You had your gallbladder removed recently and now you’re seeing your stool turn light in color. Or maybe you’re planning to get it done soon, but the things you read online freaked you out. So is it normal to have light colored stool after gallbladder removal?
Getting your gallbladder removed means more bile acid secretion directly in the intestine. And this excess bile acid will cause you to have pale colored stool. And the undigested fat particles will make your poop appear whitish in color.
You probably want more details. That’s why we came up with possible outcomes of a gallbladder removal, why you experience light colored stool and what you should do. Let’s get started then!
Table of Content
Your gallbladder is a very small pouch-like organ that is found underneath your liver. It sits pretty deep in the upper right corner of your abdomen, just where your ribs end.
Its function in your body is to work as a storehouse for the bile that the liver produces. And to secret them in the small intestine whenever you ingest food.
This bile is what digests the fat ingredients of your food. So bile and its storage site, gallbladder is pretty important when it comes to fat intake and fat metabolism.
When Is It Removed?
We know the gallbladder contains bile, and bile contains cholesterol, bile acids, and pigments. They are likely to form stones inside if they find favorable conditions. This is where things get complicated.
These stones can cause obstruction of the common bile duct and cause jaundice and other problems for you. Which includes putting you at risk of gallbladder cancer. Or you could be getting a gallbladder attack!
So if you are someone diagnosed with gallstones and considering your options for surgical removal, take the wise decision!
Now most commonly, physicians all over the USA perform gallbladder removal on the following cases mostly
- Severe pancreatitis due to gallstones
- Obstruction by gallstones in the gallbladder or common bile duct
- Gallbladder inflammation
Light Colored Stool After Gallbladder Removal
After the removal of your gallbladder, you may experience some complications or side effects for the first few weeks. Because your body tries to adjust with the new system of not having a store for bile and having to directly deliver the bile to the intestine.
The most common complication of gallbladder removal is having to experience pale, whitish, or clay colored stool. There are probably zero cholecystectomy patients out there who did not have to go through this phase.
So if you are going through it now, you can rest assured it is very normal for people who had the gallbladder removed. Now you might ask, why does it happen?
Your bile is made up of bile acids and bile salts, cholesterol, some pigments, and other alkaline stuff. And your bile is solely responsible for digesting the fat particles of your food.
After you have had a meal, the gallbladder squeezes out some bile into the duodenum depending on how heavy the meal was. This bile then helps in metabolizing the fat particles of your food into fatty acids and glycerol.
After removal of your gallbladder, the bile produced by the liver is consistently let out in the duodenum. So there is no surge of bile during your mealtime. This less than normal amount of bile is most of the time inadequate to digest your fatty foods.
So the fat in your food passes through your intestine undigested and half-digested. It reaches the colon in that state, and subsequently, your rectum. So if you see whitish and pale colored stool after your gallbladder removal, that is basically the undigested fat in your food.
And sometimes, this excessive direct entry of bile from the liver to the intestine causes pale and clay colored stool. The bile acids in bile contain a pigment named bilirubin, which makes your stool light in color, when it passes through the colon in excess amount.
For most people, the light colored stool phase continues for a few months and eventually subsides. But for some others, it may persist.
Other Possible Complications
Some other frequently experienced complications after the removal of your gallbladder are listed below.
Yellow Diarrhea and Smelly Stool
Yellow colored stool and frequent defecation is another thing you have to deal with after removing the gallbladder. The poop takes the yellow color because of the absence of the gallbladder.
Your liver makes the bile and it is directly secreted into the intestine through the common bile duct. Now this larger amount of bile reaching the intestine causes irritation in the colon. Which results in diarrhea and the excess bile gives the yellow color of your stool.
The presence of excess bile salt can make your stool have a more distinctive smell than normal stool. But as your body adjusts to the new normal (of not having a gallbladder) this yellow diarrhea goes away. It normally takes a few weeks to go away spontaneously.
When your gallbladder is removed surgically, you might observe more mucus than normal passing through the stool. And it happens because of the excessive amount of bile going to the intestine.
Your bile can act as a laxative which results in increased bowel movement and more than usual mucus secretion. That makes your stool soft and you have the urge to visit the lavatory more frequently.
And there remains the fact that looser stools are harder for your body to keep inside and control. So you may experience some bowel incontinence that you can not readily control. But like most symptoms, it will go away by itself with time.
Pain in the Operation Site
Since you had your gallbladder removed by surgery, a dull pain might persist in the site of operation. That is completely normal for a few weeks after you go through your removal surgery.
