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Bile Acid Sequestrants - General Info

Bile acid sequestrants belong to a group of medications that are primarily involved in binding of certain components of bile in the gastrointestinal tract. They simply prevent absorption of bile acids. This eventually affects the enterohepatic circulation of bile acids. Even though they have many functions apart from lowering cholesterol, bile acid sequestrants are classified as hypolipidemic agents.

Some of bile acid sequestrants are colesevelam, colestipol and cholestyramine. All of them reduce the level of LDL (so called bad cholesterol) in the blood. These medications prevent return of the bile acids from to the liver. The liver is deprived from the bile acids and needs to synthesize more of it. To do that it requires cholesterol and this way, by producing adequate amount of acid bile the liver spends cholesterol and decreases its level in the blood. Lowering of the cholesterol brings this substance under normal range and prevents many illnesses.

Indications for Bile Acid Sequestrants

The primary purpose of bile acid sequestrants is reduction of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a substance which participates in process of atherosclerosis and is a major component of plaques. Plaques narrow the affected blood vessels (heart and brain blood vessels as well as blood vessels of other organs) and may eventually cause heart attack or even stroke. One of the highly successful methods of prevention of the previously mentioned illnesses is proper regulation of cholesterol in blood. So these medications are perfect choice for people suffering from increased levels of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol i.e. 'bad cholesterol').

Apart from being used in treatment of hypercholesterolemia and dyslipidemia bile acid sequestrants can also be administered in chronic liver diseases including cirrhosis where accumulation of bile acids in the skin causes pruritus. Furthermore, in case of diarrhea caused by excess of bile salts patients may benefit form bile acid sequestrants. Bile salt diarrhea usually affects people who have undergone gallbladder removal. And finally, these medications may be also given to patients suffering from hyperthyroidism. In this case, bile acid sequestrants inhibit enterohepatic circulation and consequently lead to increased loss of L-thyroxin. This leads to lower levels of thyroxin in the body.

Side Effects of Bile Acid Sequestrants

These medications posses certain side effects. They may be a source of abdominal discomfort and in some cases cause constipation. Furthermore, there is a chance of flatulence and dyspepsia. Some of these medications have repulsive taste and patients simply refuse taking them. One is advised to take these medications with fruit juices which may hide hideous taste of bile acid sequestrants.

There is also chance that certain vitamins and medications will not be absorbed properly if taken together with bile acid sequestrants. And finally, bile acid sequestrants are not prescribed to people suffering from gastrointestinal dysfunction and hemorrhoids.

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