Can You do Keto Without a Gallbladder?

The Keto diet has grown in popularity over the last few years. Even if you don’t know specifics, you’ve probably heard that the Keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs. It stands to reason that you might be wondering if you can do Keto if you’ve had your gallbladder removed. The short answer is yes, but don’t go rushing out to buy some avocados just yet! There are a few things you need to know about doing Keto without a gallbladder.

Overview of the Keto diet

Keto is an ultra-low-carb diet that focuses on moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of healthy fats. The average diet these days is higher in carbohydrates than any other micronutrient. This is due to the fact that carbs are the body’s primary energy source. When you eat high carb foods your body uses the glucose the carbs produce in order to fuel its various systems. Any glucose that isn’t used immediately is stored away as body fat for a rainy day when carbohydrate sources aren’t as plentiful. 

The problem is, that rainy day never comes. The majority of us have a steady supply of food and a lot of our diet centres around carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, sugary fruits, bread, pasta and rice. Because of this, we often have a hard time losing that stored body fat. Your body is very smart, and it’s designed to survive. It’s not going to give up it’s stored energy stockpile unless it’s forced to. This is where Keto comes in.

The Keto diet tricks your body into giving up stored fat by limiting the amount of glucose that’s available through carbohydrates. When there are no carbohydrates to replenish your body’s glucose stores it needs to move to a backup source of energy. Switching to this backup mode forces your body to begin to create an energy source known as ketones. Ketones are created in your liver from your stored fat cells. 

When your body begins creating and burning ketones as fuel it helps you create the rainy day scenario your body was waiting for in order to allow you to burn those stubborn fat cells. Because there’s plenty of available stored fat to be turned into ketones your body never runs out of fuel. This means that you’re not going to feel hungry as often, which is beneficial for weight loss. You’ll also have more energy and you’ll avoid the sugar highs and lows that are associated with your body rapidly burning through glucose. A lot of people notice improved mental clarity and focus as well.

In order for your body to continue burning ketones, you need to restrict your net carbohydrates to 20-25g daily. Net carbs are the carbohydrates that can be digested by your body and turned into energy. Since fibre and sugar alcohols aren’t available to be turned into glucose, they don’t count towards your net carb count. This means that when you see your total carbs listed on the back of a nutrition label all you have to do to figure out your net carbs is to subtract the fibre and sugar alcohols from the total.

Fat and Keto

Because ketones are created from stored fat it makes sense that the Keto diet would be a high-fat diet. Your body needs to replace its fat stores so that you can continue producing ketones. The key to Keto is to eat the right types of fat. Saturated fats aren’t as helpful to the body as unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. While unsaturated fats can help you raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol, saturated fats do the opposite which clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease. A high-fat diet is not an excuse to eat any fatty foods you want and processed foods should be avoided.

Instead, focus on healthy fats that can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados and oils. Try to make it so that 70% of your diet comes from fats, 25% comes from protein and 5% or less comes from carbs. It’s important to keep in mind that the source of your fat’s isn’t the only important thing to think about when it comes to fat. Fat is a high calorie-dense food. This means that you don’t need to eat as much fatty food in order to get the calories you need. For example, spinach is a low calorie-dense food. You can eat an entire 16oz bag of baby spinach and only consume 100 calories. In comparison, a high calorie-dense fatty food such as walnuts has the same 100 calories in 13 nuts. In terms of quantity and space that your food takes up, high calorie-dense foods that are high in fat take up a lot less space than low calorie-dense foods. 

What does your gallbladder do?

In simple terms, your gallbladder stores bile. Bile is produced in your liver and stored in your gallbladder as a sort of tank to catch the overflow. The bile that’s produced by your liver is used in breaking down fats. Bile is made of salts called bile salts and water mixed together. This combination helps break large particles of fat into smaller ones in order to help your body digest them better.

When you eat meals your liver sends bile straight to your small intestine to be used for breaking down fat. Not all bile is used right away. When you’re not eating, your liver still produces bile but instead of sending it to the small intestine, it’s rerouted to your gallbladder. Your gallbladder holds onto this bile so that there’s always some available to be used to break down fatty foods and it sends the bile into the small intestine in small amounts.

The gallbladder looks like a tiny pear. It’s located in your abdomen, below your liver on the right side of your body. It’s roughly located below your ribcage which places it high up in the abdomen. It’s not an organ that a lot of people think about unless they experience pain related to gallbladder disorders such as gallstones but it does play an important role in the digestion of the fats that you eat.

Can you eat fat without a gallbladder?

If the gallbladder is so important in the breakdown of fats then is it possible to eat a high-fat diet such as Keto if you’ve had yours removed? Luckily, the answer is yes. The gallbladder is important; however, it’s not essential. A lot of people have their gallbladders removed and still lead healthy, happy lives. The reason for this is found in the gallbladder’s function. It serves as a reservoir to handle the overflow of bile. However, it doesn’t actually produce the bile, the liver does that.

This means that it’s possible to eat a high-fat diet and not have a gallbladder. The liver can produce enough bile for you to eat according to the guidelines of the Keto diet. You do have to make some conscious decisions regarding your diet in order to do Keto successfully if you don’t have a gallbladder. Meal management is especially important because you can overwhelm your liver if you eat too many fats at once. Your liver can only produce a limited amount of bile at a time and if it becomes overwhelmed you might experience stomach pains and gas buildup because the fats you eat aren’t being broken down properly. 

If the fats you eat don’t get broken down properly it also means that you’re not getting the nutrition your body needs from these fats which can lead to poor nutrition and problems producing ketones. There are a few key things that you should focus on if you want to do Keto without a gallbladder in order to avoid these issues.

How to follow Keto without a gallbladder

The most important thing to do if you want to eat a Keto diet without a gallbladder is to space out your fats. Don’t eat all of your daily fats in one or two meals. This will just overwhelm your liver. Instead, try to include a small number of fats with every meal and snack you eat. If you can, break your day up into 6 smaller meals. This will give your liver time to create more bile and send it to your intestine to digest the fats you’ve eaten.

You should also eat soluble fibre rich foods in order to increase the amount of water in your intestines and slow down your digestion. When food moves through your body slower it gives the liver more time to produce the required amount of bile while places less stress on your liver.

Even though Keto is a high-fat diet, you might not need 70% of your calories to come from fat. Use a test such as Keto urine strips, Keto blood tests or Keto breath tests in order to see if your body is still in ketosis. If your body is still producing ketones you might be able to lower the amount of fat that you eat daily. The less fat you eat, the easier it is for your liver to produce enough bile to break down the fats.

Another thing that you can do to reduce stress on your liver is to focus on medium-chain fatty acids (or MCTs). These fats are found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. What’s great about them is that they’re absorbed into your body quickly and you do not need a gallbladder or bile in order to break them down. This makes them the perfect fat to eat on the Keto diet if you don’t have a gallbladder. You can still eat the long-chain fatty acids that are found in animal products, nuts and seeds, but if you limit these fat sources you’ll have an easier time following your Keto diet.

Conclusion

It takes a bit of forethought, but it is possible to follow a Keto diet plan if you’ve had your gallbladder removed. As long as you eat the right fat at the right time and eat plenty of fibre soluble foods you’ll be able to successfully reap the benefits of Keto without your gallbladder.

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