What causes diarrhea?

Many come across this annoyance, diarrhea can cause digestive discomfort but be also dangerous in more severe cases. Find out what causes diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a common inconvenience and occurs in most people several times a year, for various causes. In most cases, the cause is unknown and goes away on its own after a few days. However, when diarrhea puts down roots and becomes chronic, it is important to look for its causes, to take action. Here are the main causes of diarrhea.

  1. Infections
    There are three types of infections that can cause diarrhea: viral infections, bacterial infections, and parasitic infections.
    It is common that viral infections cause diarrhea. This symptom is common to many viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus even viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu).
    Several common bacteria can also trigger diarrhea if you ingest them: Campylobacter, Escherichia coli (or E. coli), Salmonella, Shigella…
    Last but not least, certain parasites found in food and water can put down roots in your digestive system and cause diarrhea. The most common parasites are: Cryptosporidium Enteritis, Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia lamblia.
  2. Traveler’s diarrhea
    Traveler’s diarrhea is a common problem for people traveling to developing countries, where drinking water may be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
    Consuming water or food washed with this water can cause traveler's diarrhea. It is often acute, thus intense but doesn’t last long, except in certain cases where it can be prolonged, if it is caused by a parasite.
  3. Some medication
    Many medications can cause diarrhea, whether due to their side effects or the effects of long-term use. Medicines most likely to cause diarrhea are antibiotics. These can modify the intestinal flora and increase your risk of bacterial infection and thus lead to chronic diarrhea.
    Antacids that contain magnesium and medicines used to treat cancer, may also be responsible for diarrhea.
  4. Allergies and intolerance
    Allergies and intolerance to certain foods can be causes of diarrhea. Foods which are most likely to cause this type of allergy are cow's milk, soy, grains, eggs, and seafood.…
    Lactose intolerance which is due to food indigestion or liquids containing milk or milk products is a common condition, that can cause diarrhea.
    It is also possible to suffer from diarrhea due to fructose intolerance. This is related to the ingestion of food or liquids which contain a sugar found in fruits and honey. Careful, as fructose is also added to many foods and soft drinks in the form of corn syrup. 
    Last but not least, sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol, often found in sugar-free candy and chewing gum, can cause diarrhea in some people.
  5. Digestive problem
    Various illnesses which cause digestive problems can cause diarrhea.
    Among these issues, one can come across celiac disease. In some people, ingestion of gluten causes an abnormal immune reaction in the small intestine, which creates an inflammation and damages the intestinal wall. Symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, bloating, stomachache, or nausea. 
    Crohn's disease is also accompanied by diarrhea. This chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive system evolves through flares, which are mainly expressed in the form of attacks through abdominal pain and diarrhea. They can last several weeks or several months, resulting in fatigue, weight loss and even undernutrition.
    Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder which concerns the functioning of colon or large intestine. This disorder causes significant discomfort because it is accompanied by abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea.
    Hemorrhagic ulcerative colitis (or ulcerative colitis) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon and rectum. This disease evolves with inflammatory flares, which can last up to several months. One of the most common symptoms is chronic bloody diarrhea.
  6. Abdominal surgery
    It is not uncommon to experience diarrhea after abdominal surgery in the appendix, gallbladder, large intestine, liver, pancreas, small intestine, spleen, or the stomach.
    Regardless of the cause of your diarrhea, if it lasts more than a few days, or if you detect the presence of blood, do not hesitate contacting your doctor. In the long run, diarrhea can prove to be dangerous and lead to dehydration or even undernutrition.

More from the blog