Causes and Symptoms of Diarrhea
Causes of Diarrhea
Acute diarrhea is usually related to a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea is usually related to functional disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
A few of the more common causes of diarrhea include the following:
- Bacterial Infections
Several types of bacteria consumed through contaminated food or water can cause diarrhea. Common culprits include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
- Viral Infections
Many viruses cause diarrhea, including rotavirus, Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, and viral hepatitis.
- Food Intolerances
Some people are unable to digest food components such as artificial sweeteners and lactose – the sugar found in milk.
Parasites can enter the body through food or water and settle in the digestive system. Parasites that cause diarrhea include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium.
- Reaction to Medicines
Antibiotics, blood pressure medications, cancer drugs, and antacids containing magnesium can all cause diarrhea.
- Intestinal Diseases
Inflammatory bowel disease, colitis (irritation of the colon), Crohn’s Disease, and Celiac Disease often lead to diarrhea.
- Functional Bowel Disorders
Diarrhea can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.
Some people develop diarrhea after stomach surgery or removal of the gallbladder. The reason may be a change in how quickly food moves through the digestive system after stomach surgery or an increase in bile in the colon after gallbladder surgery.
People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Traveler’s diarrhea can be a problem for people visiting developing countries. Visitors to the United States, Canada, most European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand do not face much risk for traveler’s diarrhea.
In many cases, the cause of diarrhea cannot be found. As long as diarrhea goes away on its own, an extensive search for the cause is not usually necessary.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Diarrhea may be accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, or an urgent need to use the bathroom. Depending on the cause, a person may have a fever or bloody stools.