Types Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. It is characterized by frequent, loose, and watery bowel movements, which can be accompanied by cramping, bloating, and other symptoms. There are several different types of diarrhea, each with its own causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Acute diarrhea is a type of diarrhea that typically lasts for a few days and is usually caused by an infection. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, and can be transmitted through contaminated food or water, or by contact with an infected person. Chronic diarrhea, on the other hand, is a type of diarrhea that lasts for more than two weeks and is usually caused by an underlying medical condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It is important to understand the different types of diarrhea so that you can take the appropriate steps to manage and treat your symptoms. In this article, we will explore the different types of diarrhea, their causes, symptoms, and treatments, as well as some tips for preventing and managing diarrhea.

Key Takeaways

  • There are several types of diarrhea, including acute and chronic diarrhea.
  • Diarrhea can be caused by infections, underlying medical conditions, and other factors.
  • Treatment for diarrhea depends on the type and underlying cause, and may include medication, diet changes, and other interventions.

Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. In general, diarrhea is the result of an imbalance in the digestive system that leads to the rapid movement of food and waste through the intestines. This section will explore some of the most common causes of diarrhea, including infections, diet and lifestyle, and medical conditions.


Infections are a common cause of diarrhea, particularly in developing countries. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all cause diarrhea by infecting the digestive system. Some common examples include:

  • Bacteria: Salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella are all examples of bacteria that can cause diarrhea.
  • Virus: The norovirus and rotavirus are common viral infections that can cause diarrhea.
  • Parasite: Parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium can cause diarrhea.

Diet and Lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle choices can also contribute to diarrhea. Some common causes include:

  • Foods: Consuming foods that are high in fat, fiber, or sugar can cause diarrhea. Spicy foods, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners can also trigger diarrhea in some people.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can cause diarrhea by irritating the digestive system and causing inflammation.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine can cause diarrhea by increasing the production of stomach acid and stimulating the muscles in the digestive system.
  • Lactose intolerance: People who are lactose intolerant may experience diarrhea after consuming dairy products.
  • Celiac disease: This autoimmune disorder can cause diarrhea and other digestive symptoms in people who consume gluten.

Medical Conditions

Finally, several medical conditions can cause diarrhea. Some common examples include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both examples of inflammatory bowel disease that can cause diarrhea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: This condition can cause chronic diarrhea and other digestive symptoms.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics and laxatives, can cause diarrhea as a side effect.

In conclusion, diarrhea can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, diet and lifestyle choices, and medical conditions. By understanding the common causes of diarrhea, individuals can take steps to prevent or manage this condition.

Types and Symptoms

Diarrhea is a condition that affects the digestive system, causing frequent and watery stools. There are different types of diarrhea, each with its own set of symptoms. The following subsections will discuss the most common types of diarrhea and their symptoms.

Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea is a type of diarrhea that typically lasts for one to two days. It is characterized by loose and watery stools and may be accompanied by abdominal pain, bloating, and fever. In most cases, acute diarrhea is caused by a viral or bacterial infection and goes away on its own without treatment. However, it is important to stay hydrated to prevent dehydration.

Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is a type of diarrhea that lasts for more than four weeks or comes and goes regularly over a long period. It is generally caused by an underlying health condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or celiac disease. Chronic diarrhea may also be a side effect of certain medications or a result of surgery on the digestive system. In addition to watery stools, chronic diarrhea may cause weight loss, fatigue, and malnutrition.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea is a type of diarrhea that affects people who travel to developing countries. It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water and is characterized by watery stools, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Traveler’s diarrhea usually goes away on its own within a few days, but it is important to stay hydrated to prevent dehydration.

In conclusion, diarrhea is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. Knowing the type of diarrhea and its symptoms can help individuals understand the underlying cause and seek appropriate treatment. It is important to stay hydrated and seek medical attention if diarrhea persists for an extended period or is accompanied by severe symptoms such as blood in the stool or high fever.

Diagnosis and Tests

When a patient presents with diarrhea, the doctor will perform a physical examination and take a medical history to determine the underlying cause. In some cases, laboratory tests and endoscopic procedures may be necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.

Physical Examination

During a physical examination, the doctor will look for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, sunken eyes, and reduced skin turgor. They may also check the patient’s abdomen for tenderness and bloating. A rectal exam may be performed to check for blood in the stool.

Laboratory Tests

Various laboratory tests may be ordered to help diagnose the cause of diarrhea. A stool test can detect the presence of bacteria, parasites, or viruses that may be causing the diarrhea. Blood tests can help determine if the patient is dehydrated or has an infection. In some cases, a hydrogen breath test may be ordered to check for lactose intolerance.

Endoscopic Procedures

If the underlying cause of the diarrhea is not clear from the physical examination and laboratory tests, the doctor may recommend endoscopic procedures. A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy can help identify any abnormalities in the colon or rectum. These procedures involve the use of a flexible tube with a camera that is inserted through the rectum.

In conclusion, a combination of physical examination, medical history, laboratory tests, and endoscopic procedures may be necessary to diagnose the cause of diarrhea. The doctor will determine which tests are necessary based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history.

Treatment and Management


In some cases, medications may be required to manage diarrhea. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection. However, antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, and their overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance. Probiotics, on the other hand, can help restore the balance of gut bacteria and reduce the severity of diarrhea. Loperamide is an over-the-counter medication that can slow down the movement of the intestines and reduce diarrhea. Bismuth subsalicylate is another over-the-counter medication that can help relieve symptoms of diarrhea.

Dietary Adjustments

Dietary adjustments can also help manage diarrhea. It is important to avoid foods that can irritate the digestive system, such as spicy or fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol. A bland diet consisting of foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast can help reduce symptoms. Additionally, increasing fiber intake can help bulk up stools and reduce diarrhea.

Rehydration Therapy

Rehydration therapy is essential in managing diarrhea, as it can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, clear broth, or an electrolyte solution, can help replace lost fluids and electrolytes. In severe cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary.

It is important to note that while medications and dietary adjustments can help manage diarrhea, it is also important to identify and address the underlying cause of the diarrhea. If symptoms persist or worsen, it is recommended to seek medical attention.

Prevention and Considerations

When it comes to preventing diarrhea, there are several considerations to keep in mind. This section will cover some of the most important ones, including hygiene and sanitation, dietary habits, and travel precautions.

Hygiene and Sanitation

One of the most important things to do to prevent diarrhea is to maintain good hygiene and sanitation practices. This includes washing your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom. If you’re in an area with poor sanitation, it’s important to take extra precautions to avoid exposure to contaminated water or food.

Dietary Habits

Another important factor in preventing diarrhea is to maintain a healthy diet. This means eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s also important to avoid foods that are known to cause diarrhea, such as spicy or fatty foods, and to limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.

Travel Precautions

If you’re traveling to an area where diarrhea is common, there are several precautions you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick. This includes avoiding tap water and ice, and only drinking bottled or boiled water. It’s also important to be careful about what you eat, and to avoid street food or food that has been sitting out for a long time.

In addition to these precautions, it’s also a good idea to get vaccinated before traveling to certain areas. This can help protect you against diseases that can cause diarrhea, such as cholera or typhoid fever.

Overall, preventing diarrhea requires a combination of good hygiene and sanitation practices, healthy dietary habits, and careful travel precautions. By taking these steps, you can reduce your risk of getting sick and enjoy a healthy, happy life.