Gallbladder Disease- Everything you need to know!
Having a shitty gallbladder really did a number on me and altered a pretty big change in my life. I don’t really like to play a pity game on myself but the last 10 1/2 months have been hell on my body, and even before these last 10 months, I was still just learning how to cope with being a diabetic and losing all the weight I had packed on since high school almost 8 years ago until last year.
If you have read my past blog posts, then you would know that I had gallbladder disease and if you are just now reading this and finding out, now you know. I feel like this is one of those things that most people don’t hear or talk about. I forgot I had a gallbladder or one existed in my body until I was almost 4 months pregnant and they diagnosed me with gallstones. I can honestly tell you, from my experience that they are the worse pain I have ever felt in my 25 years of life. It even beat labor and delivery pain for me on my scale.
Gallbladder surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) is so common you wouldn’t know it was one of the most common surgeries other than Appendicitis (appendix removal). Second most common to be exact. So I’m going to school you a little bit on what it means to have gallbladder disease, where the pain is normally felt, what kind of diet you should keep, surgery review, and post op surgery lifestyle.
What is your gallbladder?
The gallbladder sits under the liver and it stores bile produced by the liver. It will empty itself out after a meal. Bile is a combination of cholesterol, fats, and fluids. Bile helps break down the fat in foods.
When there is a problem in the gallbladder, it could be because the gallbladder doesn’t empty all the way or it contains to much cholesterol or bilirubin, and this can cause bile to harden and then turn into stones. Otherwise known as gallstones.
When you eat something fatty, the gallbladder can contract, therefore pushing a stone into the duct and this can cause a gallbladder attack.
How to recognize an attack:
When you first begin to have a gallstone attack the pain can start in the upper right region of the abdomen under or behind the right breast bone. This pain can also be referred and move to the left side, upper back between shoulder blades, mid back, mid abdomen near sternum, or in right shoulder/quadrant. Some symptoms these may include are:
- Pain while breathing.
- Vomiting and Nausea
- Chills and Fever
When an attack starts there is NOTHING you can do to actually stop/or end it. Most can last up to 5-6 hours and usually after 5 hours, they want you to go to ER. I found that some things helped lessen the pain during an attack, which helped me stay away from the ER as much as possible.
Things That Helped Me
There is really only a few things that helped me, but I’ll give you a few others that I tried that might work for you. Like I said above, there is nothing you can really do for an attack other than to let it pass. There is also no such thing as healing it yourself, it always ends in surgery! (We will talk more about that later.)
- A hot bath- This is the one thing that happened to help the pain A LOT! I mean the water has to be really hot, but just laying in that bath and practicing breathing helped a lot. And sometimes I would sit in there so long that I would have to drain the water and refill the tub again.
- Heating pad- After the bath, I would IMMEDIATELY lay on the heating pad, I’d lay on it all night, I would even sleep on it. Screw my skin, the little skin burn was nothing compared to the relief it brought.
- Grapes- For some odd reason, I found that this is the only food I could stomach after having an attack, or even during. The key is to NOT get dehydrated.
- Diet Sodas- Since I am sugar free also, soda in general, (I drank diet), really did help. The carbonation in them helped me burp which in return made me think or feel like I was doing something to try to remove the stone from my duct.
That honestly is about it. Like I’ve stated before there is really nothing that you can do for these and it’s just really painful.
Diet and Lifestyle
As far as diet goes, they tell you to be low fat. I am here to tell you that it is a crock of shit and that you should avoid fat and sugar at all costs, and diet sodas really do help. When they tell you to be low fat they mean just keep the fat content down and avoid all fried, fatty, greasy, sugary foods.
When I landed in the ER back in February, my surgeon also mentioned to me that I shouldn’t be eating leafy greens, or green vegetables also. SAY WHAT?! That’s the crazy thing I have ever heard! This is because your gallbladder processes it as a fatty meal because it is high in fiber and protein. Who would have thought?
This really leaves me with not a lot to eat and choose from. Here are a few things I kept on my given menu daily, that helped somewhat keep them at bay:
– Tuna in WATER- I don’t know if I could stomach tuna again. I ate it those last few weeks of pregnancy religiously and it was light on the stomach and easy to make. Make sure you get the one in water and not oil. Oil is not good at all for gallstones.
– Grapes- as mentioned above. I snacked on these all day.
– Pretzels- plain pretzels have little to no fat, usually weighing in around 1-2 grams of fat, which is 1% of the daily value. I just ate plain, salty pretzels.
– Turkey Breast Cutlets- This is the only meat that I could really cook and eat. It is 99% fat free, and has no skin, or bones, and really no fat at all. I would cook a whole pack in a skillet with a little bit of seasoned salt and dip it in barbecue sauce, since barbecue sauce has no fat. Just be careful because some bbq sauces have sugar in them.
– Carrots- Carrots was about the only veggie that is fat and sugar free, and not a leafy or green vegetable. I would pair it with a little bit of honey and pepper and that definitely spruced it up some!
I did eat a few other things like complete whole wheat bread and English muffins that were whole wheat and had things like fat free cottage cheese, fat free cream cheese, and fat free cheese slices. A lot of this stuff was very hard to find the last few weeks with the pandemic going on but I managed. It is a vert slim menu and this is why I dropped 26 pounds during my pregnancy and the 3 weeks after leading up to my surgery.
Gallbladder surgery is the second most common surgery to have next to having your Appendix out. Surgery was quite easy and so was recovery for the most part! I had my surgery on Friday, May 8th and was at Target 3 days later due to a blowout my 1 month old had all over my bed, and had to desperately get some new sheets. The surgery wasn’t long at all. We got there at 8 am, and I was home by 2:30. The whole process was quick.
There is two ways to take a gallbladder out, laparoscopically and open surgery. Mine was taken out laparoscopically. The recovery time for L surgery is 2 weeks. I will say that my shoulder was probably the most sore, but really my whole abdomen was sore. My shoulder was sore because they fill you with carbon dioxide to have room to work, and they made 4 incisions, one below my belly button, and then three under my sternum, my right breast, and more towards the right side. I was feeling so much better 4-5 days later. I was back to all my normal activities by day 3. By the time this post actually posts, I would have probably already seen my surgeon for my post op appointment.
I am SO RELIEVED to have this gallbladder out. I feel so free again, and it was really depressing me not eating what I want to eat. Or really just eating a REAL meal!
After Surgery Lifestyle
A lot of people don’t know but after gallbladder surgery you still have to keep a similar diet with the low fat and less sugar/sugar free. When they remove the gallbladder they pull it out through the duct and through the belly button. When they do that, it enlarges that duct. Which means more bile is now able to pass through there. So if you go back to eating greasy, fatty, fried, spicy foods, the more bile that creates, and flows through the duct. This can cause chronic diarrhea and other stomach problems/issues!
Overall I am so happy to have this gallbladder out, I really hope that this blog will help someone else that is now in my past situation. Gallstone pain is NO JOKE! I am all around a much happier person, and when this quarantine is over my first meal will be Mexican food!