Diarrhea: 15 Common Causes and How To Treat It

  1. Viruses: Viral infections, such as the stomach flu (gastroenteritis), are the most common cause of diarrhea.
  2. Bacteria: Bacterial infections, such as food poisoning and salmonellosis, can also cause diarrhea.
  3. Parasites: Parasitic infections, such as giardia and cryptosporidium, can also cause diarrhea.
  4. Lactose intolerance: Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
  5. Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.
  6. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.
  7. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory diseases that affect the digestive tract. It includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  8. Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and some laxatives, can cause diarrhea as a side effect.
  9. Food allergies and intolerances: Food allergies and intolerances can also cause diarrhea. Some common food allergens and intolerances include lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and gluten intolerance.
  10. Stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety can also trigger diarrhea.
  11. Traveling: Traveling to countries with poor sanitation can also increase your risk of diarrhea.
  12. Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol and mannitol, can also cause diarrhea in some people.
  13. Surgery: Surgery on the digestive system can also cause diarrhea.
  14. Cancer: Certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer and pancreatic cancer, can also cause diarrhea.
  15. Medical conditions: Other medical conditions, such as overactive thyroid, Addison’s disease, and diabetes, can also cause diarrhea.

How to Treat Diarrhea

The best way to treat diarrhea depends on the underlying cause. However, there are some general things you can do to relieve diarrhea symptoms, such as:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. It is important to stay hydrated to prevent dehydration. Good fluids to drink include water, clear broths, and sports drinks.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you and make diarrhea worse.
  • Eat bland foods. Bland foods, such as rice, toast, and crackers, can help to settle your stomach.
  • Avoid fatty, spicy, and greasy foods. These foods can irritate your stomach and make diarrhea worse.
  • Take over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medications, such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), can help to reduce diarrhea symptoms.

If you have diarrhea for more than two days or if you have other symptoms, such as fever, bloody stools, or severe dehydration, see a doctor.

Additional Tips for Preventing Diarrhea

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and preparing food.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Avoid drinking tap water in countries with poor sanitation.
  • Get vaccinated against rotavirus and hepatitis A.

If you have any questions or concerns about diarrhea, talk to your doctor.