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Chronic diarrhea: A concern after gallbladder removal?

I had my gallbladder removed six months ago, and I continue to have diarrhea. Is this unusual? What can I do about it?

It's not clear how many people develop the frequent loose, watery stools that characterize diarrhea after surgery to remove their gallbladders (cholecystectomy). Studies have found as few as 1 in 100 people undergoing gallbladder surgery or as many as 1 in 3 develops diarrhea. In most cases, the diarrhea resolves soon after the surgery. Rarely, it may last for years.

The cause of diarrhea after gallbladder removal isn't clear. Some experts believe that it results from an increase in bile, especially bile acids, entering the large intestine which may act as a laxative.

Treatments you and your doctor may consider for controlling your diarrhea after cholecystectomy include:

  • Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D)
  • Medications that impair absorption of bile acids, such as cholestyramine or aluminum hydroxide

Talk to your doctor about your options. You may also consider limiting foods that can worsen diarrhea in general, including:

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Greasy foods
  • Very sweet foods
Updated: 3/23/2011

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