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Gallstones May Occur After Weight-loss Surgery

During the months and years that follow a weight-loss surgery procedure, all patients -- especially females -- become at higher risk for developing gallstones.

Updated: January 14, 2021
Post-Bariatric Surgery Gallstones
By MBL Featured Blogger: Karen Eisenbraun
Originally Posted: October 6, 2020

Post-Bariatric Surgery Gallstones

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If you are a weight-loss patient who has a history of gallstones, or is concerned about developing gallstones following your surgery, consult with your physician regarding treatments that can help prevent the formation of gallstones.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are small, pebble-like formations that develop in the gallbladder and can lead to the blockage of your bile ducts. When your body’s cholesterol level is high, your stomach bile will encounter difficulties with breaking up fat. If your bile is unable to dissolve and break down fat, the bile can crystallize and form into small, painful stones located in your gallbladder. Over time, gallstones can grow to become as large as a golf ball.

Symptoms of gallstones

Gallstone symptoms only appear when gallstones pass into the bile ducts and result in blockage. Most people who have gallstones are unaware that there are any problems until they begin to experience pain the upper abdominal region. In some cases, patients with gallstones will experience frequent nausea and vomiting.

Risk factors for gallstones

Although all weight-loss surgery patients are at higher risk for gallstones following surgery, women are at higher risk than men because their hormones have the ability to increase cholesterol levels while also slowing down the movement of the gallbladder. Synthetic hormones such as those contained in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also increase the risk for gallstones.

Another important risk factor for gallstones is obesity, which causes men and women to experience a major fluctuation in hormones. Additionally, most patients who suffer from obesity also suffer from high cholesterol levels, which causes your bile to experience problems when breaking down fat.

Why is the risk of gallstones higher after weight-loss surgery?

After weight-loss surgery, low-calorie diets can often interfere with the production of bile. Since bile helps break down fat, this factor causes the incidence rate for gallstones to become higher. To prevent the future risk for gallstones, many surgeons recommend that the gallbladder also be removed at the time of weight-loss surgery. 

Treatment for gallstones

At this time, the most effective treatment for gallstones is the removal of the gallbladder, which, like most weight-loss surgeries, can also be performed laparoscopically. After the gallbladder has been removed, bile will pass directly from the liver and into the small intestine. 

To prevent the risk for gallstones, weight-loss patients can focus on eating a healthy diet low in fat and engage in physical activity on a regular basis. Exercise can naturally promote blood flow and reduce cholesterol, while a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help patients maintain good health and encourage weight loss.

If you are interested in weight loss surgery, check out MBL’s Ultimate Guide To Weight Loss Surgery.

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Karen Eisenbraun is a certified holistic nutrition consultant and writer with a background in digital marketing. She has written extensively on the topics of nutrition and holistic health for many leading websites.

Karen received her nutrition certification from the American College of Healthcare Sciences in 2012. She follows a ketogenic diet and practices intermittent fasting. Karen advocates a whole foods approach to nutrition and believes in empowering yourself with information that allows you to make smarter decisions about your health.

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