Have you ever considered that your joint pain may not originate in your joints? It’s certainly something to look into. At The Wellness Way, we talk a lot about how the body is like a Swiss watch – each system or gear influences the others. That’s where the gut-brain connection comes in, but it also applies to joint pain. Our practitioners have found gallbladder removal surgery can contribute to chronic joint pain. Here’s how.
#1 Lack of Fat-Soluble Vitamins
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver. Its primary function is to store and concentrate bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver.
Bile plays a crucial role in the digestion and absorption of dietary fats. Bile acids in bile have a unique property—they have both water-repelling and water-attracting parts. This property allows bile acids to interact with fats and water, which is necessary for digestion.
Bile helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and other fat-soluble nutrients. It helps transport these nutrients from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. When fat digestion is compromised from gallbladder surgery, it may affect the absorption of these vitamins needed for bone health and joint function.
Reduced vitamin D absorption can prevent bone remineralization, causing osteomalacia (soft, weak bones). Weak bones put extra stress on the joints, which may lead to inflammation and pain.  Scientists have also linked low vitamin D levels to chronic inflammation. 
After gallbladder removal, some people may have difficulty digesting rich or fatty foods. That may happen due to the gallbladder’s vital role in bile release and fat digestion. Patients experiencing digestive distress may begin avoiding high-fat foods, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Again, this can affect joint health.
A 2020 study found a close relationship between having cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) and knee osteoarthritis. 
#2 Increased Autoimmunity
The poor absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A and D can also increase the chances of developing autoimmune disease.
Some autoimmune conditions affected by vitamin D levels include multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto’s and Graves,’ and rheumatoid arthritis.  All these conditions may have joint pain as a symptom.
A vitamin A deficiency may lead to a compromised gut lining or “leaky gut.” A leaky gut sets the stage for autoimmunity by allowing not fully digested food into the bloodstream, creating an immune response. 
Rheumatoid arthritis is one autoimmune condition that can cause significant joint pain.
Supplements, Diet, and Lifestyle Make a Difference
Not everyone who undergoes removal of the gallbladder will experience joint pain; if they do, it’s often temporary from the stress of surgery. But other times, it may become chronic. What’s missing?
If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you’ll need to take ox bile every time you eat for the rest of your life. That’s because you no longer have the sensory organ that releases bile at the proper times for digestion. Bile is a substance that helps to break down fats in food. Its components include bile acids (bile salts), bilirubin, cholesterol, water, and electrolytes.
The human body can still digest and absorb fats without a gallbladder. After gallbladder removal, there’s a continuous flow of bile from the liver into the small intestine. However, it’s not as concentrated or efficiently released in response to meals with fats. You can eat the healthiest organ meats and fats, but if you don’t have enough bile, you won’t be able to emulsify and absorb them. You may also have symptoms like constipation, bloating, and indigestion due to inadequate bile.
Ox bile, often referred to as ox bile extract or simply bile extract, is a supplement derived from the bile from cattle, especially oxen. These supplements are mostly bile acids, the active components of bile that emulsify fats. Emulsification is when bile acids break down dietary fats into smaller particles. Then, it’s easier for digestive enzymes to access and break down the fats into absorbable forms.
Consult a health provider or practitioner if you’re experiencing persistent or severe joint pain after gallbladder surgery. They can evaluate your situation, order any necessary blood tests, and help you adjust your diet and lifestyle to reduce the adverse effects of gallbladder removal.
Joint Pain Isn’t the Only Side Effect of Gallbladder Removal
Keep in mind that gallbladder removal can cause more problems than joint pain. Other potential side effects include the following:
- Blood clots in the leg (deep vein thrombosis).
- Post Cholecystectomy Syndrome (PCS), if stones get stuck in the bile duct. PCS may cause the same symptoms as gallstones, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, heartburn, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
- Injury to the blood vessels, intestines, or liver.
Each gear affects all the others! That’s why following up with a health practitioner following gallbladder surgery is critical.
The Wellness Way Can Help
Joint pain can have many contributing factors. But if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you can incorporate certain supplements and dietary changes to support joint health and overall wellness. You can also learn whether other imbalances or nutrient deficiencies are contributing to your joint pain. Why continue suffering? Contact a Wellness Way clinic today and get started on your journey back to vibrant health.
- Recognizing the musculoskeletal manifestations of vitamin D deficiency – PMC (nih.gov)
- Frontiers | The Influence of Nutritional Factors on Immunological Outcomes (frontiersin.org)
- Effect of Cholecystectomy on the Occurrence of Knee Osteoarthritis – PMC (nih.gov)
- Vitamin D and autoimmunity – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effect of vitamin A on epithelial integrity – PubMed (nih.gov)