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Frequently Asked Questions About Diarrhea

Story at-a-glance

  • People get diarrhea for a variety of reasons, such as gastrointestinal tract (GI) infections, digestive disorders, medications and certain foods and beverages
  • Burning diarrhea transpires because of of the body's failure to break down enzymes and acids in the stomach, consumption of hot and spicy foods, stress or laxative abuse

Q: Why do I have diarrhea?

A: People get diarrhea for a variety of reasons, such as gastrointestinal tract (GI) infections, digestive disorders, medications and certain foods and beverages.1,2,3,4 However, there are other causes of diarrhea that should be considered.

Q: What causes bloody diarrhea?

A: People have bloody diarrhea or pass bloody stools because of a disease called colitis, or inflammation in the colon’s lining.5 Conditions like hemorrhoids, Crohn’s disease, tumors, diverticular bleeding or anal fissures6 may cause a person to pass bloody stools too.

Q: What does green diarrhea mean?

A: Green-colored stools can happen after a person has consumed leafy green vegetables,7 iron-rich foods and supplements, or green food coloring.8 For some cases, however, this could indicate the presence of bacteria or parasites in the body.9

Q: Why does diarrhea burn?

A: Burning diarrhea may occur because of the following:10

Failure of the body to properly break down certain stomach acids, digestive enzymes and bile

Increased consumption of capsaicin-containing spicy foods

Damage to rectal tissue caused by rough, large, or seed- or shell-containing foods that were not digested properly

Laxative abuse

Stress

Excessive intake of alcohol, fructose and other artificial sweeteners, and caffeine

Q: What does it mean if there’s mucus in diarrhea?

A: Having mucus in the stool may be a sign of a gastrointestinal problem such as Crohn’s disease, anal fissures, ulcers or bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. According to Medical News Today, it could also indicate that a patient is:11

Dehydrated or constipated

Undergoing another condition that triggers inflammation in the body and causes a disruption in mucous membrane function

Experiencing food allergies triggered by either nuts, lactose or gluten

Q: Can dehydration cause diarrhea?

A: No, dehydration cannot cause diarrhea, since this is the other way around — diarrhea causes dehydration. Dehydration is actually one of the many complications of diarrhea.12

Q: Can diarrhea occur if you drink too much water?

A: Drinking too much water can prompt diarrhea and other symptoms like nausea and vomiting, as excessive water intake can prevent the kidneys from eliminating the excess liquid. This causes water to accumulate in the body and produce diarrhea symptoms.13

Q: Can probiotics cause diarrhea?

A: Diarrhea, stomach upset, flatulence (passing gas) and bloating are side effects that may occur in the first few days after initial probiotic intake.14

Q: Can a breastfed baby have diarrhea?

A: A breastfed baby can have diarrhea due to viral and bacterial infections, elements in the mother’s diet that can cause allergies and sensitivities, laxative use, traveling or weaning. However breastfed babies have a lower diarrhea risk than formula-fed babies because the antibodies in breastmilk can combat common childhood illnesses.15

Q: Can a urinary tract infection (UTI) lead to diarrhea?

A: No, since it’s the other way around. UTI-causing fecal bacteria may enter your body when you have diarrhea or through poor bathroom hygiene, catheter use, swimming in unsanitary water or anal sex. After the bacteria travels from the anus to your urethra where they’ll multiply, they will move upward toward the bladder and kidneys, and eventually cause an infection.16

Q: Can kidney stones trigger diarrhea?

A: No, but chronic diarrhea is a risk factor for kidney stones. These two diseases are connected since dehydration, a typical complication of diarrhea, increases a person’s risk for kidney stones.17 Even more, diarrhea affects the body’s absorption of nutrients like calcium and can lead to kidney stone formation.18

Q: Can acid reflux (heartburn) cause diarrhea?

A: There is a link between heartburn and diarrhea, since the former may trigger the latter.19 However, more research is needed to fully confirm this link.

Q: Can ulcers lead to diarrhea?

A: Not really, but diarrhea can occur before ulcer symptoms. Diarrhea can arise among patients experiencing Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES), a rare disease where one or more tumors develop in the pancreas or duodenum (upper part of the small intestine).20

Q: Can you get diarrhea after a colonoscopy?

A: Some patients who undergo a colonoscopy may experience diarrhea as a side effect, mainly due to laxatives, fluids or enemas that are used to prepare their bodies before the procedure.21 Some also pass gas, notice bloating or feel cramps because air was pumped into the colon.22

Q: Can you get diarrhea after gallbladder removal?

