The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ in the digestive system that collects and stores bile, the fluid that helps the body digest fats. Most people will never develop a gallbladder problem. In those who do, gallstones and other disease processes can cause abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea and vomiting. Whether you are trying to prevent further problems or you've had your gallbladder removed, a proper diet is the key to minimising these unpleasant symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
Things to avoid include eggs; heavily marbled meat or poultry; fish packed in oil; trans fats, saturated fats, hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated oils like margarine; anything fried; whole-milk dairy products; caffeine, including chocolate; carbonation; alcohol including beer, wine and liquor; fruit juice; artificial sweeteners; preservatives; refined and bleached foods (like white flour); breads containing egg or cheese, or made with fat (such as biscuits, sweet rolls, French toast, doughnuts, waffles, fritters, muffins); granola-type cereals; snack crackers and crisps.
Dairy and Meat
Fortunately, there are many things still left to eat if you have gallbladder disease, such as the following:
Eggs: Although eggs cause problems with most people, you may be able to tolerate eggs that are soft-boiled or poached with no fat added.
Dairy: Look for skim, low-fat, part-skim and fat-free versions. Products such as skimmed milk, evaporated skimmed milk, skim buttermilk, nonfat sour cream, yoghurt made with skimmed milk, fat-free cheeses, low-fat cottage cheese, part-skim mozzarella cheese, and part-skim or skim ricotta cheese are all acceptable.
Meat: Choose poultry without skin; veal; lean beef that has been trimmed of all fat (for example, round, sirloin, flank and tenderloin cuts); fresh, canned, cured or boiled ham; Canadian bacon; lean pork (cuts such as tenderloin, chops and cutlets); fish (fresh, frozen or canned in water); and luncheon meat that is at least 95% fat free.
Other protein: Nuts, seeds, and beans are safe for most gallbladder patients, even those who have had their gallbladders removed. However, if you find these items cause gas, bloating and diarrhoea, avoid them.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits: Most fruits except for avocados are well tolerated. You may need to avoid citrus or sugary fruit juices, depending upon your reactions to those foods.
Vegetables: Almost all vegetables are acceptable, as long as they are steamed, raw, boiled or baked without added fat. Some patients may find that the following foods cause gas or even diarrhoea and should be avoided: radishes and turnips; cabbage; cauliflower and broccoli; onion; corn.
Fats and Oils
Although most fats should be avoided, some fat is necessary for overall health. Use omega-3 oils like flax or hemp or cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. Nuts and seeds, and oils and butters made from them, are also acceptable in most cases.
Choose fat-free broths, consommes, bouillon, and soups made with fat-free broth, skimmed milk or evaporated skimmed milk. Avoid cream-based soups and those made from high-fat meat stocks.
Choose from the following sweets: sherbet made with skimmed milk; nonfat frozen yoghurt; fruit ices; gelatin; meringues, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, graham crackers and other fat-free cookies; fat-free cakes such as angel food; puddings made with skimmed milk; tapioca; fruit whips made with gelatin or egg whites; hard candy; jelly beans, jelly, jams and marmalades; maple syrup.
For beverages, choose decaffeinated coffee or tea; cocoa made with skimmed milk; water; vegetable juices and fruit juices if you can tolerate them. Note that some studies have shown drinking caffeinated coffee lowers the risk of gallstones and that moderate amounts of alcohol are linked to a reduced incidence of gallstones. However, these studies are still preliminary, and you should avoid caffeine and alcohol if they make your symptoms worse.