Doing Keto Without a Gallbladder?
Is It Even Possible?

Following Keto Diet Without a Gallbladder

The purpose of the gallbladder is to produce bile that helps with fat digestion. Since the keto lifestyle is all about substituting fat for carbs, many people who have lost this organ (and that's as many as half a million Americans each year), we wonder if they’ll be able to conform to this regimen.

The good news is that doing keto even without a gallbladder is possible. The bad news (and it's not all that bad) is that the "not having a gallbladder" equation means you’ll likely need to make some adjustments to the standard keto process and you may have to take some supplements to aid in digestion.

Can I Do Keto Diet Without A Gallbladder?

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Yes, you can follow the keto diet without a gallbladder as long as you make some simple dietary adjustments.

While you have to make some changes to your diet and eating patterns after gallbladder surgery, your liver will still produce the bile necessary to make sure you can digest fats.

No matter what diet you follow, during those first few months after surgery, you will need to adapt how often you eat and what types of food you consume.

This is certainly not the best time to start a keto diet, but once you have adapted to a life without this rather simple organ, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to succeed.

How Can You Do Keto Without a Gallbladder?

This organ is not high on the list of best-known organs. Nor is it one of those, like the liver, that you can't do without. What it does is store bile that helps the body digest fats.

That bile is produced by the liver and temporarily stored in this organ where it takes on a highly concentrated form.

Once your digestive system senses fatty food intake, the bile is released into the small intestine where it helps to break down fats.

fit female curious about keto without a gallbladder

When your gallbladder has been removed, the bile produced by the liver goes directly to the small intestine. It’s simply less regulated and not as concentrated as before. 

But with some adjustments to how often and what you eat, along with a few supplements, you’ll be able to live a perfectly normal life.

To understand why being ketogenic with no gallbladder can still work, we need to start by looking at how your body works as a whole without this organ.

How Does the Body Adapt to Life Without the Gallbladder?

parts of the human body

Without this small organ, the bile produced by the liver has no way to be stored for future use. Instead, it will flow directly into the small intestine.

This has two implications.

First, there will still be bile in the small intestine to deal with any fat it encounters.

Second, there won't be as much bile as before, and any bile that is in the small intestine won't be as potent as that generated by this organ. 

In the first couple of weeks and months after surgery, it can quickly happen that excess fat in your diet is only partially digested. The unfortunate result of that is fatty diarrhea.

Most people will work with their doctors and dieticians to come up with a new diet plan, and the solution is usually to spread out the intake of fatty foods throughout the day. 

This allows the lower amount and concentration of bile to still fully process all your fat intake, rather than becoming overwhelmed.

You can also watch this video from Dr. Ken Berry about his take on this topic:

A Cautionary Note

cautinary note on keto and gallbladder

While the ketogenic diet without gallbladder is possible, the lack of it is likely to produce some side effects.

So it's not like your body is going to skip merrily on down the road, thankful to be rid of this appendix-like dead weight.

You may well experience diarrhea and loose stools for some time as the bile from your liver flows in an unregulated fashion into your small intestine. [1]

However, the body will adapt to a certain extent, and smelly diarrhea and other side effects of losing it should subside.

 At which point it may be possible to ponder going on the keto diet without gallbladder.

Future Steps to Follow

Going on the keto lifestyle without a gallbladder will need to be handled in a more nuanced way than it would if you still had this organ.

But it's not prohibitively complex or challenging. It just requires you taking a more patient approach that might include a few more steps than usual.

You'll begin by having smaller, more frequent meals. This will allow you to introduce keto-compliant foods to your meals gradually. 

man eating healthy food

Through this slow, measured approach you'll be able to gauge your body's reaction to the low carb foods and allow it to adapt at its own pace, rather than trying to force it to change to yours. 

You'll also want add some supplemental fiber, low carb veggies and perhaps even some keto-friendly bread to your meal plan. 

If you find your body is having a tough time adapting to fatty keto foods you can try the following suggestions:

  • Reduce the amount of fat for a couple of weeks to give your body more time to adjust. If it takes a month for your body to get used to the ketogenic lifestyle, then that's what it takes. Be patient.
  • Consider taking MCTs such as caproic or capric acid as these are typically more comfortable for the body to digest because absorbing them doesn't require bile.
  • Remember to stay appropriately hydrated with electrolytes.
  • ​Try drinking ginger tea to help improve your ability to digest fats.

In the early stages, it's all about guiding your body toward an acceptance of fat and heavy foods, and that might take several weeks.

Once the process is complete, it's likely you'll be able to proceed with your keto diet without a gallbladder while avoiding any substantive issues.

Always Be Mindful

Keep in mind, however, that your body may find cause to revolt somewhere down the line.

If it does, you may need to back off on the fat content of your meal plans for a while and eat smaller, more frequent meals again.

You may also need to consider an ox bile supplement to temporarily boost your ability to digest fats. Can you do keto without a gallbladder even if setbacks occur?

Of course. The key is, and always will be, patience.

thinking woman

Our Final Thoughts About This

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When it comes to the question of how to do the ketogenic diet with no gallbladder, the answer is "slowly and patiently."

It will all come down to listening to your body and looking out for tell-tale signs that your digestive system isn’t quite happy with what you’re providing.

In most cases, eating smaller amounts spread out over the day will work just fine.

The trick is not to force ketosis at all costs, and if you have any concerns along the way, then your doctor and a dietician will be able to advise you and come up with a meal plan that will work for you.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.