If you've ever experienced the pain of a gallbladder attack, you may wonder what you should eat to prevent another one. Gallstones often lead to a great deal of pain and discomfort. But eating the right foods can mean the difference between having a gallstone attack or not.
Gallstone attacks often happen after eating a fatty meal. The more fat you eat, the more your gallbladder contracts. These contractions may allow gallstones to travel or block the bile duct, causing severe pain.
A gallstone diet will not cure gallstones, but it may decrease painful gallstone attacks. One way to help control such attacks is to eat a lowfat, low-cholesterol diet.
What to Avoid
To help minimize gallstone attacks, keep your fat and cholesterol intake low. Foods high in fat and best avoided include:
- Butter, shortening, margarine, and oils
- Full-fat dairy products including cheese, ice cream, non-skim milk, heavy cream, whipped cream, non-skim yogurt, and sour cream
- Cream sauces like Alfredo sauce
- Processed, fatty meats like hot dogs, salami, bologna, pepperoni, and sausage
- Fatty meats like bacon, marbled beef steaks, duck, lamb, hamburger and non-lean cuts of pork
- Poultry skin
- Fried foods
- Baked goods
- Egg yolks
- Full-fat salad dressings or oil and vinegar dressings
- Processed foods like potato chips, crackers, and granola bars
- Nuts and nut butters
- Microwave popcorn
What to Eat
While avoiding all the above may sound like you will be deprived, there are still several delicious and healthy foods you can include in your diet. The following foods are easier on your digestive system and less likely to cause a painful backup of bile during the digestion process:
- Fresh fruits, berries, and vegetables
- Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings
- Egg whites
- Lean cuts of meat
- Skinless poultry
- Fish and shellfish
- Fat-free baked goods
- Starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes
- Low-fat dairy like skim milk, non-fat yogurt, fat-free ice creams and puddings, and low-fat or non-fat cheese
- Low-fat crackers and baked potato chips (in moderation)
- Fruit smoothies made from fruit and non-fat yogurt
- Grains/seeds like rice, bulgar, barley, and quinoa - cooked without added fat
- Pasta with fresh vegetable-based sauces like marinara
- Air popped popcorn without butter
- Fat-free tortillas
- Hard candies and jelly beans
- Fat-free mayonnaise
You should also drink plenty of fluids. Research shows drinking two units (28 grams) of alcohol daily may help reduce gallstone risk. Still, it's important to balance the pros and cons of drinking alcohol with your doctor.
Sample Meal Plan
Here is a sample day's worth of meals for a gallstone diet.
- Steel cut oats with dried fruit and cinnamon or an egg white omelet with sauteed vegetables
- Fruit juice
- Berries with fat- free yogurt
- "Skinny" latte with nonfat milk
- Turkey wrap made with a whole grain, fat-free tortilla, non-fat cream cheese, tomatoes, and fresh veggies
- Green salad with fat-free vinaigrette
- Sparkling mineral water with a twist of lemon
- Air popped popcorn sprinkled with sea salt
- Iced tea
- Baked halibut with lemon pepper
- Whole grain pasta with marinara sauce
- Steamed vegetables
- Fat-free ice cream sundae
The gallbladder sits just beneath the liver. It aids in digestion and bile storage. Gallstones are stones that form in your gallbladder. According to Healthline, gallstones are made of cholesterol, bilirubin, or salt. They range from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball.
Gallstones are hard and somewhat brittle. They can cause a great deal of pain; however, not all gallstones cause pain. Many are asymptomatic until they move within the gallbladder or block the bile duct.
The Mayo Clinic lists several reasons gallstones may develop, such as:
- Too much cholesterol in your bile
- Too much bilirubin in your bile
- Your gallbladder doesn't empty properly
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also mentions these gallstone risk factors:
- Eating a low-fiber diet high in calories and refined carbs
- Rapid weight loss
- Intestinal diseases that affect nutrient absorption
- Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes
Once gallstones are present and causing pain, the main treatment for them is surgery. However, in some cases, following a diet for gallstones may help you avoid or postpone surgery and reduce gallstone attacks.
A Healthy Way to Eat
An eating plan for gallstones is generally healthy. It may even lead to weight loss, although it's important not to lose weight too rapidly as that may actually cause gallstones. With a little planning, it's easy to eat low-fat meals to help keep your gallbladder in check. It's also a good idea to stick to a low-fat diet after gallbladder surgery as your body may have difficulty digesting fatty foods for a while. Consult your doctor before attempting to self-diagnose or treat gallstones with any diet.