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What Causes Weight Loss after Gallbladder Surgery?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Some patients may experience mild to moderate weight loss after gallbladder surgery, and there are several potential causes for this phenomenon. The gallbladder normally stores a digestive substance known as bile. Without the gallbladder, problems with the digestive process may arise, resulting in weight loss. Weight loss may also result from the nausea or diarrhea that often occurs following the procedure, especially when greasy or fatty foods are consumed. Any questions or concerns about the aftermath of gallbladder surgery on an individual basis should be discussed with a medical professional.

Diarrhea is a commonly reported problem after the gallbladder has been removed, especially after eating greasy or fatty foods. This condition can lead to dehydration, prompting a medical professional to recommend an increase in fluid intake. A dramatic increase in the amount of fluids consumed can prevent the patient from feeling hungry, leading to weight loss. If the diarrhea is severe or if painful intestinal cramps develop, a healthcare provider should be consulted for further medical evaluation.

Weight loss after gallbladder surgery may occur due to the low-fat diet recommended by many surgeons following the procedure. As the body is less capable of digesting fats without a fully functioning gallbladder, some people may be concerned about adding any fat to the diet. It is important to remember that the human body obtains energy by consuming a healthy amount of fats. For this reason, it is important for the patient to strike a healthy balance when creating an eating plan following gallbladder removal. A doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian can help devise a healthy meal plan in order to avoid too much weight loss due to dietary changes.

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome may sometimes be responsible for weight loss after gallbladder surgery, although medical experts do not completely understand the reason some people develop symptoms while others do not. Weight loss may occur in these situations due to the extreme fatigue, pain, and digestive disturbances that make up the symptoms of this condition. Managing these symptoms may take a bit of trial and error in order to prevent massive weight loss. Patients often have negative reactions when eating certain foods, even when greasy and fatty foods are avoided. These foods may vary from person to person, and mild to moderate dietary changes can often lessen uncomfortable symptoms enough to prevent the loss of an unhealthy amount of weight.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Gallbladder Surgery?

Recovery time will vary from one patient to another and will be drastically affected by certain habits or activities. If the patient has laparoscopic surgery and is otherwise healthy, they should be able to resume daily activities in as few as two weeks. 

People with physically demanding jobs or additional physical ailments might need extra time for recovery. This time spent in recovery can lead to further weight loss, especially during an extended hospital stay.

If the surgery is not laparoscopic, recovery time will almost certainly take longer. Open surgery is much more invasive. Patients can expect to have restricted movement, tenderness, and mild to moderate pain for up to six weeks. 

Other than dietary adjustments, there are a few things a surgery patient can do to speed up healing and get back on their feet. 

Rest

The body needs plenty of rest to recuperate after surgery. Extra sleep and limiting exertion can help the body focus its energy on repairing damaged tissues. The patient should refrain from doing any work in the days following surgery.

Gentle Movement

Rest is vital following any surgery, but becoming completely inactive can lead to a variety of problems that can exacerbate the negative effects of gallbladder surgery. Gentle movements for short periods are encouraged. Walking, sitting up, and simple leg movements in bed can aid in recovery.

Taking Medication

Patients must take any prescribed medications at the appropriate times and dosages. Skipping or abusing medications following surgery can have disastrous long-term effects. If a patient has trouble remembering medications, it's wise to find a friend or family member that can remind them. 

Pain Management

A doctor will likely prescribe pain relievers following surgery. If a patient is too nauseous to take their pain medication, they should speak with their doctor to discuss their options. Prolonged pain and swelling can harm a patient's health and recovery, so taking pain medication isn't usually optional. 

If additional support is needed, patients can ask about switching to a more comfortable position or using ice on the wound.

Avoiding Infection

Rapid, unusual weight loss can be an indicator of infection. Typically, hospital-acquired infections are the result of poor hygienic practices. Patients, doctors, and nurses should always have ocean hands when touching or dressing an incision. Taking any prescribed antibiotics will also prevent infection.

Following recovery, patients should regain any weight lost from the procedure or subsequent symptoms. If patients don't recover within the expected time frame or experience continued weight loss, they should ask for follow-up tests and recommendations.

How Does the Gallbladder Affect Weight?

The gallbladder is not directly responsible for changes in weight loss or gain. As we mentioned before, the gallbladder creates bile, which helps break down food that passes through the digestive tract. It's not surprising that many people assume the gallbladder is responsible for weight changes, but there's little evidence to support this theory.

There is solid evidence, however, that being overweight or obese puts a patient at higher risk for gallstones. Gallstones are a common reason for gallbladder surgery. Many people believe that by having the gallbladder removed, they can lose weight, but that's rarely the case. Once the patient has recovered, they will gain back the weight they lost unless they make dietary and lifestyle changes.

If a patient wishes to lose weight to prevent gallstones, they should do so gradually. Rapid changes in diet can result in an increased risk of gallstones as well. A doctor or dietician can walk them through the process in order to minimize risk and get the most benefits.

Why Someone Might Need Gallbladder Surgery

Most people need gallbladder surgery because they develop gallstones. Too much cholesterol or bilirubin can build up in the gallbladder, typically due to a poor diet. These stones can become lodged in the cystic duct and cause severe pain and indigestion. Sometimes, if the patient treats the condition early, it can be resolved without surgery. 

Another reason someone might need to have the gallbladder removed is due to underlying diseases such as cancer or infection. In cases like these, sometimes weight loss can be attributed to the illness, which might resolve once the gallbladder is removed.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996678 — On Sep 27, 2016

My concern with the weight loss post surgery one month ago was that I was underweight then and have only lost weight since despite being able to eat any kind of food I want, and even eat junk food sometimes to try to add the calories in. I was 122 the day of surgery and I have gotten done to 114 and I am almost 5'9.

I was constipated before surgery and since the gallbladder came out, I have been able to go to the bathroom normally, but within the last few days it has been a run to the bathroom deal four or five times a day and I know that can't be helping. My clothes don't fit and I can't afford to lose another pound.

By anon989858 — On Mar 25, 2015

I had surgery five weeks ago, but my surgeon failed to tell me about the alternative options to dissolving gallstones and told me to just get the organ removed. Due to family pressures and the fact I was about to start university again, I did it in hopes to feel relief.

Now I still get slight pain and the swelling in the region is still there. I am only 23 years old and am 45 kilos (underweight) and struggle to gain weight. I pass light yellow - dark green stools and my body is definitely affected by what I eat and drink.

I still experienced this when I had the gallstones, except I was always constipated and wasn't able to get out of bed half the time. I wish I had known more about the bio-psychosocial aspects of health, because if I had that extra knowledge, I would have focused on more holistic approaches before getting this organ removed.

For some people, I do understand that surgery is needed for emergencies, but people who just have a couple of gallstones and a inflamed gallbladder should go see a psychologist, dietitan and a medical practitioner who believes in the relationship between clinical and holistic approaches that are willing to try other options before surgery.

I really hope this helps for people who are considering surgery and might not need it. I know I should have waited, so please listen to this if your current situation is really not as serious at the doctors are making it out to be. Mental illness and diet may be responsible for physical health complications. So make sure you get yourself a good team!

By anon989349 — On Mar 02, 2015

I had my gallbladder removed almost two weeks ago, and so far I've lost ten pounds. I don't think is that much, and personally I don't feel like I've lost weight, but the scale doesn't lie, and also people around me have noticed the difference.

In my case, I have not developed diarrhea as the surgeon said (only the couple of days following the surgery, and that's all), and I've been trying my best to keep up with the recommended diet of jello, bland stuff and liquids, including some veggies for lunch. But if you ask me, I think keep this diet is a really good idea. Although I know my gallbladder is gone, I'm still kind of afraid of eating because I still can recall the pain before discovering there was something wrong. It wasn't fun.

However, in summary, as someone said in the replies, I've become more conscious about what I eat, and now I prefer healthier options instead of the mouthwatering pizza and bacon and blue cheese hamburger.

By anon987346 — On Feb 02, 2015

I am terrified I have to have surgery to remove my gallbladder. The surgery itself terrifies me. I don't know why, though. I have had three C-sections. I think part of it has to do with my mother-in-law's experience and her stories of the pain afterward.

By anon970537 — On Sep 19, 2014

I had my surgery 17 days ago. I weighed in at 228 pounds a month ago, and am now at 212 pounds, with no reason behind it. I'm not complaining though. I just hope it continues and my lack of pain stays!

By anon965074 — On Aug 09, 2014

I had surgery in early April 2014. I have lost 20 pounds without wanting to. I have up to five diarrhea episodes each day. I am sometimes hungrier than other times. I am still slightly overweight but I worry in the long term this is going to be a problem. Levsin really helps but I still have diarrhea despite taking it every day.

By anon949893 — On May 07, 2014

I just had my surgery seven days ago. I have officially lost seven pounds so far. I attribute it to the amount of water I'm consuming post surgery because I'm still eating crap.

I am promising myself to eat better starting on Friday. Today is Wednesday. I did really well and got some cool pics of my insides because I had a large cyst on my ovaries which has resolved already. I'm so happy about that! I would love to have a dramatic weight loss, as I'm at 243 today after my seven-pound weight loss.

