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What is Habba Syndrome?

Cholesterol lowering medication can reduce Habba syndrome symptoms.
Habba syndrome is a condition of the digestive system.
Habba syndrome can be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome.
Habba syndrome is caused by dysfunction of the gallbladder.
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  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Habba syndrome is not new, but it has only been recognized as a disease since the early 2000s. It gets its name from Dr. Saad Habba, who began to study patients who suffered from chronic diarrhea, particularly occurring after meals, to determine if causes other than irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) might account for this condition in a certain percentage of these patients, especially those who did not respond to the normal treatments for IBS. In 2000, Dr. Habba published his first finding, suggesting that a certain condition could be mistaken for IBS but had completely different causes, relating to abnormal contractions of the gallbladder, and the name Habba syndrome become associated with these findings.

The symptoms of this condition are usually chronic, watery diarrhea that can occur directly after meals and is not generally associated with significant cramping, a hallmark of IBS. Symptoms will often go away if people fast, which is not the case with IBS, and they don’t respond well to usual IBS treatments. The syndrome can make it embarrassing for people, as problem may be difficult to control, and patients may try to abstain from eating because of the clear connection between food consumption and bouts of diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea may also lead to poor absorption of needed nutrients, and some people may feel fatigued or ill at all times and not be able to lead normal lives.

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According to Dr. Habba’s studies, what appears to be occurring is gallbladder dysfunction, and his initial studies showed poor function of the gallbladder, which creates a situation similar to that when people have had gallbladder removal. Treatment for most people doesn’t necessitate actually removing the gallbladder to improve symptoms. Instead, most people who have been diagnosed are given medications that lower cholesterol, and this may completely resolve the problem, though treatment can take a few weeks to be fully effective. Ironically, this treatment has already been in place for many years to address the symptoms that occur when people have had their gallbladders removed.

The reason that discovery of Habba syndrome is so significant is because there are so many people currently diagnosed with IBS who may have Habba instead. Though this disease is still considered newly discovered, patients who have been unresponsive to traditional treatment methods for IBS may not be responding to treatment because they’re really suffering from gallbladder dysfunction, and most treatments for IBS do nothing to address this. For those people who have symptoms that seem to fit Habba instead of IBS, it could certainly be worthwhile to see if a trial on medications that lower cholesterol change or resolves chronic diarrhea, since scans of the gallbladder don’t always show dysfunction.

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anon335297
Post 42

I had my gallbladder removed about five years ago and within the last year, I have had diarrhea every time I eat. The mornings are the worst.

I like to go out and eat breakfast. But with this problem, I have to head straight home. I am not even able to go on errands after I eat. It is like a prison. I go to my family doctor this week. If I have to beg for Questran I will. Enough is enough.

anon291761
Post 41

@anon112823: What is cupping and can you tell me what Chinese herbs you use?

anon248873
Post 39

I was diagnosed with IBS/D around my mid twenties at age 35 I had my gall bladder removed. Since that day I have suffered with chronic diarrhea and scared to eat any foods. Symptoms range from atrophy, pale and general aches and pains. I was then diagnosed with CFS and continually asked about my mental health.

In finding this site, I feel incredibly sad to hear what so many of us go through but excited there might be treatment. I am now turning 40 and the idea of continuing my life symptom free is a dream. I have questran here and will begin my first dose tomorrow, wish me luck.

anon233247
Post 38

My husband has had chronic diarrhea for probably eight years now. He has tried every IBS medication out there. None of them have helped at all. I saw the Mystery Diagnosis episode with Dr. Habba and I immediately made him an appointment. It is tomorrow. I am praying that this is what is causing his diarrhea. I want him to get his life back.

anon202211
Post 37

My symptoms: Bad diarrhea but no pain and no warning. Five months ago I had what I think was the start of this. Only then it went on for four days. One day last week I was eating lunch at a restaurant and had to run to the bathroom as the diarrhea started at the end of my meal.

One week later had breakfast and not long after, the same thing: no warning, no pain, and it is like turning on a hose. I had one other episode in same week. My gallbladder was removed in 2006, five years ago.

I want to take something for this but it sounds like all these things are statins amd I don't want to take that as I had been on Crestor to lower cholesterol but got muscle pain and had to stop.

anon185306
Post 36

I had my gallbladder removed 14 years ago and life has been horrid ever since!

