disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, sooo talk to yours before you do anything crazy.
3 1/2 year ago, I had intense abdominal pain that wouldn’t go away. It was horrible… sitting, standing, laying down, doubled over, nothing helped. They did an ultrasound of my gallbladder and didn’t see anything wrong, but finally they did a HIDA scan (a test that measures how efficiently a gallbladder releases bile) and I had only 3% function left. To put that in perspective, anything less than 40% is generally recommended for removal. I didn’t have any gallstones, my gallbladder had just stopped working. Less than 3 weeks after my first attack, I was on the operating table.
There are standard complications that can happen after a cholecystectomy… bile duct obstruction, scar issues, bile reflux, and something super fun called “post cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS)”, or what I like to call “gallbladder attacks after the gallbladder is removed”. PCS affects everyone a little different… some have frequent nausea or diarrhea, some have random bouts of abdominal pain where their gallbladder used to be. The common thread is it is misery that didn’t appear before the gallbladder issues started.
I suffer from PCS. I ended up being hospitalized with stomach pains after my cholecystectomy. Bile refluxing into my stomach was part of the pains, part of it was a small ulcer, and part of it is “we don’t know why you are in pain”. I wanted to slap everyone who pranced around and was like “oh, gallbladder surgery, I had that done outpatient, and I just took tylenol after!” I was inpatient for the better part of a week with the initial surgery, and several ER visits after, and then was hospitalized again for another couple of days.
The standard treatment for PCS is a low fat diet. The thought process is, the liver produces more bile if you eat too much fat, it’s probably the bile that is causing the misery, therefore cut out as much fat as possible. Obviously, with this blog being LCHF, i’m not going to promote that.
If you suffer from PCS, you’ll notice that any time you make a drastic change to you diet (increase fiber, decrease/increase fat intake, increase vegetables), your digestive system gets angry. “Angry” for you may mean diarrhea, may mean vomiting, or it may just mean pain. The trick with any diet change is to be gradual. Don’t go loading up your omelet with butter and ham if you used to eat low fat, you need to ease into it. Some people find that eating several small meals a day versus a couple of big ones lets them have more success. Once you’ve done LCHF for a few weeks, your body will get used to the increased fat and your stomach will be back to normal… well, as normal as it can be. One thing that won’t change is what you’ve already noticed with whatever your current diet is: the same foods that you’ll eat no problem 19 times in a row may bring you back to Angry Digestive Land the 20th time. Bonus: you’ll probably never understand why people complain about constipation with low carb, as the constant bile being released by the liver seems to keep things moving.
You can totally eat low carb if you suffer from post gallbladder removal issues! Go slow with the changes, and you’ll have success.