Gastroenterology

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Causes and Treatments for Diarrhea

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Discover what can cause diarrhea and how to treat diarrhea

By Katherine Solem

 

Diarrhea is defined as having loose and watery stools multiples times in a single day. This uncomfortable symptom is caused by a disturbance to your digestive tract and can be due to a variety of things including specific foods, viruses, parasites or even certain medicines. Learn more about what you can do to avoid diarrhea and what diarrhea treatments and diarrhea home remedies may provide relief.


Causes of Diarrhea

  • Viral gastroenteritis: More commonly known as the stomach flu, this is the most common cause of diarrhea and is due to a viral infection that usually only lasts a few days.
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  • Food poisoning/traveler's diarrhea: Traveler's diarrhea and food poisoning occur due to ingestion of food or water that is contaminated with parasites or bacteria.
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  • Medications: Some medications have the uncomfortable side effect of causing diarrhea. Most commonly, antibiotics cause diarrhea as they destroy all types of bacteria in your body - even those that are helpful.
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  • Laxatives: Laxatives specifically work to cause bowel movements and consequently can cause diarrhea.
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  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy can be very tough on the body. Along with a variety of other consequences, chemotherapy can also cause diarrhea.
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  • Fructose: This sugar can be found in fruits, honey and some beverages. Certain individuals have difficulty digesting fructose and consequently suffer from diarrhea.
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  • Artificial sweeteners: Sorbitol and mannitol are two commonly used artificial sweeteners that can cause diarrhea. They are found most often in chewing gum and other sugar-free products.
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  • Medical conditions:
       
    • Celiac disease: If you have celiac disease, your body's immune system attacks sections of your intestines, known as villi, when you eat gluten. One of the symptoms of this reaction is diarrhea.
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    • Inflammatory bowel diseases: These include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which impact your bowels and can cause diarrhea.
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    • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This disorder impacts your lower intestinal tract and often involves abdominal pain as well as diarrhea. This can be made worse by daily stress.
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    • Lactose intolerance: Some people cannot properly digest lactose - a sugar in milk and dairy products - and consequently suffer from diarrhea if they ingest anything with lactose. The likelihood of suffering from lactose intolerance increases with age as your body makes less of the enzyme that helps your body break down lactose.

 

Symptoms of Diarrhea

  • Loose, watery stool: Diarrhea is defined as having loose and watery stool at least 3 times in a single day.
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  • Abdominal cramps/pain
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  • Fever
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  • Blood in stool
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  • Bloating

 

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