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Q&A: Diarrhea After Gallbladder Surgery

Chronic Diarrhea After Gallbladder Surgery

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Updated March 01, 2012

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Question: I had surgery to remove my gallbladder two months ago and have had diarrhea ever since. Help!

Chronic diarrhea, defined as three or more watery stools per day that last for a month or longer, is something up to 20 percent of all gallbladder surgery patients have to deal with. The good news is that for most patients, it slowly gets better. The bad news is that it is usually a slow and annoying process.

Why Am I Having Chronic Diarrhea?

It is believed that the chronic diarrhea is caused by too much bile in the intestinal tract. The gallbladder stores bile, so when it is removed, there is less regulation on how much bile is produced.

Chronic Diarrhea-Annoyance or Serious Problem?

For most patients chronic diarrhea is an annoyance, rather than a serious medical problem. For a rare few, it can be a problem if it causes dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, which you might notice first as constant thirst or leg cramps.

Your surgeon should be aware that you are having this problem, as your surgery may not be the cause. Your physician may also be able to suggest medications that may improve your symptoms.

What to Eat To Improve Chronic Diarrhea

To help combat the diarrhea, many doctors recommend the “BRATY” diet, which stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea/Toast, Yogurt. Supplementing your diet with these items, in addition to high fiber foods, may help improve your symptoms. Fiber is important because it adds bulk to your stool and may help firm it up.

Stopping The Pain of Chronic Diarrhea

While you are waiting for your diarrhea to improve your poor defenseless bum may be sore, even burning, from the constant diarrhea. Diarrhea contains both bile and stomach acid, both of which are very irritating to the skin.

While you are waiting things out, consider the following care:

  • Avoid spicy foods, anything that burns your mouth can burn on the way out as well.
  • Don’t wipe after a bowel movement, pat gently. This will clean without being abrasive. Baby wipes are a great way to gently clean without causing more irritation.
  • Consider using “cooling wipes” such as medicated pads with witch hazel to cool the fire.
  • If your rectal area is very sore from the constant diarrhea, consider a soothing soak in the tub. There are many products that are meant to sooth irritated skin as a bath additive.
  • Consider applying healing a thick protective lotion to the sore area. It will provide a barrier between your sensitive skin and the bile/gastric acids that are causing the irritation.
  • Consider starting a food diary, writing down what you eat and when. You may find that certain foods help the diarrhea, while others make it worse.

If your rectum remains raw and irritated, or the diarrhea doesn't improve, be sure to tell your doctor.

More Surgery Information: Answers To Common Questions After Surgery

Sources:

Diarrhea. Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. March 2007. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diarrhea/index.htm.

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