A: Diarrhea can also occur after gallbladder removal as it’s considered a symptom of post-cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS). PCS happens when bile leaks into the stomach, or gallstones are left behind in your bile ducts.23

Q: Can you get diarrhea after running?

A: Yes. Runner’s diarrhea occurs when you have frequent and loose bowel movements during or immediately after running. There are no definite causes for runner’s diarrhea, although the Mayo Clinic notes that physical jostling of the organs, reduced blood flow to intestines, alterations in intestinal hormone secretion and pre-race anxiety may contribute to this condition.24

Q: Does taking birth control cause diarrhea?

A: Birth control pills can induce diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating, acne or constipation.25 These pills may increase a woman’s risk for Crohn’s disease too, characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition.26

Q: Why do you get diarrhea during your period?

A: Women have diarrhea during their periods because of hormone-like substances called prostaglandin that cause the uterine muscles to contract and cramp. Prostaglandins, once they move into the bloodstream, can affect smooth muscles, including those in the colon, and cause diarrhea.27

Q: Can diarrhea cause hemorrhoids?

A: Chronic diarrhea can increase your risk for hemorrhoids. Passing stools and spending more time sitting on the toilet can increase pressure and prompt veins around the anus, especially in the lower rectum, to stretch, swell and cause immense pain and discomfort.28

Q: Does diarrhea cause weight loss?

A: Chronic diarrhea can lead to unintentional weight loss, even without undergoing a diet or increasing physical activity.29 This mainly occurs because diarrhea can lower the amount of calories and nutrients the body absorbs from food.30

Q: What is postpartum diarrhea?

A: As its name implies, this type of diarrhea is prevalent among women who recently gave birth. This may develop because of rectal muscles and tissues that were extensively stretched during childbirth or hemorrhoids that may facilitate faster bowel movements.31

In some cases, diarrhea may be an indicator of a harmful infection called pseudomembranous colitis that usually affects women receiving antibiotics. According to the Global Library of Women’s Health, high amounts of Clostridium difficile bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract may cause women to expel foul-smelling and watery stools that may have traces of blood or leukocytes.32

Q: How do you get rid of diarrhea?

A: Diarrhea typically goes away on its own after a few days.33 Learn about the various natural treatments that can work in alleviating diarrhea, and the medications that you should avoid.

MORE ABOUT DIARRHEA

Diarrhea: Introduction

What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea In Kids

Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Diarrhea Duration

Is Diarrhea Contagious?

Diarrhea Causes

Diarrhea Types

Diarrhea Symptoms

Diarrhea Treatment

Diarrhea Prevention

Diarrhea Diet

Diarrhea FAQ



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[+] Sources and References [-] Sources and References

  • 1 Mayo Clinic, October 25, 2016
  • 2 International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea
  • 3 The Huffington Post, December 6, 2017
  • 4 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, February 2017
  • 5 MedicineNet, September 26, 2017
  • 6 MedicineNet, June 28, 2017
  • 7 Mayo Clinic, October 6, 2016
  • 8 VeryWell Health, December 20, 2017
  • 9 Medical News Today, March 22, 2017
  • 10 Medical News Today, September 15, 2017
  • 11 Medical News Today, January 5, 2018
  • 12 WebMD, September 10, 2011
  • 13 Reader’s Digest, "9 Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Water"
  • 14 WebMD, January 22, 2017
  • 15 VeryWell Family, December 6, 2017
  • 16 MeMD, "Urinary Tract Infections"
  • 17 Mayo Clinic, March 8, 2018
  • 18 Medical News Today, November 29, 2017
  • 19 “Coping With Ulcers, Heartburn, and Stress-related Stomach Disorders,” 2000
  • 20 Mayo Clinic, October 7, 2015
  • 21 EMedicineHealth, September 11, 2017
  • 22 American Cancer Society, May 30, 2018
  • 23 NHS Choices, January 27, 2016
  • 24 Mayo Clinic, June 3, 2017
  • 25 Florida Hospital, "Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives"
  • 26 Shape, March 17, 2015
  • 27 Health, January 25, 2015
  • 28 Mayo Clinic, March 6, 2018
  • 29 American College of Gastroenterology, December 2012
  • 30 MedlinePlus, January 26, 2017
  • 31 WebMD, September 21, 2017
  • 32 The Global Library of Women’s Medicine, "Serious Postpartum Infection"
  • 33 Health In Aging, "Eldercare at Home: Diarrhea"
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