I have created a support group on Daily Strength for people with Habba/Post Cholecystectomy Syndromes (both have the same symptoms). Please come by and just see what you think. We need support that you just can't get from anyone else! It's not IBS! --

Rene/Grace

anon170477
Post 35

I have a lot of the symptoms. i see my doctor tomorrow and asking him is there a way to find out if I have this.

anon165063
Post 34

Is this the same as IBS?

anon164552
Post 33

i had my gallbladder removed in 2006, and since then i have two to three loose motions after breakfast, which contain mucus also. then after lunch i am fine till next morning, no loose or frequent motions at all. now seeing these posts i am sure i have to take lovastatin, a cholesterol lowering agent, and lansoprazole, fasting. it is either p.c.s. malfunctioning or bile acids.

anon162728
Post 32

I also had all of the tests, and the doctors who thought I was either nuts or making it up. It is a miserable existence. Then, my sister saw a program with Dr. Habba on it, and thought it sounded like what I was struggling with.

I went to my doctor and told her about it, and she pretty much poo-pooed me, but prescribed Cholestyramine to humor me. The first day I took it was the last day I had the problem. You should have seen her face when I told her I was cured. Unfortunately, I lost my medical insurance so I can't use it any longer, but the effects stayed with me for about a year after taking the medication for about three years.

anon160990
Post 31

I have had every test there is possible to figure out why I am in the bathroom a half hour after I eat, including a colonoscopy and found nothing. But I have read the symptoms of Habba and I am convinced I have this. A doctor prescribed me colestid and it worked for a while then stopped. I have been on several others and they work then stop. I am just about eating nothing so I don't have this problem. I am at my wits' end.

anon159055
Post 30

Thank you so much. i have been going though this for a long time and I'm glad that it is nothing too serious!

anon158511
Post 29

this describes me perfectly. I wrestled with this issue while they checked for IBS, etc., when finally, a wise doctor brought up Habba syndrome. I am on whelchol, and when i take it regularly, it is much better. I still need to be near a bathroom, especially after a big meal or lots of coffee. But, I am glad it is not worse. --paatty

anon135136
Post 28

I posted above and said I was going to try the powder my sister had given me. Well, let me tell you it worked! I started taking it in November and it is now December and I have not had one episode of diarrhea in that time. I take just one scoop with juice in the morning and I'm fine all day. I am now able to eat everything with no bad effects, even dairy. Thank you to Discovery Health and Dr. Habba!

anon130527
Post 27

No, Habba Syndrome describes a dysfunction of the gallbladder that mimics the effects of having it removed. If you don't have your gallbladder, you could expect to have the same symptoms and likely benefit from the same treatment, but it would not be called Habba Syndrome.

anon129383
Post 26

I had diarrhea 10 years ago and tests showed my gallbladder was not functioning so it was removed. I had diarrhea off and on all these years and then two months ago, it came back with a vengeance. I am on four meds (one is Welchol) and it does not stop it. I had a colonoscopy Friday and found nothing. I have lost 10 pounds in a month. Terrible!

anon126584
Post 25

I had my gallbladder removed 18 years ago. Seven years ago I started with the constant diarrhea. I guess I was the lucky one.

After about a year, my PCP sent me to a gastroenterologist, who did the upper and lower scan. After ruling out all other possibilities he called me into the office and explained that people who have no gallbladder have this problem and put me on medication.

But seeing Dr. Habba's clip really hit home and made me hope others could be as lucky as I was.

anon126432
Post 24

After using Cholestyramine (Prevalite powder) for eight weeks, I ran out for a couple of days, and let me tell you, it makes such a huge difference. I will never run out again, and it has also lowered my cholesterol. Thanks for those doctors that are open-minded and had given it to somebody I know.

anon126431
Post 23

I have been suffering for years with diarrhea. I am familiar with the location of all public restrooms and I try not to eat if I'm going more than 1/2 hour from home.

I just saw Mystery Diagnosis with Dr. Habba and was surprised to hear of this syndrome. My doctor told me I had to avoid stress and any food that didn't agree with me.

She didn't understand that all food brings on diarrhea! With no warning, no cramps -- just gotta go! My sister had her gallbladder out and she was given cholestyramine for diarrhea. She gave me two cans to try, but I just put them in the cupboard. Tomorrow I am going to start taking it and see what happens.

anon125982
Post 22

I want to thank Dr Habba for giving a name to this horrible, horrible condition.

If I could go back to every doctor (I went to over the course of 10 years )who told me my "unrelenting diarrhea" was all in my head and show them this and ask them to give me back the 10 lost years that I lost living with this condition.

