A liquid diet and gallbladder surgery

November 12, 2012

A liquid diet and gallbladder surgery

The gallbladder is the body’s storehouse for bile – a bitter, dark fluid used to aid the digestion of fat within the small intestine. Bile is produced initially in the liver and discharged from the gall bladder into the duodenum as food is ingested. The gallbladder is a small, pear shaped organ located just below the liver.

A build up of cholesterol in the gallbladder may lead to the development of gallstones – it is the surgical removal of these stones that may require an individual to follow a liquid diet for several days. Since the gallbladder is not a vital organ the body can function normally without it – this is one of the reasons its removal may be recommended for those suffering with gallstones.


Gallstones may develop in the gallbladder or the bile ducts – there are a number of risk factors for this condition -

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender – gallstones occur more frequently in women
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hormone therapy
  • High levels of blood triglycerides

Most gallstones do not cause symptoms – they do not call flatulence, gas, intolerance to fatty foods or swelling of the abdomen. The most common symptom of gallstones is biliary colic caused by a blockage in one of the ducts, resulting from the movement of gallstones within the bile, – this causes severe, constant pain that does pass after several hours.

Following surgery to remove the gallbladder and gallstones the liver will still produce sufficient bile for the digestive process – but this bile will drip into the intestine as it can no longer be stored in the gallbladder.

Liquid diet prior to surgery

Painful gallstones may require a surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder – this is generally done via a laparoscopy and is one of the most common surgical procedures to be performed. Prior to surgery the patient may need to follow a restrictive liquid only diet for several days in order to clear the digestive system.

Many surgeons require patients preparing for gallbladder surgery to follow a liquid diet – it is essential to follow exactly the instructions for this preparatory process. Following the recommended liquid diet will minimise the risks of abdominal surgery by emptying the intestines.

Food on the liquid diet

The liquid diet should include foods that are clear, easily digested and which leave a minimal amount of residue in your digestive system. Sweeteners such as sugar and honey may be included as well as gelatine. The other items that may be included on a liquid diet include the following -

  • Consomm
  • Tea and coffee
  • Clear fruit juices such as apple or cranberry
  • Water
  • Clear sodas such as ginger ale
  • Fruit ice

Other factors to consider

This restrictive diet prior to gallbladder surgery is intended to keep a patient hydrated, to provide the necessary electrolytes and to minimise any residue in the intestine. Since the diet is so low in calories and contains few, if any proteins, vitamins or minerals it should only be followed under strict medical supervision and for no longer than the recommended length of time.

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