Diarrhea: Causes, Prevention and Treatment


Diarrhea is typified by increased frequency of bowel movement and loose, watery stools.

What causes Diarrhea?

This is caused by the intestines not absorbing enough fluid, producing too much fluid or stool moving too quickly through the intestine for fluid to be absorbed. Acute diarrhea is the most common form, with bout usually lasting 1-2 days. Chronic diarrhea can last for 4 or more weeks and is often a sign of a more serious underlying illness.

Traveller’s Diarrhea is a name given to a type common among people travelling to countries with poor sanitation and warm climates . Traveller’s diarrhea is usually caused by E.Coli bacteria.

Diagnosing Diarrhea

As diarrhea is so common, testing usually isn’t necessary. For chronic or frequent bouts, you may want to see a doctor to find out if there is an underlying cause. This testing may involve blood or urine testing , a fasting test to see if a food allergy may be responsible, or a stool sample to check for bacterial infection or disease. For severe cases, a colonoscopy (a check of the entire colon) or a sigmoidoscopy (a check of the rectum and lower colon) may be necessary to check for intestinal diseases.

Diarrhea Symptoms

Aside from an increased need to go to the bathroom and loose, watery stools, there are a number of secondary symptoms that may present as well. These include nausea , abdominal pains and cramps, bloating, a fever and dehydration . Depending on the severity, you may experience one or more of these secondary symptoms.

Causes of Diarrhea

There are many possible causes of diarrhea, ranging from mental health issues to serious disease. These potential causes include:

  • Alcohol - excessive consumption
  • Antibiotics and other medication that can affect gut flora
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Food Intolerances/Allergies
  • Food Poisoning - food with viral or bacterial contamination
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Giardia and other parasitic infections
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Radiotherapy
  • Viral Infection - such as Flu and COVID-19 

If you need to get your intestines working right again, the easiest and most convenient way is to book a doctor's appointment online through MyHealth1st.


Diarrhea Self Care

For acute diarrhea, over the counter medication can lesson the symptoms and give your intestines time to absorb fluid. You should not starve yourself when you have diarrhea - by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods and high fibre foods can help aid recovery.

The most important thing to do when you are suffering diarrhea is to keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of clear liquids . Specialist rehydration drinks or drink mixes are excellent for staying hydrated. They contain the right ratio of water, sugar and salt to meet the basic needs of your body.  

See a Doctor If:

  • You should see a doctor if you have any of the following additional symptoms:
  • Blood in the stool
  • Dehydration (dizziness, lethargy, infrequent and dark urine)
  • Diarrhea lasts more than a week
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Stool is very dark and tar-like
  • Vomiting and no ability to keep food down

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