I had my gallbladder removed six months ago, and I'm still having diarrhea. Is this normal?

Answer 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 that up to 20% of people undergoing gallbladder surgery develop 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

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 you doctor if you are losing weight; have bloody diarrhea, diarrhea that awakens you from sleep, 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:

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Greasy foods
  • Very sweet foods

Get the latest health information from Mayo Clinic’s experts.

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Sept. 29, 2021 See more Expert Answers