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5/18/2019 11:37:55 AM

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a common type of gastrointestinal upset or infection. It causes frequent and excessive discharging of the bowels in the form of abnormally watery stools and stomach pains. 

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above, you might be affected by an acute case of diarrhea. Acute diarrhea lasts one or two weeks while you’re temporarily sick. Or you might have chronic diarrhea, which persists for longer than several weeks. You have diarrhea is you have very loose or watery stools three or more times within 24 hours.

Believe it or not, acute diarrhea can be one of your body’s best defense mechanisms against a temporary infection or virus. Although they’re uncomfortable and unpleasant to deal with, short-term diarrhea symptoms help rapidly expel harmful substances out of your GI tract before they have a chance to cause even more trouble or complications.

Chronic diarrhea symptoms, on the other hand, are a bit different. They tend to come and go depending on other dietary and lifestyle factors. This includes the state of your immune system and the level of stress you’re dealing with. Research shows that chronic/persistent diarrhea occurs in approximately 3 percent of people traveling to developing countries (also known as traveler’s diarrhea). Acute diarrhea is usually easy to treat without medication or serious intervention. However, chronic diarrhea is more problematic. It can cause dehydration and nutrient deficiencies if it isn’t properly addressed.

What causes chronic diarrhea? Digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, SIBO (a disorder of the small intestine) and ulcerative colitis often cause chronic diarrhea.

The good news is there are several steps you can take to naturally treat both types of diarrhea. Below you’ll learn about steps you can take to thicken your stool, rehydrate and overcome symptoms of diarrhea.

What Causes Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a natural reaction to dehydration, infection or toxins that need to be expelled from the digestive system. Examples include certain types of bacteria, parasites, food allergies or other microbes. One of the risks associated with diarrhea is that it can make you even more dehydrated and ill if you’re already sick. This is because it makes the body lose too much water and minerals, including electrolytes like sodium, too quickly.

If you’re not already familiar with symptoms that are typical of diarrhea, here are the most common:

Frequent bowel movements, including going to the bathroom more than one to two times daily

Watery feces, or “loose” stools

Abdominal pains, cramping and sometimes stomach bloating,

Sometimes nausea and vomiting

Stomach pains and sometimes loss of appetite, trouble eating enough and/or weight loss

Increased thirst, due to losing more water than usual when going to the bathroom frequently

Sometimes symptoms of a fever depending on what’s causing diarrhea (such as an infection or illness)

Symptoms of dehydration, which can include weakness, brain fog, upset stomach, dizziness and blood pressure changes

The key to learning how to stop diarrhea symptoms once they’ve started, and also preventing them returning in the future, depends on the underlying causes of the condition. Diarrhea can develop for various reasons, including dehydration, illnesses or food poisoning. Children, infants, adults and the elderly may all develop diarrhea for different reasons.  This includes difficulty digesting foods properly, leaky gut syndrome, emotional stress linked to IBS, or not drinking enough water.

Diarrhea Risk Factors:

What causes watery diarrhea in adults most often? Causes and risk factors for diarrhea in adults include:

Bacterial infection. This can be passed from person to person, or picked up from contaminated surfaces.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which means that due to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the small intestine the body can’t digest and absorb nutrients properly.

Food allergies, such as lactose intolerance (a type of sugar found in dairy). Experts believe that lactose intolerance is one of the most common reasons both children and adults suffer from diarrhea, especially when it’s chronic. What’s tricky about lactose intolerance is that it might not start until your adult years, or emerge due to hormonal changes like pregnancy.

Drinking contaminated water, which can contain parasites, bacteria, etc.

Food poisoning, due to eating a food contaminated with some type of harmful microbe.

Dehydration (not drinking enough water or losing too much water from vomiting/illnesses or other causes).

Poor digestion and related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease.

Overeating or drinking lots of liquids too quickly.

Eating too much unripe or overripe fruit.

Eating too much greasy food that is difficult to digest properly.

Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, which can lead to dehydration and indigestion.

Emotional stress and anxiety.

Due to side effects of taking certain medications, especially antacids. Experts think that antacids are the most common cause of drug-related diarrhea because they contain magnesium, which can make stool too watery. If you take these meds to control acid reflux symptoms, it’s best to try and tackle the underlying causes of indigestion. Or if you must take medications, try those that don’t contain magnesium and lower your dose. Motility medications — medications to help stimulate the intestines in order to relieve constipation — may result in diarrhea.

Other supplements and medications including antibiotics, quinidine, lactulose and colchicine can also cause diarrhea. Taking too much vitamin C and magnesium in supplement form can do the same.

And what is the cause of diarrhea most often in children and infants? Causes can include:

Rotavirus, also known as viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu, which is the most common cause of diarrhea in children ages 2 and younger. However, viral gastroenteritis can also affect adults.

Food allergies, including an allergy to milk (lactose intolerance) or other common culprits like peanuts, eggs, etc.

Reactions to formula, or sometimes from breastfeeding if the mother consumed something that is hard to digest.

Not consuming enough liquids, or consuming too much (such as juice).

Bacterial infection, such as from touching dirty surfaces, toys, or other people and then putting their hands into their mouths. Infants in day care centers have been found to have a higher risk of contracting bacteria that can cause intestinal infections that lead to diarrhea.

Taking antibiotics, which can cause changes in the gut/digestive system due to killing off healthy bacteria.

Remember that it’s normal for infants and babies to have bowel movements that are softer than those of adults. Their stool might also become different colors at times and their bowel movements may happen more than once daily (especially in infants), but this usually isn’t cause for concern.

Talk to your doctor if your baby’s diarrhea lasts for more than several days, especially if you also notice signs of dehydration like: fewer wet diapers, dry eyes when crying, dry mouth, sunken eyes or lethargy, an usual foul odor in three or more diarrhea stools, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, or severe diarrhea while taking antibiotics. Babies with diarrhea may also have a fever, seem very fussy, or seem disinterested in eating.

Precautions When You’ve Developed Diarrhea

It’s usually best to try treating acute diarrhea on your own for several days, tracking if your symptoms improve with help from the recommendations above while you wait it out. However, visit your doctor if diarrhea occurs in infants or young children for more than several days in a row, the elderly, anyone who is underweight and already suffering from health problems, or someone who develops more serious symptoms including:

Blood or mucus in your stool

Weight loss


Pay attention to signs that you’re becoming dehydrated and take steps to drink more water and obtain electrolytes. If you become dizzy, very weak or confused, then consult with your doctor to avoid complications.

5 Natural Ways to Help Get Rid of Diarrhea

Drinking enough fluids

Consuming bland foods while you recover

Getting enough rest

Trying an elimination diet if symptoms keep returning

Using peppermint essential oil

  ( Jillian Levy )
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