High levels of cholesterol can trigger heart conditions due to shrinking of blood vessels; this puts enormous pressure on the blood flow. As a result, your blood pressure may go up – and can make you hypertensive. A persistent spell on high blood pressure can soon lead to other complications such as angina (acute pains in the chest area), stroke as well as heart failure. Bile acid sequestrants such as cholestyramine have multiple applications; one among this drug’s uses is to reduce cholesterol levels in blood. But, do you need to take this drug with or without food? It is a good thing to know more on this front, prior to starting your treatment plan.

Bile acids secreted by your liver help in the processing of lipids as well as fats. When liver runs short of acids, it starts using cholesterol as a raw material. Thus, depletion of bile acids is one way to decrease excessive fats (cholesterol) present in your blood. This action forms the basis for the therapeutic properties of bile acid sequestrants – such as cholestyramine. However, intake of drugs alone cannot bring about needful reduction in your blood cholesterol level. The treatment plan has several constituents; it often includes regular exercises or daily workouts, switching over to a low-salt / less-fat diet, leading a stress-free life, etc.

Bile acid sequestrant cholestyramine has active ingredients that can make acids to turn passive i.e., osmotically. You are advised to adhere to all the safety instructions issued by your medical team. The usual dose of this sequestrant is in the range of 5 grams (g) per day. This bile acid sequestrant is sold as a powdered variant as well as in the form of tablets or pills. Tablets need to be swallowed by drinking lots of water. On the other hand, powdered form of cholestyramine can be consumed by mixing it with 3 or 4 ounces of fluids like fruit juices, clear soups or water. While choosing the fluid, never go for carbonated liquids or caffeinated drinks. Prior to taking this drug, your treating doctor needs to know if you have any pre-existing ulcers (on the intestinal walls or on your stomach linings); also, if you have any known hypersensitivity to the active ingredients of cholestyramine or if you are planning to have a dental procedure or surgical intervention, it is highly recommended to share needful details with your caregiving team.

Safe use of cholestyramine

Dosage plan of this drug must never be discontinued without the consent of your caregiving team. It is equally harmful to boost the dosage levels – without consulting with your doctor. A larger dose (than what is prescribed to you) can trigger a few side effects such as swelling of facial parts as well as oral organs. In some people, doses taken in excess of 19 grams (g) within a 24-hour timeline have led to a few serious side effects including dizziness, breathing difficulties, passing out, etc.

As another safety precaution, drink ample amount of water; not taking needful quantum of fluids may lead to gastric conditions like constipation (i.e., difficulties to pass stool) owing to irregular bowel movements, witnessing blood traces in stools, intestinal blocks, internal bleeding, etc. If you have had a part of the bowel incised (i.e., surgically removed), or if you live with conditions like Crohn’s disorder, the side effects may turn more acute.

Do you need to take it with or without food?

People who take cholestyramine are not sure about when to take it. In general, the drug is likely to yield better results if you take it along with food. But, your dose may also be influenced by other meds that you are currently taking. So, if you are consuming other drugs, never take it 3 – 4 hours before consuming other drugs; also, do not take cholestyramine after 60 minutes (an hour) of using other meds.

Those who use the powder form of this drug need to know that it cannot be sipped slowly. It is also harmful to keep the mixture inside your mouth for long. Both these practices can stain your teeth. In some rare instances, people have noticed erosion of their enamel as well as decay of teeth. Your dentist may advise you to brush and floss your teeth regularly, to avoid such risks to your oral health.

It is safe to know how long this drug needs to be taken. You may need to discontinue the dosage plan as and when your caregiver advises to stop it. Continued intake of this drug can cause toxic conditions. Overdose of bile acid sequestrants like cholestyramine can trigger acute discomforts in your lower abdomen, internal swelling and severe pain in abdomen as well as acute episodes of constipation. If you are advised to use laxatives to soften stools, never take it for a longer time. Long term use of laxatives can be habit-forming, and can make you addicted to the use of stool softeners. Last but not least, never share this drug with others who have the same discomforts; this is because – no two people may live with similar medical conditions – i.e., despite having the same signs or symptoms. Always take this bile acid sequestrant under the guidance and supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.

If you notice one or more of these discomforts, consult with your medical team at the soonest possible time. Delay in seeking medical attention may trigger near-fatal outcomes. Those in the US can reach out to 911 on an urgent mode; you can also call the emergency hotline numbers of the FDA. If you are living in Canada, rush to a local poison control center or call Health Canada for needful clinical support.

In sum, cholestyramine yields better outcomes when consumed along with a meal. If you are using the powdered variant of this bile acid sequestrant, neither sip the liquid mixture gradually nor keep it in your mouth for a longer time. These actions are likely to cause an erosion of enamel and decay of teeth. It is highly recommended to talk to your caregiving team to know more about the best practices associated with the intake of cholestyramine.

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