I had my gallbladder removed six months ago, and I'm still having diarrhea. Is this normal?
Answers from Michael F. Picco, M.D.
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 stops 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 and whether additional tests are recommended. Generally, mild diarrhea after cholecystectomy is not cause for concern, but speak to your doctor if you are losing weight; have bloody diarrhea, fever or significant abdominal pain; or have diarrhea lasting more than a few weeks. You may also consider limiting foods that can make diarrhea worse, including:
April 05, 2017
- Dairy products
- Greasy foods
- Very sweet foods
See more Expert Answers
- Wanjura V, et al. How do quality-of-life and gastrointestinal symptoms differ between post-cholecystectomy patients and the background population? World Journal of Surgery. 2016;40:81.
- Lamberts MP, et al. Persistent and de novo symptoms after cholecystectomy: A systematic review of cholecystectomy effectiveness. Surgical Endoscopy. 2013;27:709.
- Kim GH, et al. Fate of dyspeptic or colonic symptoms after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. 2014;20:253.
- Barkun A, et al. Bile acid malabsorption in chronic diarrhea: Pathophysiology and treatment. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013;27:653.
- Bonis PAL, et al. Approach to the adult with chronic diarrhea in resource-rich settings. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2016.
- Feldman M, et al. Diarrhea. In: Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2016.
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Diseases of the gallbladder and bile ducts. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2016.
- Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/Pages/facts.aspx#eating. Accessed Nov. 10, 2016.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Rochester, Minn. Nov. 21, 2016.