidestep pain and discomfort after gallbladder removal.
Can I live without my gallbladder?
Yes, you can live without your gallbladder, but your digestive tract works a little differently afterwards. Your liver still produces bile, but without your gallbladder as a storage tank, the bile drips into your digestive system continuously.
Most people continue to eat the same and live their lives with no change after gallbladder removal, but some experience noticeable changes, such as gas, diarrhea, and bloating after eating high-fat, greasy foods. High fiber foods may be harder to digest too.
How we remove your gallbladder
At Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia, our skilled surgeons use a minimally invasive surgical technique whenever possible. In many cases, we can remove your gallbladder through a single tiny incision with the help of the da Vinci® robotic surgery system.
This system allows us to make extremely precise movements during the procedure that are more accurate and efficient than the human hand can accomplish alone. Our surgeons are still in control of the procedure, but they have the advantage of 3D imagery and robot-assisted movements to reduce tissue damage, pain, blood loss, scarring, and recovery time.
How you’ll feel after gallbladder removal
There are two phases of life after gallbladder removal surgery: post-operative recovery and long-term maintenance. Both phases include some potentially uncomfortable symptoms, but with these tips, you can avoid them.
How to avoid discomfort immediately after gallbladder removal
Even minimally invasive surgery is still surgery, and you’ll need to take a few steps to keep pain and other symptoms at bay. We give you detailed verbal and written aftercare instructions and are always available to you if you have questions, but in general, you need to:
- Adhere to a liquid diet for a few days
- Introduce solid food gradually
- Avoid strenuous activity
As healing progresses, we let you know when you can start introducing more fibrous foods like nuts, broccoli, and legumes. The general rule of thumb is to take things slowly to allow your body to get used to a new normal.
How to avoid discomfort for the rest of your life after gallbladder removal
Many of our patients report that they can eat all the same things they ate before surgery with no adverse effects. But some experience problems, such as gasiness, bloating, diarrhea, and cramping when they eat certain types of foods. If you’re one of them, we recommend several strategies that can help you avoid these uncomfortable side effects:
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
- Avoid fatty foods, such as dairy beef, fried foods, poultry skin, etc.
- Cut back on caffeine and sodas, which can increase stomach acid
- Limit high-fiber foods
- Avoid spicy foods
It’s a good idea to keep a food journal so you can identify a pattern between your diet and your symptoms. There are several apps available to help you keep track on your phone. This helps you narrow down your personal triggers, so you can avoid them.
As the months and years pass, you may find that you can tolerate those problematic foods, so pay attention to your body and how it responds. But if you need to maintain these changes for the long haul, the upside is that you’ll be eating a healthier diet — and that’s good for your whole body.
If you have symptoms of gallbladder disease, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment online or call our friendly staff today. Relief from gallbladder disease is available.