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What are the main causes of diarrhoea?

The frequent bowel movements and stomach cramps leading to loose, watery stool is called diarrhoea. One may also experience nausea, vomiting, and sudden weight loss.  Usually caused by a virus, or contaminated food, sometimes diarrhoea can be a sign of other underlying issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or celiac disease due to persistent infection.

Most cases of diarrhoea are short-lived and the symptoms clear on their own in a matter of a few days, however, severe cases can lead to dehydration and might require intravenous fluids and medical attention.

Depending on the symptoms and severity diarrhoea is classified in 3 types.  The most common type of diarrhoea is acute diarrhoea, lasting for one to two days and doesn’t need treatment. Diarrhoea that persists for more than two to four weeks is known as persistent diarrhoea and requires medical intervention. Diarrhoea that lasts longer and is a recurring issue is known as chronic diarrhoea. Usually, chronic diarrhoea is a sign of an underlying medical issue and it is important to see a doctor.

Consulting the doctor

> Who can get diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is common and can happen to anyone. For some, it may happen multiple times, especially during monsoons when viral infections are rampant. However, it can be a serious health issue for young children, elderly people, and those with other medical conditions.

If diarrhoea lasts for more than 2 weeks, you must consult a doctor for medication and a proper diagnosis.

Causes of diarrhoea

  1. Viral Infection

Stomach flu or intestinal flu is caused by viral infection. Usually lasts a few days, with stomach cramps and watery diarrhoea, sometimes leading to vomiting and fever. You may develop stomach flu due to the consumption of contaminated food or water.

  1. Bacteria and Parasites 

Contaminated food or water has the potential to transmit bacteria and parasites to the body. Giardia lamblia found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with faeces, and Cryptosporidium commonly known as Crypto, are the two parasites that cause diarrhoea.

  1. Lactose Intolerance

Lactase; an enzyme produced by the small intestine is responsible for the digestion of sugar (lactose) in dairy and dairy products. Some people have lower-than-normal levels of lactase causing lactose intolerance. Most lactose-intolerant people experience gas, bloating, and diarrhoea after consuming dairy products. This condition can be managed with Dietary changes.

  1. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners such as mannitol or sorbitol are used in sugar-free products and mouth fresheners or chewing gums can cause diarrhoea.

  1. Medications and other Medical Treatments

Radiation therapy, overconsumption of laxatives, or heavy doses of antibiotics especially post-surgery can lead to diarrhoea. Antibiotics tend to destroy good bacteria along with the bad causing imbalance in the bacteria present in our intestines and leading to diarrhoea.

Medical Treatments

If you are not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours with severe stomach pain, vomiting, and headaches please consult a doctor near you, to book an appointment at A.J. Hospital, Mangalore, call us at +91 824 222 5533.