Cholesterol is a type of fat, present in cells. This wax-like substance is needed for making enzymes as well as a few vitamins. The good news is your system is well-endowed to meet the entire need of this fatty substance. It is also available in your diet; for example, fat-rich foods such as cheese, yolk of eggs and red meat contain sizable amount of this fatty substance. A problem arises when you have a sizable build-up of cholesterol in your body. Excessive fats can get stored onto the walls of your blood vessels; over time, this can result in cardiac ailments. In this milieu, you need to know if drugs such as cholestyramine can be used for decreasing cholesterol levels.

The three major components of cholesterol are (1) low density lipoproteins (LDL), (2) high density lipoproteins (HDL) and (3) triglycerides. Of these, accumulation of LDL and triglycerides hardens your blood vessels. On the other hand, presence of HDL helps decrease cholesterol from your system. The key causes behind build-up of fats include leading a sedentary lifestyle, eating foods containing harmful fats (such as dairy goods, meats, highly processed or fried foods) as well as excessive smoking of tobacco products. Other likely causes include being obese, age (the older you get, the higher are the chances), hereditary reasons and racial factors.

The odds of clotting of blood are high when a plaque-like wall is formed on the inner lining of your blood vessels. If left untreated, these clots may block the regular flow of blood through arteries. A blockage only means that you heart is deprived of needful supply of oxygenated blood. Short supply of blood can result in a cardiac failure or other heart problems.

Cholestyramine for reducing cholesterol

This drug forms part of a family of meds known as bile acid sequestrants. The initial use of this drug is for the treatment of cholesterol. But, this was before the launch of statins. Cholestyramine is used for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia (or a high level of cholesterol). This condition is often characterized by the narrowing down of your blood vessels. Related discomforts can also include blurring of eyesight, slurred speech, an excessive level of weariness as well as pain in the chest region.

The mode of action of cholestyramine is it decreases the level of gastric acids in your system. With a reduction in acid levels, the liver has ample room to transform fats into acids. This action helps restore the acid levels. In the process, the active ingredients bring about a significant drop in lipid levels. The standard dose of this drug is based on your age, gender, presence of any other pre-existing ailments as well as how well your system reacts to the first few doses.

In terms of quantities, the dosages are consumed under the clinical supervision of your caregiver. The usual dosage is in the range of 4 to 8 grams (g). The maximum value of intake within a 24-hour timeline must never exceed 22 g. Those who took a larger dose experienced adverse side effects; in fact, risks of an overdose loom large when you consume an enhanced dose. The drug can trigger a few side effects; these include difficulties to pass stools, flatulence, formation of gas, pain in upper abdomen and a few other minor discomforts such as vomiting, nausea, etc. In some cases, people have witnessed a severe drop in appetite levels.

How safe is it for breastfeeding or pregnant women?

Women who are pregnant are often advised to take supplements of vitamins during maternity period. You must be aware that this drug may make it difficult to absorb vitamins or other supplements. Hence, pregnant women may be deprived of essential nutrients, despite consuming needful nutraceuticals as well as vitamin supplements. Likewise, women who are nursing their newly born baby may be consuming a few added supplements. Such breastfeeding women must also keep their doctor informed of their medical condition (i.e., nursing their infant) before starting to take cholestyramine.

Safe intake of this drug

Adequate intake of water is a basic prerequisite before consuming this drug. As this med may start interacting (adversely) if taken with other meds, inform your doctor about all the other meds you are currently consuming; also, make your caregiving team to know of the treatment plans you may be presently taking. Upon noticing problems like traces of blood in stools, formation of internal blocks, infrequent bowel movements, call your doctor and report these signs. Those who live with Crohn’s disorder or if a section of your bowel is already removed, the discomforts may tend to get severe.

Always follow the safety instructions received from your medical team. Never take this drug as a self-treatment drug or as an over the counter (OTC) med. If you need any clarifications or have queries about its intake, consult with your physician as soon as possible. People who already have liver conditions (such as cirrhosis, inflammation of liver, etc.) or internal bleeding must tell about such problems beforehand. Also, if you are living with chronic episodes of constipation (i.e., difficulties to discharge stools), your doctor and pharmacist need to be made aware of such gastric conditions. No two individuals are recommended with the same dosage of this drug. So, if your friend or a family member is living with a similar medical condition, never share your drugs with them. Always consult with a qualified medical specialist before starting to consume this drug. If one or more of these adverse signs are becoming acute, call 911 if you are in the US. Residents of Canada can either reach out to Health Canada or call the closest poison control center.

In sum, cholestyramine was initially used – i.e., prior to the advent of statins, for the reduction of cholesterol. Increased levels of cholesterol can show up as blurring of vision, slurring of speech function, pain in the chest region (angina) or weariness / tiredness. However, with statins gaining overall acceptance, cholestyramine is not commonly used now for treating cholesterol. For additional details about this drug, it is strongly recommended to talk to your medical team.

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