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Is Cholestyramine Good for Diarrhea?

author image Timothy Blalock
Based in Boston, Dr. Timothy Blalock was a senior scientist and regulatory writer at pharmaceutical companies where he developed preclinical research models, authored manuscripts and wrote grants/regulatory documents. He has produced many published scientific articles and is a member of the American Medical Writers Association. Blalock holds a Ph.D. in biomedical science from the University of Florida.
Is Cholestyramine Good for Diarrhea?
Cholestyramine effectively treats chronic diarrhea. Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images

Diarrhea is a very common condition that afflicts many people and is a leading cause for hospitalization in children and infants. Chronic diarrhea can lead to rapid dehydration and can be very serious if left untreated. Cholestryramine is a medication that binds to compounds in the digestive system to control diarrhea.


Diarrhea is defined as "loose, watery, and frequent stools," according to MedlinePlus. Diarrhea is not itself a disease, but rather is a manifestation of some other problem and may have many causes. Diarrhea can be very dangerous in infants, children and the elderly, where dehydration can occur rapidly. Causes of diarrhea include food poisoning, reaction to medications or chemotherapy, and diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and Crohn's disease. In healthy adults, diarrhea usually resolves rapidly but can cause serious complications if the condition is chronic.


Cholestyramine is a medication that binds bile acids in the digestive system. These are cholesterol-derived molecules produced by the liver that regulate electrolyte balance and act as signaling molecules. They help lower high levels of cholesterol in the blood, and they also help reduce itching in patients who have a buildup of bile acids in the blood in gall bladder disease, according to a report in the July 2011 issue of "Internal and Emergency Medicine." Cholestyramine may also be an effective treatment for chronic diarrhea in some patients.

Cholestyramine for Treating Diarrhea

Several studies have been published showing that cholestyramine is a safe and effective treatment for diarrhea, such as one reported in the February 2008 issue of the "International Journal of Colorectal Disease." Excess bile acids in the intestine attract water, leading to diarrhea. This phenomenon is prevented by cholestyramine, which binds to the excess bile acids. Most patients require a small dose of the drug, but the dosage must be closely monitored by your physician.

Effective Usage

According to MedlinePlus, cholestyramine is available as a powder that you can mix in a glass of water and drink. In addition, it is available in a chewable bar that must be accompanied by drinking plenty of fluids. The medication is usually prescribed for patients with chronic diarrhea due to illness, and not for those with a transient condition such as food poisoning that may quickly resolve. Report any change in symptoms while on this medication to your doctor.

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