I now take Questran and I am thankful every day for this stuff. Shame on all the doctors out there who stay an illness is in someone's head.

anon119992
Post 21

Ever since I had my gallbladder removed, I have a problem of diarrhea after I eat. I hate to go out to eat as I never know if I'll have access to a bathroom. I always have been suspicious that it was bile related. I am so glad to hear of Dr. Habba. Also my daughter and a granddaughter suffer from the same condition.

anon117200
Post 20

I was diagnosed with IBS about 30 years ago. I took everything that was prescribed to me but nothing had lasting effect.

In 2005, my doctor did a hida-scan and found out my gallbladder was only function at 12 percent or so and was filled with sludge, not stones. Hence the suffering of years and years without being diagnosed. Out came my gallbladder in 2005, but I am suffering from bile salt diarrhea.

I had to diagnose this myself because none of my so called health care professionals ever heard of it. I work in a medical library and looked it up. They finally prescribed Questran for the pain, bloating and constant diarrhea after gallbladder removal. So I had a malfunctioning gallbladder for years that caused diarrhea and without the gallbladder now and the dumping of bile directly into the intestine my symptoms are the same but worse. So it's been the bile all along.

One of my doctors wanted me to speak to a psychiatrist back in 1982. What would I have told him anyway. They still think it's emotional if they can't figure it out and you are female.

anon116602
Post 19

I too had diarrhea for many many years. I couldn't pinpoint what gave it to me. I tried probiotics which seemed to help a little.

My wife watched Mystery Diagnosis and made me ask my doctor for a cholesterol drug. He gave Wellchol. As soon as I started using it it worked. No more uncontrolled feeling. I could hold a bowel movement if necessary and its was really good. I could now start eating dairy products again. Life is good!

The ironic part was after more than a year on the Welchol, I then had my gall bladder removed due to stones. I tried to stop the Welchol and without it I'm back to the toilet.

Please note that before I tried this I did CT scans, swallowed a camera, and had an ultrasound. Everything was normal.

anon112823
Post 18

I suffered from this exact syndrome earlier this year. I have been researching this and no one can pinpoint a cause, but I know mine started from a bout of food poisoning.

My symptoms went on for a total of four months, when I finally decided that it wasn't even worth eating anymore. I fasted to avoid the symptoms. I had been living on anti-diarrhea medication, both OTC and prescription, which helped, but only temporarily. Nothing stopped the diarrhea.

I lost incredible amounts of weight, and to this day, I am still paranoid about eating. I finally went to the doctor, had all the tests (negative) and felt even more frustrated. I was starting to break down physically and mentally. As a last resort, I went to a local acupuncturist. He told me that my gall bladder was not functioning correctly, gave me several treatments with "cupping" and also gave me some Chinese herbs to help regulate my gall bladder. I have been symptom free for six months now.

anon111202
Post 17

I too had my gallbladder removed when I was 26 and now I am 50. and dealing with the postprandial (after eating) diarrhea but I do have cramping so bad when everything is moving through my intestines

after eating.

Sometimes just from the smells of food cooking get the saliva going and the bile that is stored in the upper bowel starts moving.

after watching mystery diagnoses on the habba syndrome I have asked my doctor to look into it, but now he is making me do all the unwanted tests.

sometimes I just wish doctors would listen to their patients. I will try this one test and talk to my doc once again now that i know which of the drugs that he can give me for this awful crap.

anon107629
Post 16

It seems you can get Habba syndrome with or without a gallbladder.

anon104414
Post 15

I have had bad diarrhea for years -- up to 19 episodes in one day and I have been through all of those horrible tests and no gastro doctor could ever figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol recently and have been prescribed Crestor. Will it work also for controlling the diarrhea?

anon103748
Post 14

Excellent article. I too had my gallbladder removed and was experiencing diarrhea.

Luckily I found an expert doctor who told me to try taking two Metamucil wafers (not the pills) each day as I needed more fiber. It was such a relief, but after a year and a half I got so tired of taking them that I tried her second suggestion, Questran, which in the generic form is called Cholestyramine. It is a powder which I mix with 6 oz. of orange juice in the morning and it really works.

I did not really have a problem with high cholesterol, but my test results are very good. She also mentioned another alternative which I have not tried - Trisodium (the handwriting is difficult to read and I may not have the spelling correct). There is help!

anon103723
Post 13

My son had gallstones at the age of 14. He had his gallbladder out. He has had diarrhea ever since then. He has had cat scans, colonoscopies, two of them, and an MRI and all came back negative. Like one of the questions asked, can you get Habba Syndrome after the gallbladder is removed?

anon101205
Post 12

Saw Dr. Habba today and he prescribed Welchol, a cholesterol medication. I had my gall bladder out 10 years ago, and six months ago I started with diarrhea as soon as I get up in the morning, and right after I eat.

