This basic principle applies to any surgery , albeit different organ systems are affected, but for our purposes, we will relate this to gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy).
ANY time you have surgery (of any sort) you can experience fatigue. Your body only heals when you are asleep – so that is nature’s way of getting you to slow down – so you can heal efficiently [while sleeping]. That said, most people didn’t go into surgery with a fully functioning gallbladder. It could have been dysfunctional or essentially non-functioning for months or even years before that. So , that means you have months or years of digestive issues and not getting the building blocks your body needs to make hormones or repair itself. Surgery brings its own issues, as it increases the demand you have for certain nutrients – like vitamin C, B vitamins, protein, glutathione, etc . So, when you have gallbladder surgery – you go from just being deficient in the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and essential fatty acids to being potentially deficient in most of the major vitamin categories. To compound matters, they typically put you on a significant dose of antibiotics after your surgery – which kills off the good bacteria in your gut along with the bad, and since 80% of you immune function comes from the gut and those good bacteria, your immune function goes down , making your MORE tired and susceptible to catching everything that goes around. It is a hard thing to dig yourself out of. You have to overhaul your diet (and you rarely get that advice), you have to get optimal levels of sleep, and you have to get out in the sunshine and fresh air and get some exercise. Otherwise you feel like you are trying to dig yourself out of a hole with a plastic spoon. Now, occasionally people feel great after surgery, but they are the exception to the rule. In 12 years of practice, I have rarely met anyone who didn’t have to make changes to feel better afterwards. Sooner or later their underlying nutritional deficiencies caught up to them and affected their health.
Your body uses cholesterol and vitamin D as precursors to make many of your hormones, including your sex hormones. Fats are necessary for life, and your brain is largely a fatty organ. This is why people taking anti-cholesterol medications (statins) frequently experience decreased libido, or even sexual dysfunction. They also often experience short term memory issues.
I have heard doctors argue that the gallbladder is unnecessary. They say that since the liver continues to make bile, then fat absorption continues. I disagree with this. First, I don’t believe we were designed with unnecessary parts. We may not realize their full worth or function yet, but that is a human limitation, not a limitation of our creation. Science only ‘discovered’ what the appendix was for within the past few years (It acts as a reservoir for healthy bacteria to recolonize our intestines after fever or illness). Since cholecystectomy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in this country, it makes sense that there is more money in removing them than figuring out how to save them. But I digress, let’s get back to the liver making bile – it does keep making it. The level it makes it is dependent on whether you have fatty liver degeneration or not. But let’s say that you don’t have fatty liver — the liver is going to drip, drip, drip 27-34 oz bile out in a steady stream. That bile is very caustic, and would normally be funneled over to the gallbladder where it is collected and concentrated, up to 18 times – down to 1-3 oz. It is this highly concentrated bile that is designed to break down the fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins you consume. The pre-concentrated bile, while caustic and irritating to your gastric mucosa, can’t hold a candle to the concentrated bile your gallbladder should hold. There is never enough, and never enough at the specific concentration required to absorb those key nutrients out of your diet. So you become deficient and your body goes into conservation mode. Some experience this immediately, others find it takes 6-24 months to fully start experiencing the effects. People find it harder and harder to lose weight, or they find themselves gaining weight despite eating the same diet they always did, or exercising. They find they get fatigued easier, and that they are more susceptible to colds and flu. If they have autoimmune disorders, they may find themselves experiencing a greater degree of symptoms.
So what can you do? I will be the first to admit that I don’t have all of the answers. If anyone suggest that they do – RUN! I can tell you that what my research, and my experience has led me to works for most people. First, you need to keep a food journal and track every meal you eat and how you feel afterwards. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea are the most commonly experienced repercussions from having cholecystectomy. 1 in 15 people who have had their gallbladder removed experience Habba Syndrome, which is commonly misdiagnosed as IBS, or even Celiac Disease. 5-40% of cholecystectomy patients will experience post-cholecystectomy syndrome (persistent right upper quadrant abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhea, and general malaise). Often, these people will know the whereabouts of every bathroom in their vicinity, because they experience issues almost immediately after eating. Dietary changes will be necessary. Certain foods aggravate a significant number of people with no gallbladder. These include greasy foods, carbonated beverages, dairy, and simple carbohydrates. Wheat products, including breads and beer, can also elicit a negative response. Please don’t take this as a reason to stop eating healthy fats — you NEED to consume them in order to maintain your health and shift your waistline. Use specific dietary supplementation to replace some of the action of the gallbladder. I recommend a blend of ox bile, beet concentrate and pancrelipase to substitute for this action. If you avoid fats, you will make matters worse. Since digestive enzyme production decreases with age, if you are over 40, adding digestive enzymes to your meals can also cause significant relief. make sure you are getting adequate levels of sleep so that your body can repair itself and so that levels of stress hormones can decrease.
- Keep a food journal to log your physical responses to foods and beverages. Learn what your body can and cannot handle.
- Use specific dietary supplements to increase your digestion and resolve your underlying nutritional deficiencies.
- Get 7+ hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
- Get out there and move. Aerobic activity and weight bearing exercise is crucial for your recovery. Walking is a great way to get started. Walking in the sunshine is even better (get some vitamin D while you are at it!)