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 a breakdown of food by enzymes and acids in the stomach and the small intestine, consumption of hot and spicy foods, intestinal disorders, bacterial infections from food poisoning, viral infections or medicinal or food reactions

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? What does green diarrhea mean?

A: People have bloody diarrhea or pass bloody stools due to an inflammation in the colon’s lining,5 or conditions like hemorrhoids, amebiasis, anal fissures or colorectal cancer.6

On the other hand, green-colored stools could happen after a person has consumed green-, blue- or purple-colored foods, iron-rich foods and supplements or green, yellow or blue artificial colorings. For some cases, however, this could indicate the presence of bacteria in the body.7,8

Q: Why does diarrhea burn and what does it mean if there’s mucus in diarrhea?

A: Burning diarrhea transpires because of a breakdown of food by enzymes and acids in the stomach and the small intestine, consumption of hot and spicy foods, intestinal disorders, bacterial infections from food poisoning, viral infections or medicinal or food reactions.9

Meanwhile, mucus in the stool, especially in large quantities, could show a gastrointestinal problem. An intestinal mucus layer shields the rest of the body from food residue and pathogens. Mucus may appear in the stool if an inflammatory process breaks down this layer.10

Other possible causes of mucus in diarrhea include dehydration, constipation and inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions (Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome) or intestinal infections.11

Q: Can dehydration cause diarrhea? What if you drink too much water?

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.

Meanwhile, 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.12

Q: Can probiotics cause diarrhea?

A: Probiotics may trigger diarrhea, mild stomach upset, flatulence (passing gas) and bloating. These side effects occur in the first few days after initial probiotic intake.13

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 antibodies in breastmilk can combat common childhood illnesses.14

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

A: UTIs are caused by microbes or bacteria that successfully evade the body’s natural defenses.15 When fecal bacteria enter the urethra, they multiply and travel upward to the bladder and kidneys, causing UTI. Bacteria can enter your body when you have diarrhea or through poor bathroom hygiene, catheter use, swimming in unsanitary water or anal sex.16

Q: Can kidney stones trigger diarrhea?

A: No, but diarrhea is a risk factor for kidney stones. Dehydration, a typical complication of diarrhea, increases a person’s risk for this condition.17 Even more, diarrhea affects the body’s absorption of nutrients like calcium, leading to kidney stone formation.18

Q: Can acid reflux (heartburn) cause diarrhea?

A: While no research has shown that acid reflux can cause diarrhea, a link was established between gastroesophageal disease (GERD), a condition wherein patients experience acid reflux twice a week, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder wherein patients encounter pain and changes in bowel habits like constipation or diarrhea.19,20

IBS usually coexists with a chronic form of GERD, and this may show that these two conditions have a common disease mechanism.21 Dr. Lauren B. Gerson of Stanford University also says that several theories exist that could indicate this connection between GERD and IBS. These are pain sensitivity, symptom confusion, confusion overlap and broadly defined-GERD.22

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).23 Potential ulcer patients are then predisposed to the different types of ulcers.24

Q: Can you get diarrhea after a colonoscopy? How about after gallbladder removal?

A: After a colonoscopy, some patients commonly experience diarrhea as a side effect, either due to laxatives or water used to prepare the colon prior to the procedure.25 Some also pass gas because air was pumped into the bowel.26 Diarrhea can also occur after gallbladder removal as it’s considered to be a postcholecystectomy syndrome (PCS). PCS happens because bile leaks into the stomach, or gallstones are left behind in the bile ducts.27

Q: Can you get diarrhea after running?

A: Yes. Frequent and loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run is called runner’s diarrhea. While there is no definite cause, physical jostling of the organs, reduced blood flow to the intestines, changes in intestinal hormone secretion and pre-race anxiety could contribute to this condition.28 Aside from runner’s diarrhea, however, there are various types of diarrhea that can target you or someone you know.

Q: Does taking birth control cause diarrhea?

A: Birth control pills can induce diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating, acne or constipation.29 Even worse, these pills may increase a woman’s risk for Crohn’s disease, which triggers diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition.30

Q: Why do you get diarrhea during your period?

A: Women have diarrhea during their periods due to a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin that cause the uterine muscles to contract and cramp during a menstrual cycle. When prostaglandin escapes into the bloodstream, it affects other smooth muscles, including those in the colon, and causes diarrhea.31

Q: Can diarrhea cause hemorrhoids?

A: Chronic diarrhea can increase your risk for hemorrhoids. Passing stools and spending more time sitting on the toilet causes the veins around the anus to stretch under pressure and bulge or swell, especially in the lower rectum, resulting in hemorrhoids.32

Q: Does diarrhea cause weight loss?

A: A chronic digestive problem like diarrhea can lead to unintentional weight loss, wherein the patient loses weight without undergoing a diet or increasing physical activity.33 This happens because the condition lowers the amount of calories and nutrients that the body absorbs from food.34

Q: What is postpartum diarrhea?

A: Postpartum diarrhea, or pseudomembranous colitis, happens among new mothers who received or are still receiving antibiotics. This occurs due to an overgrowth of a bacteria strain called Clostridium difficile in the gastrointestinal tract. Postpartum diarrhea is characterized by mild or severe diarrhea and odorous, watery stools that are sometimes mixed with blood or leukocytes.35

Q: How do you get rid of diarrhea?

A: Diarrhea typically goes away on its own after a few days.36 Learn about the various natural treatments that can work in alleviating diarrhea, and the medications that you should avoid like the plague.


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, Diarrhea
  • 2 International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea
  • 3 The Huffington Post, Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?
  • 4 Everyday Health, Is Your Diet Giving You Diarrhea?
  • 5 Men’s Health, 5 Strange Causes of Diarrhea
  • 6, 7 Enzyme Stuff, Studying Stools
  • 8 VeryWell, What Causes Green Poop and What To Do About It
  • 9, 11 wiseGEEK, What Are the Most Common Causes of Burning Diarrhea?
  • 10 Healthline, Why Is There Mucus in My Stool?
  • 12 Reader’s Digest, 9 Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Water
  • 13 Cleveland Clinic, Probiotics
  • 14 VeryWell, Diarrhea and the Breastfed Baby
  • 15 Medical News Today, Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
  • 16 MeMD, Urinary Tract Infections
  • 17 Mayo Clinic, Kidney Stones
  • 18 Medical News Today, Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
  • 19, 21 Healthline, IBS and Acid Reflux
  • 20, 22 Everyday Health, GERD and IBS: What’s the Connection?
  • 23 Mayo Clinic, Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
  • 24 University of Maryland in Medical Center, Peptic Ulcers
  • 25 Reference, How Long After a Colonoscopy Does a Person Normally Have Diarrhea?
  • 26 American Cancer Society, Frequently Asked Questions About Colonoscopy and Sigmoidoscopy
  • 27 NHS Choices, Gallbladder removal — Complications
  • 28 Mayo Clinic, Runner’s Diarrhea: How Can I Prevent It?
  • 29 Florida Hospital, Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives
  • 30 Shape, Is Your Birth Control Causing Tummy Troubles?
  • 31 Health, Your Period: Answers to All of Your Questions
  • 32 Mayo Clinic, Hemorrhoids
  • 33 Healthline, What Causes Unintentional Weight Loss? 80 Possible Conditions
  • 34 MedlinePlus, Weight Loss — Unintentional
  • 35 The Global Library of Women’s Medicine, Serious Postpartum Infection
  • 36 Health In Aging, Eldercare at Home: Diarrhea