Diarrhea, an illness that leads to frequent watery stools, is a common healthcare concern in most developing countries, and even elsewhere. Almost everyone goes through some form of diarrhea at some point in their lives. Diarrhea is one of those conditions where the intensity of the illness makes the difference. While mild diarrhea may cause mere inconvenience, chronic diarrhea causes disabling and life-threatening conditions. Usually, diarrhea can majorly be characterized by loose stools, dehydration, cramping, and the like.
Diarrhea becomes a major concern when it leads to dehydration and reduction of essential fluids in the body. While a minor case of diarrhea generally lasts for a few days, acute diarrhea gets cured in a couple of weeks. Chronic diarrhea, however, is the one that usually lasts for more than four weeks. Such a condition usually requires complete diagnosis and treatment.
Several reasons can cause chronic diarrhea. While diarrhea that is caused by an excess of a certain food item can be easily treated, chronic diarrhea that may have stemmed out of a disease or a serious medical condition requires extensive treatment and care. Some of the common chronic diarrhea causes have been listed below.
Infection is one of the most common chronic diarrhea causes that requires immediate treatment. Chronic diarrhea can also be a result of the presence of an intestinal parasite or infection. An infection can be contracted from contaminated food and water, undercooked food, and the like. Often, food poisoning also causes chronic diarrhea that may also cause you to have the runs. People who are frequent travelers to tropical countries may have recurrent bouts of diarrhea.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is another common cause of chronic diarrhea which is accompanied by cramping and bloating. While most doctors cannot entirely diagnose the real cause of IBS, it is often caused by imbalances in gut bacteria, alterations in the gut motility, issues with fermented sugar, etc. Sometimes certain food items that cause chronic diarrhea may also lead to IBS. Food items that cause IBS include dairy products, caffeine, artificial, artificial sweeteners, certain fruits and veggies, etc.
Inflammatory bowel disease
This disease, unlike irritable bowel syndrome, is usually a result of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. IBD is usually divided into two types namely, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While most doctors believe that chronic diarrhea is not due to IBD, inflammatory bowel disease is surely one of the major symptoms of it. IBD is usually caused when the immune system attacks a part of the digestive tract.
Food allergy, sensitivity, and intolerance
Food sensitivity and intolerance is usually a popular cause of chronic diarrhea and often leads to a laxative-like effect. Usual triggers of food intolerance are dairy and grains. Commonly known as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance, many people find it difficult to digest these components in their diet. FODMAPs or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols make for some of the main chronic diarrhea causes. This food-related diarrhea is caused by sugar-like molecules.
Fibromyalgia is a kind of pain related to the musculoskeletal system that causes extreme fatigue. The condition is known to have some association with bowel issues. Many patients with fibromyalgia also have symptoms of IBS and chronic diarrhea.
An overactive thyroid often causes chronic diarrhea and weight loss. Diabetes too can be a cause of chronic diarrhea if the nerves that supply nutrition to the digestive tracts are injured. Adrenal disease and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can also act as common chronic diarrhea causes.
Ischemic bowel disease
The disease is generally caused by blocked arteries and results in frequent abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.
Another plausible cause behind chronic diarrhea could be diverticulitis that causes inflammation of external bulges and in the colon and intestines. When diverticulitis gets aggravated it may lead to chronic diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and the like.
Apart from the common diarrhea causes, it is essential that we know certain aspects that trigger diarrhea. Since chronic diarrhea can be caused by several factors it is important that you take necessary precautions to combat it. Some of the steps that can prevent chronic diarrhea are listed below.
Know your triggers
People who have frequent episodes of diarrhea must try to identify their trigger foods. It is important to note whether diarrhea is caused by a certain type of food or not. Once you identify your intolerance or food sensitivity, you can further avoid those items that can cause an adverse effect.
Avoid having undercooked food
Usually, undercooked, raw, or stale meat causes stomach disorders that can trigger chronic diarrhea causes. It is, therefore, important to eat only freshly prepared food that has been cooked thoroughly.
Disinfect potentially dirty areas
Since infection is one of the most common chronic diarrhea causes, it is important you adopt some precautions while cooking. Bench ops, stove tops, chopping boards, and all cooking tools should be wiped clean with an effective disinfectant.