Can you do Keto without a gallbladder?
So I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into Keto since my husband started doing it (and losing TONS of weight and feeling great!). As you know my attitude has always been to allow everything and let my body decide what it wants/needs. Generally it does actually prefer a low carb diet but hey, I am also German and my body does occasionally crave a nice slice of fresh artisan sourdough or walnut or rye bread! And never ever have pasta again? That would be hard. And then there is the sugar. Since starting Intuitive Dieting I consume a LOT less sugar than before but every now and then I just really want a peanut butter cup or even a scoop of ice cream from one of our amazing local dairy places. I know I can have all these things – in moderation – on ID and keep my body happy, too.
Alas, while Keto does seem to give people amazing weight loss results I was especially interested in its other claimed benefits, such as lower inflammation and more energy in general and improved mental health in particular. Some Keto fans swear that it helps them with their anxieties and depression and I was quite intrigued by that.
However, there was one little caveat: I no longer have a gallbladder, it was taken out 18 years ago.
Why does this matter? The gallbladder’s function is to store and release bile when food comes, to aid with the digestion of fats and certain vitamins. Without a gallbladder the liver still produces the bile and releases it straight into our intestines but in smaller quantities and less concentrated. It is only logical to assume that eating a high fat diet could cause problems because there isn’t enough bile to deal with all the fat, right?
Well, the general census actually seems to be that it is ok. You can do Keto even without a gallbladder. Here are five of the most helpful articles/videos I found, ignore some of the terrible websites or product pushes, or the beefy muscle guy – the info is good!
My main takeaways from all of this are the following tips for doing Keto without a gallbladder:
Start slow. Increase your fat intake slowly and over the course of 1-6 months.
Eat less more often. Everyone here recommends to eat smaller portions and spread them out over the day because that requires less bile at a time. Anything from 3-6 meals instead of 1 or 2 which is what a lot of Keto followers do.
Intermittent fasting. This can still work as it gives our digestive system a break and puts less pressure on the liver to produce bile all the time.
Take supplements. This would be things like enzymes and ox bile to aid with digestion of high fat foods. I tried some chewable enzymes but they gave me heartburn so I’ll have to keep looking.
Eat bile healthy foods. This would be foods that support stomach acid levels, like ginger, apple cider vinegar, artichokes and fermented vegetables. Dr. Jockers has the best info on this in his article.
So am I going to start a ketogenic diet?
The short answer is: no.
My lack of gallbladder is probably less of a concern for me because I’ve had it removed so long ago. Back then there was very little information on what I should eat without a gallbladder, both the surgeon and my GP at the time said that I should just eat ‘normal’. I’ve always enjoyed healthy foods but in my case ‘normal’ also meant a good amount of junk, lots of sugar, fats, carbs, wine, and way too much food. I have eaten ‘wrong’ for a long time for someone who has no gallbladder and could probably handle a ketogenic diet no worse than what I have been doing.
However, I think I would find Keto too restrictive and possibly boring. There are many great Keto recipes out there and I follow a lot of Keto accounts on Instagram that share amazing looking meals but here is the thing: I am still a reluctant cook and do I really want to put even more effort into learning a new system and coming up with enough creative meal ideas to keep it interesting and enjoyable?
Having said this, my body does respond well to a low carb diet and with my husband being on Keto I will absolutely join him when he grills one of his amazing steaks or puts together yummy protein burgers. I may just add a big green salad, or some of ‘my’ veggies that I like but that are not necessarily Keto friendly. My focus is mostly on eating lots of veggies, high quality proteins and healthy fats like olive oil. Bread, pasta and sweet treats will continue to be allowed but only in moderation.
The most important thing I have learned from this research is this: smaller portion are better for me.
I already knew this, big portions have never agreed with me (as I was reminded of after enjoying that lovely but huge pasta salad yesterday) but I’ve been ignoring that truth for the longest time because overeating is also how I numb my anxieties. However, now that I have a better understanding of life without a gallbladder (only took me 18 years!) I am going to start eating smaller meals spread across the day. And I’ll still do my version of Intermittent Fasting, too, like the ND days.
What I am doing now works. Intuitive Dieting works.
There is room for more fine-tuning for sure but I am losing weight and eating well. What more could I ask for?
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