So if your gall bladder is dysfunctional or has been removed, the liver may dump unqualified amounts of bile into your intestine that acts as a laxative, hence diarrhea.

With a healthy gall bladder the bile output is regulated and no diarrhea. Welchol binds the bile so its laxative effect is ineffective. I look forward to normalcy within a couple of days.

anon97232
Post 11

I had my gall bladder removed at age 34 years with no adverse symptoms. At age 50, I started every couple of weeks with severe diarrhea, no warning, out of nowhere and it would just pour out. Use your imagination. It took five years with every test known, then out of the blue one doctor says try Questran Lite because you do not have a gallbladder and you never know.

I have never had it again. I was cured after five years of horror and not one gastro specialist had any idea what it was: don't know; not sure. and I could not work or go out.

So if you have a gallbladder or no gallbladder the symptoms can be the same.

anon90916
Post 10

I have suffered with these symptoms ever since I had my gallbladder removed. I do have high cholesterol but have muscle cramps when on medication to lower my cholesterol. I have tried most of the cholesterol lowering medications with the same results. I feel that I must either stay home, or not eat anything at all to travel anywhere.

I have suffered greatly, physically and emotionally with these symptoms. I would love to get help with my problem. --anon

anon67433
Post 9

when my daughter (37) has her symptoms she also feels as though she has a rash on her upper body. Would this be one of the symptoms of Habba Syndrome?

cism1955
Post 8

I would like to know the answer to ggreenwood's question. Can you still have Habba Syndrome if you no longer have your gall bladder?

anon54676
Post 7

I just wanted to pass on this information, to hopefully help any of you that have similar stories to mine. I have had IBS with awful pain and diarrhea for over 18 years.

I've seen numerous consultants and had all the usual tests and been told to get on with it and take Codeine Phosphate to control the pain. I'd typically go about an average of nine times a day and feel constantly tired.

About a year ago I went back to my GP again following a really bad six months and he referred me to an IBS center of research in Withington, Manchester, U. I tried every tablet going to control my IBS (including each brand of antispasmodics and low dose anti-depressants) and had a whole new set of tests done. Still nothing worked!

I fortunately saw a a doctor who sent me for a nuclear medicine abdominal scan (SeHCAT Test) and it turns out I have not got IBS-D but I have Bil Salt Malabsorption. Because I don't absorb my bile salts, they leak into my large intestine and cause pain and diarrhea. (which I find out is now called Habba Syndrome).

My consultant was really shocked as I have no history of surgery on my bowel or problems with my gall bladder. I have now had my first month of Questran Sachets and have not had any diarrhea for the first time in 18 years. I can't tell you how blissful it is to have my life back and not be running to the loo all day. Also to have some sort of medical answer.

Apparently, according to my consultant, it's quite rare to have it, but with so many people being diagnosed with IBS I'm wondering if it's not more common that the doctors think?

anon54529
Post 6

I am a 27 year old male, who suffered through what was called IBS since the age of 14. I was on every "IBS" pill there was.

I would get sick stomach wise after eating. That introduced me into the life of anorexia. At the age of 26 my aunt was watching something on T.V. and thought that it sounded like what I was going through. So, I've been on Cholestyramine 4 grams 30 minutess before each meal, and I have no issues now. none. thank god for Dr. Habba

anon48313
Post 5

I'm so glad I found this info on Habba Syndrome! I have been sick for a long time and none of the doctors I have seen could connect my dysfunctional (only functioning at 17 percent) to my chronic diarrhea!I thought I just might be going crazy! I am scheduled for a gallbladder removal in two weeks, but now i'm reconsidering. Can anyone tell me if it makes a difference to have it removed or not? Should i still go through with the removal?

anon45726
Post 4

I had a suspicion of this as I suffer the same thing as what is described above. I have IBS but still suffer urges to go to the toilet after meals. After reading above, I suspect that my gall bladder is out of whack. I find I go to the toilet after heavy junk food consumption or foods that contain a high oil content. Thanks Dr Habba!

anon38190
Post 3

could this happen after a bout of food poisoning?? I was fine then BOOM.... I blamed the food I ate. I don't want to go to my doctor and go thru all those horrid tests.... Help!!!!

sslegg
Post 2

If I have had my gallbladder checked to see if it was working, would that have caught this? I have had problems for years now and the IBS med doesn't work. I am typically sick after eat, not necessarily cramps, just got to go.

ggreenwood
Post 1

if you've had your gallbladder removed, is it possible to still get Habba Syndrome?

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