Gallstones Diet: Low-fat Diet for Gallbladder Disease

Gallstones Diet

Most gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary diseases can be prevented by dietary interventions. Gallstones develop usually in obese people. Diet plays a major role in the prevention of gallstones.

The four “Fs” of gallstones refer to the high-risk individuals who may develop gallstones. These include:

  • Female:
    • Females are more prone to develop gallstones compared to males. It is 2 to 3 times more common in females compared to males.
  • Fatty:
    • Fatty and obese people are at risk of developing gallstones. Gallstones are especially more common in obese people who lose weight rapidly.
  • Forty:
    • With age, the incidence of gallstones increases. Typically, people develop gallstones between 20 and 40 years of age but become symptomatic later in life.
  • Fertile:
    • Female hormones have some correlation with the development of gallstones. It is more common in females who have menarche at an early age, multiple abortions, and multiple childbirths.

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One of the best remedies in the world of medicine is diet therapy, eating right can help you escape the hold of so many diseases.

Many of the disorders that are known to man can be prevented if one adopts a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, if a disease has been developed the most important thing to keep your focus on is the diet during the treatment.

An ideal diet can play a great role in the treatment by either improving the immune system or reducing the offending pathologic mechanism in the body.

Following the above statement, diet therapy can play a great role in stopping the progression of gallstones, and here is how.

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gallstones diet and prevention

What is the Gallbladder?

This pear-shaped organ has a small size while it is located on the right side of your core just under the liver This serves the primary function of holding bile which is a digestive fluid secreted into the intestines.

This bile is essentially a fluid that helps with the emulsification of fats. It is produced by the liver and is secreted in the small intestine once food has entered.

However, when you are not eating, this bile has to be stored somewhere and that is exactly the function of the gallbladder.

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What are Gallstones?

These are pebble sort of stones that are hard and formed of cholesterol or bilirubin. These can form in your gallbladder and block the passage of bile which can cause sudden pain which calls for an immediate medical emergency.

As the gallstones block the passage of bile, it can accumulate inside the gallbladder and cause a stinging pain that arises in the right side of the upper abdomen, this is called a gallbladder attack.

Gallstones are formed by the excess of cholesterol, bilirubin, or deficiency of bile salts. [Ref]

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Best Foods to Eat When You Have Gallstones:

Here is a list of dietary items that are allowed during gallstones.

Plenty of Fruits:

strawberries and Mediterranean diet gallstones diet
Fruits are good for gallbladder issues

Fruits can be very healthy for your gallbladder. Particularly fruits that are rich in vitamin C, B vitamins like riboflavin, etc, are beneficial to maintain the gallbladder’s wellbeing.

Such fruits include the following:

  • Oranges
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple

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For the same reason as fruits, healthy vegetables that contain calcium, ascorbic acid, and a good amount of fiber are nutritious for your gallbladder. These vegetables include the following:

  • Bell peppers
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

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Fiber-Rich Foods:

vitamins and fiber for old diabetic individuals fiber rich foods gallstones diet
Fiber-rich food items: Fruits and vegetables

Fiber is famous for its role in making gastric movements easy and lowering the secretion of bile in the gallbladder, thereby reducing the incidence of gallstones.

In an animal study, where a cholesterol supplemented lithogenic diet was used, it was found that a high fiber diet can reduce the occurrence of cholesterol stones in the gallbladder. [Ref]

According to another study, the chances of gallbladder surgery were also lower in women who consumed a diet high in insoluble fiber by 17%.

Women who took the most fiber were at lower risk for gallbladder removal by 6% and those who consumed the highest amounts of dietary fiber had a  13% less chance of going through gallbladder surgery. [Ref]

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Whole grains for gallbladder issues:

steel cut oat meal for diabetics
Oatmeal is good for patients with gallstones

These whole grains are packed with fiber so they can be a God-send in treating gallstones. They have the ability to lower the unhealthy cholesterol in your blood which promotes heart health. So, both your heart and gallbladder will enjoy a diet packed with whole grains. The important sources of whole grains are:

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Popcorn
  • Barley
  • Brown bread

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Reduced-Fat Dairy Items:

best plain yogurt for weight loss low fat dairy gallstones diet
Low-fat dairy products are good for patients with gallstones compared to fat-rich dairy foods

The typical dairy items that are frequently bought are rich in fat which can be your enemy in this case. Reduced-fat or low-fat options can do a thousand more benefits on the other hand.

Try items like low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt.

Other alternatives can be soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc.

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Drink Plenty of Water:

Water is a remedy for many things. Dehydration can put one at risk of undesirable conditions. In this case, water can help with emptying the gallbladder and preventing the accumulation of bile.

According to research, the intake of bicarbonate water can reduce postprandial triacylglycerol and cholesterol levels. This is essential for preventing gallstones. [Ref]

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Lean Meat:

steamed fish at lunch for weight loss gallstones diet
Lean meat is better than beef or mutton for patients with gallstones

The same concept of avoiding fat is used here. Lean meat like fish or poultry is a great source of protein while being low in fat.

Nevertheless, plant protein is preferable to animal protein.

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Foods to Avoid with Gallstones:

Fatty Foods:

Fatty foods are one of the foods that can aggravate the progression of gallstones. Bile salts are formed when there is an excessive amount of cholesterol or bilirubin in the diet.

Most fatty foods contain saturated fat which can raise LDL cholesterol as well, which is why it is ideal to avoid such items.

Fatty food Items included are:

fatty meal fried fish gallstones diet
Fried food items should be avoided if you have gallstones
  • Fried fish
  • Fried potato chips
  • Meat steaks
  • Processed foods
  • Oils

Refined Carbs:

refined carbs and sugars
Refined sugars should be avoided in patients with gallstones

Carbs make up most of the diet in daily life but for a person with gallstones, it is advised to refrain from using refined carbs.

Research has found that the consumption of 40 grams worth of refined carbs like sugar can increase the risk for gallstones by 2 times. [Ref]

Similarly, another study found that enhanced intake of carbs and fructose during pregnancy can put a person at a high risk of gallbladder disease for which dietary modification is required to lower the chances. [Ref]

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Foods included are:

  • Refined grains
  • Refined sugar
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Sweets like candies
  • Baked goods

Impact of Dietary Modification of Gallstones

A major risk factor for gallstones is obesity. A high energy intake can lead to gallstones which is why dietary modification has supreme importance.

By keeping your diet low in fat and cholesterol you can easily cut down on so many calories which will eventually reduce the rate of occurrence.

Following a healthy diet can help with avoiding any gallstone attack which is seen in people who eat a diet low in fiber. A low fiber diet may lead to a quick emptying of the stomach during gallstones.

What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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