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Rated 4.5/5 based on 19 reviews

Welchol (colesevelam hydrochloride) is a medication which binds bile acids. Some people with excess bile, often due to gallbladder removal, may experience gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly diarrhea. Other medications which may be used for this purpose are Colestid and Questran. Welchol is taken in tablet form.

Welchol side effects

The most common side effects of Welchol are constipation, indigestion, mild stomach pain, nausea, a sore throat, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness or weakness.


Review by Peggy

After three years of trying to handle gastric problems on my own I went to a gastroenterologist who ran all the tests and diagnosed me with IBS-D. Increasing Metamucil helped with the diarrhea but Welchol was also added to hopefully resolve it.

I was told to take two pills daily which I did. On the fourth day I felt like I had the flu. I discontinued the Welchol after reading the possible side effects as being the same flu-like symptoms I had. After 24 hours off the drug I was 90 per cent back to my old self but I began experiencing the breakthrough diarrhea again.

I have attempted to contact my doctor who has not answered my messages, so I decided to take one Welchol per day to see what happens. I feel a lower dose will hopefully get me back on track without the nasty flu symptoms and I will increase after a few days.

Welchol did stop the diarrhea with some constipation, but being a newbie with the drug I will see what happens. I am very grateful that a drug allowed me to finally relax a little bit.

Review by Green

I had my gallbladder removed and diarrhea ever since. Now I use Welchol to control it. Here's what I found: for Welchol to work for me for diarrhea it must be taken around 7am every morning and I must wait one and a half hours before eating anything. I need to take two pills. If I follow the above, I still have minor lower stomach aches occasionally but can eat anything I want throughout the day.

There's a 1930s study that showed that our bodies produce bile in the morning. Welchol binds bile. Like most people I've read about I only have issues in the morning. Given this, if you bind bile in the morning you should have no issues for the rest of the day. Our bodies can digest fat with low amounts of bile. (There's a 1960s study that shows this.)

If you eat shortly after taking Welchol the medicine doesn't have time to bind the bile, hence the one and a half hours of waiting. I came to the above conclustions when I was trying Welchol at all the different times (before meals, in the evening, etc) that doctors were telling me to. I was taking six pills a day and they were sorta working; however, I was still having random racing to the restrooms. It was destroying my life. (I was this way for two years...I nearly ended it due to my suffering.)

My gallbladder surgery was unnecessary and the doctors that were telling me how to use Welchol were clearly clueless, so I started painfully experimenting and came to the above ideas over four months of experiments. I switched to the powder for a while so that I could fine tune and experiment with dosage.

Everyone is different; for me, two pills work. When I switched to the above regimen I went from six pills a day with unpredictability of issues to two pills a day and one issue in 90 days. Now that I have my life back I am going to start focusing on the minor stomach aches that I get in the morning.

Why doctors say start with the lowest dosage and work up, I don't know. Start with a full dose for a few days and if there's an impact you know that Welchol may work for your issue. For those of you trying to figure things out, once you know Welchol will work (see ideas above), three pills is the common number I read on the forums. I would start with three and then adjust. Because Welchol just binds bile, the impact on your system is fast. You'll know within 48 hours if Welchol is working.

Review by Pat

I have suffered form IBS for 35 years. After gallbladder surgery it became worse. My new doctor recently prescribed Welchol and it helps to a degree. If I take just one a day I become constipated so I just take it when I have flare-ups.

Review by Denise

Welchol was a lifesaver for me. I have lived with IBS for over 30 years (back in the day it was called spastic colon). Mine started when I was in high school and I thought I had to live with it. I could not go anywhere without worrying if there was a bathroom nearby. It kept me from doing a lot of things. A few years after having my gallbladder removed in 1999 I complained to my new gastro doctor. He prescribed Welchol and I haven't looked back since. It changed my life. My brother suffered from the same thing and he takes Questran which is a powder. Yuck. I much prefer the Welchol pill. I can't believe I had to go so many years suffering. Not one doctor suggested a bile binder until 2009.

Review by Frances

I was taking Metformin for diabetes but it made me very, very ill every day. It was begining to affect my quality of life. I had to know where every bathroom was on my route to work. After having an accident at work one of my doctors suggested Welchol - not for diabetes but to lower my cholesterol levels. I took one packet per day for a week and saw the difference in my bathroom trips immediately. I switched from the powder to the pills because of the possibility of aspartame in the solution. Since I will begin taking the pills shortly, I cannot report on the outcome. But thus far I have been overjoyed about how it counteracts the effects of Metformin.

