Chronic diarrhea: A concern after gallbladder removal?

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.

Last Updated Dec 12, 2023

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