But what you should worry about is if you feel colicky pain in the operation site. Yeah, on rare occasions you might feel a sharp, intense pain in a definite interval around where your gallbladder used to be (right upper abdomen).
If you feel this kind of pain, you should try to contact your health consultant and schedule an appointment for proper diagnosis.
Another outcome of saying bye to the gallbladder is leakage of bile. As the sole storehouse of the bile, the gallbladder works and stores the bile produced by your liver. In absence of it, your liver never stops producing the bile it used to.
So where does all this bile go? This bile enters directly in your intestine via a duct that connects your liver with your duodenum. Now you may experience leakage of bile through this duct, as your gallbladder is already removed and left a hole in the system.
But like most other symptoms, this too will go away by itself within a few weeks. You can not visibly assess bile leakage, because it is happening inside the body. But your stool will bear the proof.
We can understand how important it is to monitor your stool especially if you had a gallbladder removal surgery recently. Your poop will speak for your body, really.
Should I Worry About Light Colored Stool?
Every year, almost 700,000 people go through gallbladder removal surgery in the USA. And almost all of them suffer through this problem – light or pale colored stool passage.
As I have mentioned earlier, it is an obvious outcome of having your gallbladder removed. Your body adjusts with the new settings in absence of your gallbladder, and having light, whitish, clay colored or pale stool is just part of the process.
You should not worry too much about passing light colored poop. Because it gets resolved by itself within some time. But what you can do in the meantime is take some protective measures, if this problem bothers you too much.
What Should I Do?
So what should you do when you are passing light or pale colored poop? Here is what you can do about it.
Reduce the Fat in Your Food
Cutting off all that fat in your diet should be the first thing to do. As your body is already in a compromised position, you should be pickier about what you eat.
Try to avoid fat-rich and oily, greasy food. That includes all the fast food items, yes. As your body is now incapable of secreting adequate bile in response to your meals, you should at least control what you eat.
Less fat intake means less fat to digest. So eventually, less undigested fat passes through your colon to the rectum. And that means, a reduction in the whitish fat containing stool.
Go Slow With the Eating
As your body can not get enough reserve bile now, you should start avoiding large and heavy meals. Instead, divide your daily food intake into some smaller portions and eat at smaller intervals and portions.
That will help your body to digest a smaller amount of food more effectively rather than eating a heavy meal. Remember to include more fibers and greens in your daily diet. They help with normal bowel regulation as well.
Try to eat healthy.
So this indicates less chance of yellow or pale colored stool.
Drink Plenty of Water
Try to drink at least three liters of water everyday. Drinking plenty of water will help to dilute the bile secreted in the liver. So this less concentrated bile will irritate your colon less than normal.
And the amount of bile acid getting out with the stool will decrease too, as it is getting less concentrated.
Also, there remains the universal fact that water improves your bowel movement and helps you have a regular defecation routine.
Physical Therapy and Yoga Might Help
Going to physical therapy might help some of you have a more regular bowel habit to some extent. And if you have a practice of doing yoga and meditation, it will help you recover from this phase earlier than most people.
So try getting back on that yoga mat you kept in a corner of your room.
When Should I Consult My Doctor?
Generally, this problem of having light, pale or clay colored stool is something that will go away eventually and will not cause you an additional headache. But sometimes, things might take a serious turn.
If your symptom does not regress by itself within two months of having the surgery, or you feel constant colicky pain in the operation site, immediately go see your doctor. This might lead to additional tests to diagnose what actually happened inside, but you will get an explanation of why things have turned this way.
But the upside is, not many people go through that stage of uncomfortableness. There are high chances you will not need expert advice and care after the surgery.
- What is considered light colored stool?
Light or clay colored stool are mostly observed in case of the liver or bile duct diseases. In some cases, pancreatic cancer that blocks the bile ducts may cause this light colored stool. Lack of bile causes the stool to lose its brown color and leaves it appearing pale.
- Is pale stool an emergency?
Yes, pale stool is a sign of a serious health concern, more so when it is white or clay colored. For adults, pale stool without any other symptoms is not that scary. If given time, it should return to its original color. But when children pass pale or light colored stool, they should be taken to a doctor as fast as possible.
- Can anxiety cause pale colored stool?
Anxiety does not specifically affect the stool color. But it can affect how food moves through the alimentary canal. That is, it can regulate your bowel movement.
Having to deal with light or pale colored stool is not something any of us wish for. But light colored stool after gallbladder removal is something patients have to go through for a period of time.
Good thing is, it resolves by itself with time, so there is nothing to worry about all that much. But if things escalate, talking to your healthcare provider will ease your mind.