Review by Aisha

I was diagnosed with IBS-D six years ago. I have been through five doctors: four primary care and one gastroenterologist. I have taken more meds than I can count and none of them helped, or if they did the help was not enough for me to be willing to put up with the side effects. I had to stop working outside the home. I tried another part-time job four months ago but I could not even handle four hours a day. I had to quit because I never knew when I would have a violent, embarassing stomach eruption. Yes it was that bad!

Even at home I did not always make it. IBS-D was destroying my life. In desperation I switched primary doctors for the fourth time. My new doctor tried two traditional meds and then after some research put me on Welchol. She prescribed three pills twice a day and it is working like a dream. And I really mean a dream.

It has only been a week but it is like night and day. I am confident enought to start looking for a job! What I learned is if it takes two or three or 10 doctors keep looking until you find one who is willing to keep trying. My old doctors gave up after a couple of meds. My new doctor kept trying and looking until she found a solution.

Review by Karen

I have been taking Welchol for almost a year now. I had terrible IBS, I could barely get to the bathroom. When I started to take Welchol it controlled the urgency and the IBS. Sometimes I get a little constipated, but when that happens I just decrease my dosage. It has worked for me.

Review by Ali

I am 22. After being sick for a few years my doctor found out that I had gallbladder disease and my gallbladder was taken out when I was 15. After that I was constantly running to the bathroom because of loose stools. I couldn't eat anything! I missed a lot of school and almost didn't graduate high school because I was missing so much.

My doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist and she prescribed Welchol. This was about three years ago. This medicine in amazing! It works wonders! I want to cry thinking of my life without it. I had to stop taking it for a while due to the cost and not having insurance. Now I am back on insurance and everything is going wonderfully! I can go out to eat without having to rush home right away!

I used to go out and not eat. I would go all day at school not eating just to go home and binge because I was in the comfort of my own home. Vacations were really hard, holidays were hard, going on dates was hard. It sucks but you have to eat! And every time I ate I had horrible cramps and food would go right through me. I could drink water and eat crackers and it would still do that some days. Some days I could eat fried chicken and potatoes and it wouldn't happen...I never knew.

I'm now a year away from getting my bachelor's degree! And I happen to be on the president's list (3.5 or above GPA). A long way from high school. Life without these pills would be horrible. I don't know how I would function in the adult world, having a full-time job and children.

The doctor put me on two pills in the morning and two at night. Taking that much kind of plugs me up a little bit so I have messed around with the dosage to see what my body reacts to best. I take one at a time every time I eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Three pills a day are enough for me but I know a lot of people take four. Good luck to anyone trying these pills. They really do help live life to its fullest!

Review by Diane

I started suffering from IBS-D after my gallbladder was removed. I had every test imaginable, just like everyone here probably has! Finally my family doctor gave me Welchol, not the GI. He described it to me as being kind of like kitty litter. (I thought that was an interesting way not to embarrass me even more than I already was.)

Anyway, I was on two pills two times a day (as well as four Imodiums a day), and for about two months it worked great, but one day it just quit working and the faucet was turned back on so to speak. The cramps, the whole nine yards.

Then I found you guys and got my doc to prescribe me the Questran. It's gritty, but that doesn't bother me too much. I just started it last night and while I still have those cramps and the gurgling noises, so far so good. I just hope it continues to work. As a side note my husband has acid/bile reflux real bad and he took one as well and it helped him instantly.

Review by Pat

When I went shopping, vacationing, or out to eat the first thing I had to do was make sure I knew where the restroom was. And sometimes I didn't make it there. It was an embarrassing, nerve-wracking situation. I was ashamed to tell my doctor, but one day I was fed up and went in and told him about my problem (after several years). He said 'You should have come to me sooner'. He prescribed Welchol and it has been one of the most miraculous drugs I have ever taken.

I started out taking three in the morning and three at bedtime. They made me a little constipated so I cut back to two in the morning and two at bedtime. I'm afraid to cut back any more, afraid I might not make it to the place I used to run to.

Review by Jo Ann

I have been taking Welchol for three weeks now. The difference has changed my life. I have tried so many other medications for IBS, but nothing has worked. The vomiting and loose stools has stopped. I pray that this will continue.

Review by Andrew

I have had IBS my whole life (I will be 53 in March). My gallbladder was removed three years ago. My doctor just put me on Welchol as described by others here. She mainly did so after I told her I had my GB removed...So far so good, it works fine and actually can constipate me just a bit. I take Crestor for high cholesterol so I was worried about too many meds that are primarily for high cholesterol, but I've had no side effects except no diarrhea! Works fine. I was prescribed two pills twice per day after meals (more if needed), but I have cut back from this original prescription as it was constipating, to one per day after lunch. I am very regular on this.

