Diarrhea can be a sign of many conditions, but chronic diarrhea may point to a serious disease. A bout of diarrhea is diagnosed as chronic diarrhea if it persists for a month or longer. If you experience diarrhea that lasts longer than 3-5 days and starts to impact your everyday life, it is vital to consult a doctor to get a diagnosis and the proper treatment as soon as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea causes loose stools but can also lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Most people with chronic diarrhea also report cramps, bloating, gassiness, and nausea.
Two symptoms that may indicate that you may need immediate medical attention are fever and bloody stools. Fever can be due to an infection, whereas a number serious conditions can cause blood in the stool.
Beware of These Foods and Medications
Antibiotics, for one, are known to cause temporary diarrhea because they destroy the gut bacteria as well as the pathogens or infection they are meant to eliminate.
Some herbs and herbal products may also trigger diarrhea due to being natural laxatives. Stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can also lead to chronic diarrhea and are also triggers of acute diarrhea.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners also have been associated with the development of chronic diarrhea. Food intolerances such as gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance can also trigger chronic diarrhea.
Chronic Diarrhea Is Linked to Other Similar Conditions
Chronic diarrhea can also develop due to an underlying chronic condition. In most of these cases, inflammatory bowel diseases, namely Colitis and Crohn’s, cause the symptom of chronic diarrhea.
Medications Are Not Enough to Treat Chronic Diarrhea
Without understanding the cause, treatment of chronic diarrhea can be difficult. Chronic diarrhea may be a side effect of a medication, so discussing your symptom with your physician should be the first step.
In most cases, loperamide (Imodium) and diphenoxylate are used to treat chronic diarrhea.
Imodium is over-the-counter, but Diphenoxylate is a prescription drug that slows down movement in the intestines.
Cholestyramine is also another option, which is primarily a medication used to lower blood cholesterol but also relieves chronic diarrhea.
Your treatment is not only about the drugs, however. Making dietary changes and avoiding food triggers is critical.
The elimination method works for pinpointing food triggers, which involves eliminating suspect foods for specified durations to see whether there is an improvement in your condition. For example, cutting out dairy for two weeks first, and if the problem is not dairy, then cutting out gluten, and so on. Here are some foods that commonly trigger diarrhea:
Dairy — even without lactose intolerance, products that are heavy on dairy may cause gas and bloating, at the very least.
Fried/processed foods — they are delicious, but anything fried and processed slows down digestion and causes bloating.
Spicy foods — Most people report worsened symptoms after they consume spicy foods that contain chili sauce, hot pepper, or curry. These loosen the stool very easily and cause diarrhea in those who do not even have chronic diarrhea.
Caffeine and Alcohol — Caffeine is a stimulant, so your morning coffee and happy hour may also cause watery stools.
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