How to Digest Fat with No Gallbladder: Today we explore a topic that may sound niche but is actually a commonly held problem that affects many people. Gallbladder removal is a standard procedure that leaves people struggling to assimilate fats properly. Given the modern epidemic of poor digestion, the tips highlighted in this article can also serve anyone looking to improve their capacity to digest foods properly.
How to Digest Fat with No Gallbladder: What is the Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small organ that resembles a pear-shaped pouch located in the upper right quadrant of your stomach area just under the liver. The gallbladder stores the bile fabricated in your liver, which is released to help digest fats. Apart from bile, the gallbladder also contains a combination of other fluids, fat, and cholesterol.
There are a few common gallbladder conditions that often result in the recommendation by a doctor for and removal of the organ itself. Symptoms that suggest gallbladder issues include indigestion, bloating, heartburn, gas, sharp pain in the belly, nausea and vomiting, jaundice, and fevers. [1, 2] The most common gallbladder conditions include:
- Gallstones: are the crystalization of bile in the gallbladder, which leads to gallstones. Although common and often harmless, they can also cause severe pain and inflammation in some.
- Gallbladder cancer: Although rare, it is possible to develop cancer in the gallbladder.
- Cholecystitis: is an infection of the gallbladder, generally caused by gallstones.
- Gallstone pancreatitis: is the highly inflammatory blockage of gallbladder ducts caused by impacted gallstones.
These conditions are diagnosed via symptoms, and an array of scans, including abdominal ultrasounds, HIDA scans, endoscopic ultrasounds, abdominal x-rays, and an MRI called magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP).
How to Digest Fat with No Gallbladder: The Impact of Gallbladder Removal
Although the treatment plan will depend on the diagnosis and the individual’s own decision, a standard treatment is gallbladder surgery, or cholecystectomy: the removal of the gallbladder. Using either laparoscopy (several small cuts) or laparotomy (a larger incision).
Although doctors often tout that gallbladders are ‘non-essential,’ it is essential to understand that every action has a reaction and that in removing a gallbladder, the body will not operate in the way it did previously.
The gallbladder’s primary function is releasing bile to help breakdown and absorb the nutrients from fats. It, therefore, plays a crucial role in digestion, which snowballs into playing a pretty significant role in your overall health.
Although many doctors will suggest the only side effects are diarrhea and promote post-surgery low-fat diet– this solution comes at the cost of many nutrients that come in healthy fats.  Since fats contain fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, it’s essential to support your body post-operation, to ensure you can continue to consume and are properly breaking down and absorbing these important nutrients. 
Healthy fats are imperative to human health. Studies highlight their impact on long term cognitive health, mental and physical development, supporting natural detoxification pathways, and even their ability to help you lose those unwanted extra pounds. [5-7]
Cutting fat out of your diet is an absolute no-no for anyone wanting short and long term vibrant health, so if you’re missing a gallbladder, opt for these fat-digestion supports instead of going low-fat. Since digestion is a sore subject for many, whether or not you have a gallbladder, these tips will increase your body’s ability to digest your meals, turn them into energy, and assimilate them properly into your body for energy.
How to Digest Fat with No Gallbladder
The body still produces fat-digesting bile in the liver, but after its removal, the gallbladder can no longer store bile. So your body will still be able to make and use smaller amounts of bile to digest fats, and you can help support your body’s digestion by implementing lifestyle choices, focusing on particular fats and foods, and by using supplements.
Know Your Fats
In the absence of a gall bladder, certain fats are more easily digested than others. Medium-chain triglycerides are, in particular, shorter chain fatty acids that are easier to digest. So foods like coconut oil (15% MCT), and to a lesser extent palm kernel oil (7.9%), cheese (7.3%), butter (6.8%), milk (6.9%), and yogurt (6.6%) can be consumed to reduce fat malabsorption and to serve as a source of calories to optimize nutritional status. 
The quality of fats also plays a significant role in your overall health. All fats are not created equal, so opting for good fats and vehemently avoiding bad fats is essential.
The good fats you want to be consuming include:
- Smaller wild-caught fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon)
- Fatty grass-finished meats
- Pasture-raised animal fat (tallow, lard)
- Grass-finished ghee and butter
- Cold-pressed oils like coconut, avocado, and olive
- Mindful amount of nuts (ideally sprouted/ activated, for better digestion)
The kinds of fats you want to avoid include:
- Canola oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Safflower oil
- Anything deep-fried
- Artificial trans fats (like margarine)
How to Digest Fat with No Gallbladder: Supplements
Supplements can help promote more stomach acid, increase enzymatic production, and introduce enzymes and bile directly into your stomach to boost the breakdown of your food. Without a gallbladder, it is important to consume a supplement (notably ox bile and lipase) about 15-30 minutes before every meal containing fat.
The top digestion-boosting supplements include:
- Ox bile supplement: you can directly consume an ox bile supplement, which helps replace the bile lost, which was previously being stored in the gallbladder.
- Digestive enzymes (containing lipase): Lipase is the specific enzyme that helps break down fats, so although enzymes generally come as a combination, make sure you get one that contains lipase.
- Betaine HCL supplement: to support stomach acid production. These capsules warn your stomach that food is on the way and promotes the endogenous production of enzymes in your stomach. Since your stomach is the leading player in digesting food, ensuring there are enough enzymes to break it down is critical.
- Digestive bitters: bitter foods stimulate bile production, so consuming some digestive bitters before a meal can prepare the body for immediate fat digestion.
There are other ways to boost your body’s digestion of food, including:
- Chew your food: digestion starts in the mouth, so chewing your food is the first step to ensuring your food is loaded with enzymes and starts breaking down properly.
- Be present with your meals: consuming food while distracted by screens or other tasks has been shown to impede digestion. When the body is stuck in sympathetic mode (fight-or-flight), it drastically halts digestion. Eat relaxed, present, and with gratitude to promote good digestion.
- Eat bitter foods: bitter leady greens stimulate the liver to produce bile, which is the body’s primary way of breaking down fat. Although there is nowhere to store it without a gallbladder, consuming them with your meal can put the bile to direct use.
The gallbladder is an organ that stores bile produced in the liver to support the digestion of fats. Although the gallbladder is considered non-essential, it does play a role in absorbing and assimilating nutrients that are crucial to human health. Instead of opting for a low-fat diet post-surgery, there are various ways to promote fat digestion. Habits like chewing your food, eating mindfully, and consuming bitter greens is a start. You can also incorporate supplements like ox bile, digestive enzymes with lipase, digestive bitters, and betaine HCL.