Preventing Gallstones After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Dec 15, 2023

Gallstones are a major roadblock to health, especially for those who have recently undergone weight loss surgery. This condition primarily affects those on the heavier side; gallstones form when cholesterol levels go off the charts or when fatty deposits exceed the standard limit. Bile from the liver emulsifies fats in the digestive system. It is a liquid, green in color that keeps the cholesterol in its suspended form. However, when its level goes beyond the charts and bile is unable to perform, lumps and stones form.

Every 1 in 10 patients of bariatric surgery need to have their gallbladder removed later on due to gallstones. The culprit is rapid weight loss and shifts in bile acid circulation after bariatric surgery. Problem-causing gallstones usually develop within the first 2 years after surgery, and after that, the risk does not differ from the population average. Here’s how you can avoid gallstones after gastric sleeve surgery.

Can You Avoid Gallstones After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

You will be thrilled to know, yes, it is possible! The risk can be lessened with the aid of medications and some dietary changes. Other than that, ursodeoxycholic acid, a prescription medicine from your local pharmacy, can also help.

Studies suggest that a 6-month regimen after gastric sleeve surgery significantly reduces the risk of developing gallstones. Here’s the math – if 100 out of 1,000 surgery patients face gallstones, taking ursodeoxycholic acid can bring that down to 43 out of 1,000.

What Foods Can You Eat After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Wondering what can you and what you cannot eat after your surgery? We have your answer. The liver produces cholesterol in standard amounts; however, when it overproduces and bile cannot handle the load, gallstones form. So, what can you do to avert that? Well, balancing fats and carbs is the key. Here are some measures needed:

  1. Fat Control: Keep an eye on your fat intake; moderation works.
  2. Fish Intake: Aim for eating it at least 3 times a week. Swap some fats for heart-healthy ones like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and almonds.
  3. Carbohydrates: You should opt for slow-release, high-fiber carbs like whole grains, veggies, berries, and fruits. Studies vouch for a fiber-rich diet reducing gallstone risks.
  4. Use of Lecithin: Increase your lecithin intake by adding egg yolks, seafood, and whole grains to your food. All serve as a contributor to better bile solubility.
  5. Plant extracts: Some options like milk thistle, dandelion, artichoke, and turmeric are like gallstone repellents.
  6. Saponins: Hold off on eating beans for a while as saponins in them amp up cholesterol saturation in bile.
  7. Regular Meals: Don’t be a meal skipper. Eating regularly helps maintain a healthy digestive rhythm.

Closing Note

Gallstones may be a common post-bariatric surgery hiccup, but with a mindful diet, you can steer clear of developing them. If you have more questions, feel free to consult Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon at our facility, who has a fellowship from Bariatric Medical Institute (San Antonio, TX) at Nova Bariatrics, to help you with your concerns. Dial (469) 639-0953 to talk to us and give us a visit at 1081 Kinwest Pkwy #110, Irving, TX 75063.

Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai

Dr. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon, passionately leads Nova Bariatrics and Minimally Invasive Surgery. Formerly an Assistant Professor at McGovern Medical School, he’s a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. His academic journey includes a Bachelor’s from Southern Methodist University, Medical School at UT Southwestern, and residencies at UT Southwestern. Specializing further, he completed Bariatric and Robotic Fellowships, advancing surgical techniques with a focus on patient well-being.

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