Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weight Gain After Gall Bladder Removal

Ever since my gall bladder was removed several years ago I have been gaining weight. Will taking bile salts or digestive enzymes help? Or is there a specific diet for post-gall bladder removal to keep me from gaining weight? Stephanie V.

Dear Stephanie,
I have heard of this phenomenon before, but there is no medical explanation.
A couple of reasons it is possible are (1) before you had your gall bladder out there was pain and discomfort associated with eating many foods so you ate a lot less then, or (2) many of us tend to gain weight over a period of years and some women pinpoint the time back to when their gall bladder was removed--realistically, though, it's just that weight gain occurs over time.

The function of the gall bladder is to store bile and then release a larger amount when a fatty meal is eaten. The purpose of bile is to help break up the fat as it enters your small intestine so the digestive enzymes have access to more of the fat molecules. Picture shaking up a bottle of oil and vinegar dressing: you see it change from a layer of fat, to tiny balls of fat dispersed through the liquid.

Now that you do not have a gall bladder, bile continues to be manufactured in the liver and released slowly and constantly into the small intestine. So you still have all the bile you need. (Sometimes bile salts and/or a low fat diet are prescribed for the first few weeks after the gall bladder is removed, until your system adjusts). The digestive enzymes come from your pancreas and are not affected by your gall bladder.

The best action you can take now is to examine your diet to find where you can cut excess fat and calories. It might be reducing portion sizes, finding lower calorie foods, or eating smaller meals. Increasing activity level can help burn calories too. No matter what the root cause, losing weight is almost always accomplished by taking in fewer calories and burning more through being active.

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