Research has shown that at least 35% of bariatric patients develop gallstones during their weight loss journey. Rapid weight loss after gastric bypass surgery is associated with gallstone formation. How does this happen and can we prevent it?
This article aims to answer those questions. Here we will expand your knowledge on the causes of gallstones and possible preventive measures.
We also discuss the facts about gastric bypass surgery and why it may cause gallbladder problems.
Can Gastric Bypass Cause Gallbladder Problems?
The short answer is yes. Gallstones after gastric bypass surgery are more commonly from cholesterol accumulation. When the liver produces more cholesterol than bile can dissolve, you can see gallstone formation. Diet can also play a role. When there is consumption of high cholesterol and low fiber in the diet, this can also cause gallbladder complications.
Nearly 30% of bariatric patients require their gallbladder removed during active weight loss. However, it is important to educate yourself on this issue. Discuss your options with your bariatric team because at least 70% of bariatric patients will have unnecessary gallbladder removal.
A main cause of gallstones is rapid weight loss. This is the link between gastric bypass surgery and gallbladder problems. Gastric bypass surgery also causes changes to bile acid circulation increasing the chances of gallstone formation.
Weight Loss and Gallstones
As mentioned above, an unfortunate side effect of rapid weight loss is the formation of gallstones.
Due to the prevalence of gallstones, surgeons generally put their patients on a 6-month course of preventative medication.
If there is a history of gallstones before gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon may suggest gallbladder removal before surgery.
Symptoms of Gallstones
Symptoms of Gallstones usually occur once the stones have grown large enough to block the outlet of the gallbladder. This causes a gallstone attack.
Common gallbladder problems include:
- Sharp pain in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain toward the right shoulder
- Yellow skin
Frequent gallstone attacks are usually treated by removing the gallbladder. There may be some non-surgical options available for cholesterol stones. A discussion with your healthcare provider will clear up any confusion.
Gallbladder removal can be done via an operation called Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy. Laparoscopic surgery may not be an option if you have scarring from a previous abdominal procedure. That being said, there are options for open surgery. Your surgeon will have the best recommendations for you based on your individual experiences.
The gallbladder is not a vital organ and most patients can continue their usual lives without it.
Preventing Gallstone Formations
One of the best ways to prevent the formation of gallstones after gastric bypass surgery is by adjusting your diet and with the help of medications.
A common medication that doctors prescribe is Ursodeoxycholic acid. This medication is usually administered within the first six months after surgery and has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of gallstone formation.
Diet adjustments can also aid in preventing gallstone formation.
A key dietary adjustment is balancing out the consumption of fats and carbohydrates. This will help normalize blood lipids and triglyceride levels.
Here are a few tips on how to adjust your diet to prevent gallstones during your recovery after gastric bypass surgery:
- Regulate the amount of fat in your diet. Good fats that you can include are vegetable fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Try to limit or avoid fatty foods, such as steak or fried foods.
- Gradually add high-fiber carbohydrates into the diet. This would include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. A good way to add these is by making healthy smoothies that contain a fruit, vegetable, protein, and healthy fat (ex. ground flax).
- Avoid overconsumption of beans. Many beans contain something called saponins that can increase the complications between bile and cholesterol levels.
- Continue regular meal schedules. If you are finding time to be an issue with regular eating time, bariatric meal replacements may be a quick answer.
Your healthcare provider will have the best advice for you as they follow your medical history and will understand the best course of action.
Please consult your doctor before making changes or adding supplements to your diet.
Gallbladder Removal After Gastric Bypass
Given the increased risk of gallbladder problems after gastric bypass, how common is it to have the gallbladder removed after the surgery?
Prevalence differs on an individual basis.
For those with a history of gallbladder problems before weight loss surgery, the likelihood that a doctor would recommend a cholecystectomy is quite high.
Gallbladder removal can be much lower in gastric band and sleeve gastrectomy patients.
Whether the gallbladder is removed or not depends on the patient’s medical history and the diagnosis of the practitioner.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, you could be having a common complication of bariatric surgery like gallstones. Gallbladder removal will be decided on an individual basis.
Changes to your diet can help to prevent gallbladder issues and if you don’t have a previous history of gallbladder problems, your risk can decrease. Remember, nearly 30% of bariatric patients require their gallbladder removed during active weight loss.
There are always alternative options to bariatric surgery which you should consider, but it is important to be aware of the long-term problems this can cause for your body and the proper recovery process.
**This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition.