The use of Cholestyramine in lowering post-cholecystectomy bowel irritability and eliminating diarrhea

Posted: August 6, 2012 in drugs, Gall Bladder, supplements, treatments
Tags: , ,

I first read about Cholestyramine during my research into Habba Syndrome. Dr. Habba has been successfully treating some of his patients with it, so I decided to give it a try.

Long story short: My results were excellent, to the point where I no longer need to take it.

That said, I did not exactly do a controlled experiment. I coupled my taking of Cholestyramine in combination with a gluten-free diet. Anyhow, my experience is as follows…

In order to bypass the absurd process of getting a Cholestyramine prescription through standard channels by seeing a doctor (who knows nothing about gall bladders nor nutrition) who may or may not agree with my dietary experiment, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine who is a naturepathic doctor. He wrote me the scrip and I went to get it filled at the local pharmacy (in this case I was in Portland, OR).

I had a choice of foil envelopes with individual doses, or a big can of powder with a scoop. I chose half envelopes and half self-serve scoop can. The sugar-free formula, which I would have preferred, was unavailable.

As it is, the sugar formula still tastes bad but not horrible, orangelike, reminiscent of a vitamin-C tablet but not as sweet. It would be passable if it was sweeter. Why bother putting sugar in it at all if you aren’t going to use it enough to make it palatable? One could possibly benefit by adding some sugar-free sweetener to your mix, but when it’s all said and done, it’s not bad enough to warrant the extra attention: you just chug your glass of yuck-tasting stuff and get on with your life.

Within a few hours, after my first dose, I was already cured of my instant-run-to-the-toilet problems. It worked so well that I did not need to defecate for a full 24 hours. When I did, it was more solid than I had seen in months, and it was a strange grey color.

I also found that I was much less hungry, and got fuller faster from smaller meals. Obviously I had more time to absorb those calories and nutrients. It makes me wonder how many wasted calories I was taking in that just flew through me.

I continued to take the Cholestyramine twice a day for the next month. The grey color eventually went away, and I ended up becoming so constipated that I had to reduce the dose by half after a week, and then to 1/2 dose once per day (1/4) after 2 weeks. I achieved a state of normalcy after that, and continued to take the Cholestyramine until it ran out 3 months later.

I would have continued to take it but I was then in Uruguay and it was not available there, nor could I find it in neighboring Argentina. Knowing full well the disaster that befalls anyone who ships in “drugs” or even vitamins to these countries, I opted to simply stop taking the Cholestyramine.

Fortunately, I found that I no longer needed it. The results of my digestion showed no difference after removing it from my daily routine. I assume what happened was that the Cholestyramine provided me with the break I needed for my bowels to heal up in the absence of gluten. I know, I should have done a more scientific study but I was tired of crapping my guts out every 20 minutes.

If you are one who suffers from diarrhea as a symptom of having your gall bladder removed, I highly recommend you give Cholestyramine a try. Cholestyramine is also sold under the name Questran, Questran Light (sugar-free), and Cholybar. Other bile acid sequestrants that do the same job are sold under the names Cholesevelam, Cholestagel, Welchol, Colestipol, and Colestid.

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thanks so much for your book and blog. I had my gallbladder out 10 years ago, after a stint on Weight Watchers that left me with gallstones galore.

    I am so thrilled to know I’m not alone in the Habbas Syndrome department. After reading your book, I sent the link and made a case to my awesome M.D., and I just got a scrip for Cholestyramine. I am hoping to finally find some relief from the post prandial bathroom visits!

  2. HeatherInTX says:


    I love your book (though I haven’t finished it yet) and am thrilled to have found your new website!

    I have a question for you about the bile acid sequestrants. You say that while you were taking cholestyramine, you felt more full and also felt that you were absorbing the nutrients in your food better. My question is, how much bile is NOT being bound, and left to help digest/break-down our fats??

    I also wonder if the cholestyramine can bind up too much bile in some people and therefore not enough is available to help us receive the nutrients/fats we need??

    Thanks for your help!

    HeatherInTX :O)

    • J.Bernal says:

      Glad you enjoyed the book and you find it helpful.
      When taking cholestyramine, regarding how much bile is being bound, that depends on how regularly you take it and how much you take. Obviously the more you take the more bile will be rendered inert. What makes it hard to figure out is that everyone’s body is different and puts out different amounts of bile. I’m sorry but I don’t know if cholestyramine reacts with bile that is already active in fat emulsion, or if it just traps it in places where it’s inactive or not wanted (like in the large intestine). I wanted to ask Dr. Habba these things but his office staff shielded me from interviewing him. I couldn’t find any other doctors that used it or had even heard of it in my other studies. Unfortunately we’re dealing with vast ignorance and very little available research, which is why I wrote the book in the first place.
      I eventually dialed back my cholestyramine intake significantly because I simply didn’t need that much. I followed the standard instructions to take it before meals, and it seemed to do the trick, but logically thinking, to take care of the unwanted free-flowing bile, it ought to be used between meals. While I was using it, I definitely felt fuller and better, probably because I was so used to just having everything I ate fly right through me, and also because I am sure I was absorbing more nutrients as a result of the slower pace. Since I do not need cholestyramine at the moment I have not done any further experimenting but perhaps you could give it a try with between-meals and before-meals and see which works better? Even a slight amount seemed to really help me over the long run, but I was glad for the initial standard “shock treatment” and the welcome relief it brought me after so many years of suffering.

      • Jennifer says:

        I’ve been taking the cholestyramine for about 3 weeks now. I don’t believe it binds the bile in the stomach, but in the intestines, but I’m not 100% certain of this. I continue to take an ox bile tab with my meals to aid in digestion, since I can’t produce a bunch of it “on demand” anymore.

        I have been experimenting with the timing too. My instructions were to take 1 scoop twice daily. I don’t want to try to adjust this myself, so I’m adhering to that until I see my doc in two weeks.

        I started out taking it first thing in the morning, then eating 1/2 hour afterward. The second dose I was waiting until 1/2 hour before dinner.

        What I found was I was still having trouble with very loose movements first thing in the morning. My guess is that bile continues to flow while I’m asleep, and necessitates the need to go as soon as I wake up.

        I’ve started taking it in the evening before bed, to try and slow this down a little, and it seems to be helping.

        Ideally, I think 3 times daily might be the trick for me — before breakfast, before lunch, and evening before bed. I’m not sure how the dosing would go, if my doc will have me break the 2 scoops up into 3 doses, or if we can try a 3rd scoop. I’ll let you know. I might split the 2 scoops into thirds in the meantime, just to see how it goes.

        Also, I had a friend suggest gelatin — the unflavored kind — to help, er, plug things up. She thought maybe a tablespoon (dry, just swallow it down with some water) 1/2 before meals might accomplish a similar goal. Another health coach friend suggested chia seeds. The jury is out on these ideas, but I thought I’d throw them out there.

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