Chronic diarrhea: A concern after gallbladder removal?

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

Last Updated Dec 10, 2019


Content from Mayo Clinic ©1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use