By anon929878 — On Feb 03, 2014

I want to speak for two people on this matter. My mother had her gallbladder taken out and she gained weight. She told me that she has no problem with what she is able to eat. Makes me wonder if she is doesn't care about her weight gain. I, on the other hand, weighed about 176 before the surgery, and now five months after the surgery, my pure weight (with my birthday suit on) I weigh 162. I think I am losing too much. I do watch what I eat because of the feeling I get after eating "take out, processed red meats and dairy. I found that a turkey sandwich on wheat bread fills me up.

I'm going to the doctor to have tests run to make sure there is not something else causing this weight loss. I hope everyone who has these problems of weight loss and weight gain can find some piece of mind. I look at it like, "if I didn't take my gallbladder out, I would not be here to see my daughter grow".

By anon354157 — On Nov 06, 2013

I was 318 pounds at the time of my gallbladder removal. Two months later, I weigh 267, I think because I haven't had any heavy fried/fatty foods or any soda -- oh and no cake.

By anon343332 — On Jul 29, 2013

I have stones in my gall bladder. I am at a normal weight. I heard if you have the operation, there will be the weight gaining problems which I don't want. What are the facts? If I have the surgery, will I start gaining weight?

By SarahSon — On Nov 22, 2012

@bagley79 -- The biggest difference I have seen since I had my gallbladder removed is I have more problems digesting food. I had abdominal pains before my gallbladder was removed, but I still get twinges of discomfort in this area. Now I know it is caused by my system trying to digest the food I have eaten, instead of my gallbladder being bad.

I didn't experience any weight loss after my gallbladder removal. I have always maintained a normal weight, so I am glad my weight has stayed pretty much the same since then.

By bagley79 — On Nov 21, 2012

I have often wondered what some of the complications are of having your gallbladder removed. I know many people have had this done and seem to live a perfectly normal life, but I kept thinking there has to be some kind of effects from this.

I have had bouts of abdominal pain and testing done for gallbladder stones. My tests have always been negative and the pain goes away, so I still have my gallbladder. I try to avoid fried and greasy foods because these are the types of food that seem to bother me.

I certainly wouldn't want to have my gallbladder removed to lose some weight, but I could stand to lose a few pounds. I also wish they could figure out what is causing me to have all this pain. I know I would be really frustrated if I end up having my gallbladder taken out and then gained more weight.

By John57 — On Nov 20, 2012

@burcinc -- I haven't gained quite as much weight as you have after your gallbladder surgery, but I have gained some. I lost a few pounds right after the surgery, but once I started feeling better, I started gaining weight.

In my case I think it was because I felt so much better and felt like eating again. I put off having my gallbladder removed for longer than I should and was pretty miserable. Once I got my appetite back, I started to overeat, which leads to extra pounds.

By discographer — On Jan 24, 2012

@burcinc-- Some people gain weight after gall bladder surgery and some people lose weight. While weight loss appears to be resulting from higher sensitivities to food, some people gain weight because of the poorer digestion of fats after surgery.

It goes both ways. Less fat digestion can prevent fat storage, but it can also prevent fat burning. Especially if you're not able to digest the good fats in needed amounts.

From my experience, supplementing the diet with Omega 3, fiber, probiotics and enzymes help a lot. Not just for weight gain, but for weight loss too. Of course, eating healthier small meals and regular exercise needs to continue.

By burcinc — On Jan 23, 2012

I have not lost weight after surgery, on the contrary, I have been dealing with weight gain after my gallbladder removal. I've been gaining about 3 pounds every month since the operation and can't seem to fight it no matter how little I eat or how much I exercise.

I think gallbladder surgery really impacts our digestion in a bad way (the post-cholecystectomy syndrome) but it didn't have a weight loss affect on me at all.

What can I do to balance my weight and stop gaining weight? Has anyone else been gaining weight after surgery?

By ddljohn — On Jan 23, 2012

I've lost about 20 pounds post my gallbladder surgery which was one and a half year ago. This has been fine for me because I was overweight then and I'm at a normal weight now.

Not being able to eat fat or oily and processed foods is the major reason why I started losing weight after the surgery. Anything with a lot of fat or oil just upsets my stomach and has me rushing to the bathroom every 10 minutes. I've learned that without the gallbladder, consuming a lot of fat causes bile to be sent to the stomach which upsets the stomach and digestion.

I guess as a side effect of eating healthier, I also feel much fuller after meals and don't feel the need to eat as often. I'm sure that not everyone who has had the surgery feels this way, but the surgery has actually helped me become a much healthier person.

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