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

Answer From Michael F. Picco, M.D.

It's not known how many people have diarrhea after surgery to remove their gallbladders, called 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. Bile may act as a laxative.

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

  • Anti-diarrheal medicines, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D).
  • Medicines such as cholestyramine, that remove bile acids from your body.

Talk to your care team about your options and whether additional tests are recommended. Generally, mild diarrhea after cholecystectomy is not cause for concern, but speak to your care team if you:

  • Are losing weight.
  • Have bloody diarrhea, diarrhea that awakens you from sleep or diarrhea lasting more than a few weeks.
  • Have a fever.
  • Have significant abdominal pain.

You also may consider limiting foods that can make diarrhea worse, including:

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

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

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.

Dec. 12, 2023 See more Expert Answers