Cholestyramine is a widely prescribed drug; this forms part of a class of medications known as bile acid sequestrants. Before the advent of statins, this med was commonly used for treating high levels of cholesterol in blood. The chief function of this drug is to reduce gastric acids in your body. With a decrease in acid levels, your liver starts converting lipids (found in blood) into needful gastric acids. The key ingredients of this med are known to lessen fats. This drug however has a few other uses; prior to taking it, it you need to know more about the likely precautions for safe use of this drug.

Liver plays an important role in digesting bodily lipids and fats; thanks to the biliary acids / gastric juices it makes. When acid levels go down, your liver works hard to maintain the acidic balance; for doing this, it uses up cholesterol. Bile acid sequestrants mainly work with this underlying principle; these drugs reduce gastric acids and trigger your liver to start using fats. Cholestyramine is a bile acid sequestrant. Its use is however not recommended as soon as you are diagnosed with a high level of cholesterol. This drug often forms part of a comprehensive treatment plan; this plan includes making time for daily or regular exercises / workouts; taking a fat-free diet as well as intake of a few drugs. This drug is considered to work well only if the above changes are made to your lifestyle.


Precautions associated with the intake of this bile acid sequestrant

It is important to observe needful precautions while taking cholestyramine. In order to remain safe all through your medication plan, it is a good practice to adhere to all the instructions of your treating physician. Never buy this drug as an over the counter (OTC) med or for self-medication purposes. In other words, ensure to have a prescription of your caregiver, at all times.

If you are living with irregular bowel movements or other bowel-related conditions, your doctor needs to be informed of such clinical problems. Especially, if you are having chronic spells of constipation (i.e., difficulties to pass stool), excessive build-up of acid in your stomach, flatulence, bloating or regular build-up of gas, etc., your medical team must be made aware of these chronic conditions. Your doctor may advise you to drink lots of fluids; you may take fluids such as water or fruit juices. However, it is not recommended to take caffeinated drinks or alcoholic beverages. As a safety precaution, intake of excessive amounts of fluids is needed to avoid drying of stools, irregular bowel movements as well as other bowel-related discomforts.


Prior medical conditions and precautionary measures

Your medical team needs to be kept aware of all your pre-existing medical conditions. Also, if you are taking any drugs / actively pursuing treatment plans, all such details must be shared with your caregiver. For those living with liver problems or hepatic dysfunction (due to inflammation of the liver or cirrhosis), it is highly recommended to stay away from this medication. The same additional precautions apply to those with internal blocks or intestinal obstructions, internal injuries or bleeding; tell your treating doctor about these internal maladies.

Women who are pregnant must stay cautious of the active ingredients of cholestyramine. The impact of this med on women who are pregnant is not fully assessed. Research work has been performed only under controlled conditions; however, there are no apparent risks if women take this drug during the first few months of their pregnancy. One key risk is – this med may deter absorption of various essential nutrients such as vitamins; owing to this, women may be advised to consume foods enriched with nutrition or needful dietary supplements.

Though available evidences do not lead to bigger risks such as damage to your fetus or likely episodes of miscarriage, in a few remote cases – stillborn births have been observed. Pregnant women may also need to stay aware of a possible reduction in vitamin K. As this vitamin is linked to clotting of blood, women may run the risk of incessant bleeding. Not stopping with women, newly born babies may also develop this risk. Your gynecologist will prescribe a few supplements to boost vitamin K; your dietitian may provide a list of foods that are rich in this essential vitamin. Your doctor may also advise a panel of blood tests to be done; this precaution is needed to assess likely inadequacies of vitamin K in your system.

Possible side effects of this drug

People who already have hypersensitivity to this med will need to stay away from it. Typical side effects may show up as difficulties to pass stools (i.e., constipation), pain in your abdomen – especially upper and middle parts, abdominal conditions such as vomiting, nausea, etc. People for whom a section of the bowel is removed or those living with Crohn’s disease, must stay away from taking this med. In such people, this med may cause a few adverse side effects. If you are observing traces of blood in stools, infrequent movements of bowel, dehydration, frequent drying of lips or acute problems with bowel movements or painful bowels, talk to your physician as quickly as you possibly can. At times, some passive or not-so-active ingredients of cholestyramine may cause one or more of these adverse reactions.

A few people may take extra doses of this drug; their belief is – an added dose can resolve their medical condition quickly. This is a wrong belief; a few acute side effects may get triggered upon taking an overdose. People who took an overdose witnessed swelling of oral parts – such as lips or tongue; a few people noticed inflammation of facial organs like nose, cheeks, palette, etc. The standard dose is always maintained at less than 7 g within a 24-hours period; and, at no instance, the maximum dose is given above the 20 g mark in a day.

In general, cholestyramine may adversely work with a few other drugs – when taken together. It is a safe practice to compile a list of all meds you are currently consuming. Upon experiencing a bloated tummy, intestinal blockages, infrequent bowel movements, talk to your prescribing doctor on an emergency mode. Call 911 if there is a clinical urgency if you are in the US. If you are a Canadian resident, reach out to Health Canada or rush to a poison control center.

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