Diarrhea

There are two types of diarrhea: chronic and acute. One lasts a few days, whereas the other can last for weeks and cause severe complications if not treated. Treating diarrhea depends on the cause, so knowing when to see the doctor is key. Learn more.

10 minute read

Last Updated June 29, 2020

What Causes Diarrhea - Digestion - 1MD

Diarrhea is defined as loose and watery stools combined with an urgent need to empty the bowels. This can last for a few days, and depending on the cause, it will often go away without any need for treatment.

Diarrhea can be classified as either acute or chronic, and there is also a type known as traveler’s diarrhea. Each has a variety of causes, and discovering the cause can lead to effective treatment should it be needed.

Acute diarrhea only lasts for a few days and can result from viral or bacterial infections. Travelers’ diarrhea is a version that presents itself as a result of being exposed to foreign bacteria or parasites while in another country. Acute diarrhea is fairly common. 

Chronic diarrhea lasts for weeks, and is the result of an underlying digestive condition or disease, and will typically require some form of treatment.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

Is addition to the watery stools, you can experience one of many symptoms with diarrhea or a combination of a few, depending on the cause. The most common symptoms of diarrhea include:

Nausea
♦ Cramping
Bloating
Abdominal pain
♦ Fever
♦ Bloody stools
♦ Dehydration 

Conditions Associated With Diarrhea

There are more than 80 possible health conditions that are associated with diarrhea. With some being more common than others, it is important to understand the different potential causes. It’s important to accurately describe symptoms to your doctor to get the most effective treatment. 

These are common causes of diarrhea that you may not be aware of, and could be the underlying reason for chronic diarrhea.

Appendicitis: Appendicitis can cause you to lose your appetite, which will disrupt digestion. The pain and inflammation in your lower left abdomen can also affect your guts. Both can contribute to diarrhea or constipation, although nausea and vomiting are the more common digestive troubles with appendicitis.

Celiac disease: This is caused by a severe reaction to gluten, as the body is unable to process the protein. The villi lining the intestinal wall become damaged, which interferes with nutrient absorption. As a result, food is not digested properly, and this can lead to diarrhea.

Crohn’s disease: The long-term inflammation associated with this condition causes constant disruption to healthy bowel movements, and diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms. 

Cystic fibrosis: While this condition mostly impacts the lungs, the inflammation can spread to other regions of the body. It is not uncommon for those with cystic fibrosis to also have digestive issues such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Diverticulitis: When the pouches lining your intestinal wall become inflamed and swollen, diverticulitis develops. The ability to absorb nutrients and digest food become impacted, and bowel regularity will change. Diarrhea and constipation are both common with this condition.

Food allergies: When you ingest a food that you have an intolerance or an allergy for, your body reacts by pushing it out as quickly as possible. This means increased motility and diarrhea, along with cramping and pain.

Food poisoning: This occurs as a result of eating contaminated food or food that is toxic or spoiled. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the top symptoms, and will usually pass once the contaminated food has passed through the digestive tract. 

Gastroenteritis: Also known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is caused by a viral infection, and causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Diarrhea is a common symptom as well as dehydration, which is caused by the frequent loss of water through continued bowel movements.

Giardiasis: This is an infection in your small intestine caused by a parasite known as giardia. You typically come into contact with this parasite through contaminated water. Diarrhea and loss of appetite are common, and the infection needs to be treated with anti-parasitic medications.

Hyperthyroidism: This condition causes the overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, which involves your guts. As a result, the gut becomes over stimulated leading to increased motility and diarrhea. 

Kawasaki disease: This autoimmune disease affects the blood vessels causing them to become inflamed. With widespread inflammation, many parts of the body become affected and vomiting as well as diarrhea and headaches are very common.

Lupus: This inflammatory disease can cause digestive disruption and diarrhea. Several medications used to treat lupus can affect your digestive tract, which can also cause diarrhea and vomiting.

PMS: The hormonal changes can impact your digestion, and many women experience diarrhea for the week leading up to their period. Others experience constipation. Once your cycle is over, your bowel movements should return to normal. 

Scleroderma: This chronic condition impacts connective tissues, causing them to harden. As a result, muscle tone can be lost, which can slow digestive movements along the gut. You will experience severe pain first, and later bowel movements can change to become more frequent or slowed. 

Diarrhea Treatment

Dehydration is a common occurrence with diarrhea, as so much water is lost in the frequent bowel movements. Replacing lost fluids is a priority in any treatment approach. 

Drinking water and replacing electrolytes with sports drinks is important. If a bacterial infection is a cause, then your doctor may prescribe medication based on the severity. If digestive diseases are the cause, treatment needs to be based on the condition rather than the symptom.

Natural Treatment for Diarrhea

One of the most common causes of diarrhea is leaky gut, a condition where damage to the intestinal wall creates gaps. Undigested food can pass through these gaps triggering immune responses and inflammatory damage in the body. This can be treated naturally with the following ingredients:

CARE4U: With CARE4U, you get natural human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are the same sugars found in human breast milk. These sugars promote a healthy digestive system and the gut environment in infants. Studies found that HMOs can also benefit the adult digestive tract by preventing leaky gut.

L Glutamine: L-glutamine is an amino acid that provides fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall. It provides strength and nourishment, allowing your intestinal wall to maintain the integrity and prevent leaky gut.

You can also add extra digestive enzymes to your diet. The production of your natural digestive enzymes decreases with age, and this can impede digestion. Alpha-amylase is a beneficial enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates. Without the proper breakdown of these foods, you can develop an intolerance that causes diarrhea.

It is also important to promote liver function when addressing digestive issues. The liver produces bile for digestion and detoxifies the body of harmful things you ingest. An unhealthy or diseased liver causes digestive symptoms such as diarrhea. Selenium AAC naturally increases the production of liver enzymes, which protects it from disease and promote optimal function.

How to Prevent or Stop Diarrhea

The cause can be intestinal issues or infection and many causes you cannot control, but there are a few things you can do to stop diarrhea, especially when it comes to what you eat.

♦ Serve food immediately after preparing it
♦ Refrigerate leftovers right away
♦ Wash cooking and food preparation areas regularly and thoroughly
♦ Thaw frozen food in a refrigerator before cooking

You can stop travelers’ diarrhea by speaking with your doctor about an antibiotic treatment or diarrhea medicine to be taken before you leave, and it’s also advised to avoid local tap water where you go. 

When to See Your Doctor

Acute diarrhea will go away on its own after a few days, so the only time you need to reach out to your doctor is if it persists. Should you notice that you are becoming severely dehydrated, you also need to seek help right away. 

In severe cases, you may need intravenous fluids and admission to a hospital to recover lost fluids. Any sign of bloody diarrhea is also a reason to see your doctor. They will evaluate your symptoms and run tests, and this will help them discover the underlying cause and provide efficient treatment.

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