IBS is really a lifetime problem. I was embarrassed for years about running to bathrooms and having pain. I like to run and needless to say that caused some problems as well! To hell with with being embarrassed! I just tell people now. And thankfully it looks like I finally found a really good gastro to handle the problem. She publishes on the problem and she is very nice and not condescending etc. No God complex, answers all questions, spends a lot of time, as much as needed to explain things. This is also key.

Review by Matt

I have been taking Welchol for a little over a month now and so far it has been great for the IBS. However, I am having some odd side effects with it such as body aches (headaches, joint pain, etc) and dizziness. Other than that it has been a great medication to control the IBS-D.

Review by Barbara

I've had IBS for over 20 years. As time has passed and I've gotten older the IBS has gotten worse. After having my gallbladder out last year my life was turned upside down. Constant diarrhea. Hardly any life outside of the house, missed so much work I was afraid I would lose my job, lots of depression.

After a lot of testing, the last in a long list of doctors I have seen prescribed Welchol. Bless his soul. My life is so much better now. I can go out to the movies and even eat out, with no fear of having an episode of diarrhea. Even my work has improved. I haven't missed a day since starting the Welchol. In my case it has been a lifesaver. I wouldn't be without it anymore.

Review by Doug

I have suffered with IBS-D since starting college at age 20. Lots of pain, cramping, and I was never sure when or how hard it would hit. It was terrible on trips and often made them not worth taking. Now I'm 55, and my doctor put me on Welchol, one or two tablets per day. I have only had three attacks in the last six months, and those were minor. I took a pill at the start of the attack and it calmed it down within a few hours. This has changed my enjoyment of life, I travel and eat things I never could eat for many years without knowing I would pay for it later (sometimes sooner).

Review by Jessica

Only after having my gallbladder removed was I diagnosed with IBS. It was odd to me that I would be diagnosed with an irritable bowel only after having my gallbladder removed. Wasn't there some connection between my surgery and the after-effects? Not according to my gastroenterologist or primary physician...

After two years with severe stomach cramping and diarrhea I learned about Questran and Welchol. Questran was hard to swallow (grainy powder that doesn't dissolve in water), but worked great.

After I suggested to my doctor that Questran worked like a charm but tasted horrible I asked for a tablet version of the same thing. He found Welchol! You can take up to six tablets a day (easy pills to swallow), but I only take three in the morning! Works wonders! I wish I hadn't suffered for so long! My life is back.

Review by Kati

I have been using Welchol for about 45 days, and I am pleased with the results. My gallbladder was removed quite a few years ago, and I have since been diagnosed with Crohn's and IBS. I take Azasan for the Crohn's and Lotronex for the IBS, but I still had lots of problems with looseness, urgency, etc. My GI doctor had tried me on Questran (or something similar), but I couldn't tolerate it. He just recently recommended Welchol. I'm sorry he didn't think of it sooner. While nothing is perfect, Welchol has improved my situation greatly.

Review by Jennifer

Welchol has saved my life. I spent three years progressively going downhill health-wise and with what kinds of food I was able to eat safely. At the end of the summer I got horribly sick just from eating a hamburger. For the past three years I had been seeing a pediatric GI doctor (I was still a minor when diagnosed) who just didn't know much about IBS and could offer no more relief. I had all the tests and even had my gallbladder out.

I just switched a few months ago to a new GI doctor, and he immediately gave me Questran, which worked moderately well. After finishing up those packets he switched me to Welchol, and I'm finally able to eat food and live life again. I don't have to worry about the ingredients in food and if I'll get sick at any point in the day. It's very convenient in pill form. I take two pills a day. It has exceeded my expectations and I can't imagine my life without it.

Review by Marti

I could not live without Welchol. It took going to many GI docs before I found one who knew of the benefits of Welchol. I went from not being able to go anywhere to a 90% normal life. I still have attacks, but even those are controllable. The only problem is...I have recommended Welchol to friends who have also been diagnosed with IBS/diarrhea, especially if they have had their gallbladder removed as well. Upon asking their docs about it, they have been told that is is for reducing cholesterol (which it is) and not for GI issues. So if you ask your doc to prescribe it, you need to be persistent if he/she does not know the GI side benefits.

Do you suffer from IBS? Have you tried Welchol? Please contact Sophie to send in your review.