Frequent diarrhea can result after gallbladder removal and persist for months.
But there is no clear answer as to how common this problem is, especially the longer the time lapse following the surgery.
It’s been estimated that 10 percent of people who’ve had their gallbladders removed will experience diarrhea to a troubling extent.
In most cases, the diarrhea will cease soon after the gallbladder removal. In rare cases it will persist for years.
Sudden-onset diarrhea has multiple possible causes including infection, food poisoning and antibiotics.
And of course, gallbladder removal — not necessarily recent — can also cause diarrhea.
“I have seen this phenomenon in many of my patients who have had their gallbladder removed,” says Nadeem Baig, MD, a board certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Monmouth Gastroenterology, a division of Allied Digestive Health.
“For some of them, it occurs soon after surgery. For others, it can start years or even decades after the gallbladder is removed.
“When the gallbladder is removed, it can lead to more bile entering the intestinal tract than needed.
“Too much bile gets into and irritates the colon, which leads to increased contraction and then the diarrhea.”
Diarrhea Starting Many Years After Gallbladder Removal
You should note that just because you had your gallbladder removed years ago, this doesn’t automatically mean it’s the cause of your new diarrhea that persists and becomes chronic.
Other possible causes need to be excluded, and the exclusion will require a colonoscopy.
This is because only a colonoscopy can exclude (or detect the presence of) microscopic colitis — a benign inflammatory bowel disease that’s notorious for causing chronic diarrhea (usually watery).
During a colonoscopy, random tissue samples will be collected and viewed under a microscope for the telltale signs of this condition.
Two other causes of chronic diarrhea are celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
The presence or absence of these diarrhea-causing conditions in no way influences whether or not a past gallbladder removal could ultimately contribute to or outright cause chronic diarrhea.
Diarrhea from Gallbladder Removal
Dr. Baig says, “Treatment is simple; one just takes a medicine [via prescription] that can remove the extra bile in the intestines.”
If you develop diarrhea at any point after a gallbladder removal, and there seems to be no explanation for it (e.g., food poisoning), it would be best to consult with your gastroenterologist to rule out possible causes other than the cholecystectomy.