What Causes Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common problem, which causes an individual to pass loose and watery stools. The bowel movement happens quite frequently during this condition, due to which the individual develops an urge to defecate several times a day. There could be various factors responsible for contributing to diarrhea, let us explore them.   

  • Bacterial or parasitic infections

Bacteria and parasites enter the host body through foods or beverages that are contaminated with pathogens. The pathogens include bacteria, fungi, viruses, worms, and protozoa, which are responsible for causing infectious diseases in the host body. These pathogens can infect the stomach and intestines by causing irritation and inflammation. The inflammation caused due to such infectious bacteria is termed Gastroenteritis, which is a type of flu, related to the stomach and intestines.


Gastroenteritis is very common, but it does have a major health risk, as it can give rise to other problems such as severe dehydration, vomiting, fever, stomach cramping, nausea, dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, and weight loss. These pathogens can be of different kinds, for example, E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and so on. If the condition is left untreated, it might lead to severe dehydration, as some types of viruses are quite aggressive, which troubles the host’s intestines by causing inflammation and persistent bowel movements.   

One can prevent these bacterial or viral infections from affecting gut health, by consuming clean food or beverages that are cooked or prepared in a hygienic environment, using good quality resources. Hygiene plays a pivotal role here.

  • Malabsorption

In this condition, the individual may be deprived of enough nutrients, which happens due to indigestion. Malabsorption is a digestive issue that affects an individual’s ability to get adequate nutrients because of the lack of proper breakdown of food in the gut and failure in the absorption of nutrients.

For the absorption of sufficient nutrients, the enzymes of the stomach and gut break down the food particles for metabolization. The nutrients get absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestines, and this is how the food gets metabolized. But during malabsorption, the undigested food gets passed on to the intestines, due to which the human body increases the bowel movement for getting the nutrients absorbed. The increased bowel movement makes the stools loose and watery, thereby causing gastrointestinal discomfort and hence diarrhea. Thus, diarrhea is a side effect of malabsorption.     

  • Medications

Medicinal effects can also lead to diarrhea. Certain medications such as antidepressants, antibiotics, antacids, chemotherapy medications, etc. can kill the gut bacteria that are present in millions, responsible for aiding the process of digestion. There are two types of bacteria present in the gut – bad bacteria and good bacteria. The medications can kill off both bacteria, which causes an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. This imbalance affects the function of bowel movement, thereby causing diarrhea.

  • Viruses

Diarrhea due to viral infection happens due to viral gastroenteritis, which causes stomach and intestinal inflammation. There are various viruses that can give rise to such issues with gut health. They include norovirus, rotavirus, coronavirus, sapovirus, adenovirus, viral hepatitis, etc. These viruses cause diarrhea and several other symptoms including fever, nausea, vomiting, and weakness. One can get a vaccination for preventing such viruses from affecting their health.

  • Food intolerance

Some individual’s body might not be allergic or intolerant to certain kinds of foods or substances. A prominent example of this can be lactose intolerance, in which the individual might develop some health issues due to their body’s intolerance to lactose-based products such as milk, cheese, etc. If such an individual consumes dairy products, they might experience symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

  • Surgery

An individual who had abdominal, intestinal, or gall bladder removal surgery can have diarrhea for a few days. This might happen due to the lack of proper absorption of foods. Diarrhea is a common side effect of such surgeries, which goes away after a few days when the normal function of gut and bowel movement gets restored.    

Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration, leading to other health problems such as headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, urinating less frequently, increased thirst, and lightheadedness. If diarrhea persists beyond two days and you cannot see any signs of improvement, then it is necessary to talk to your doctor. Leaving it untreated will only add to your health damage, as dehydration might become more severe.

Do not wait for the symptoms to become worse, seek medical attention immediately. Which will eliminate the risk of severe dehydration. Diarrhea causes a loss of excess body fluids along with electrolytes. Restoring the fluids and electrolytes might require an individual to take adequate rest and avoid any physical activity and exercise for a few days.  

Diarrhea prevention

  • Eat home-cooked meals, and try to avoid street food, eating at hotels, restaurants, etc. Such foods might not be prepared in hygienic conditions or using good quality resources, so, it is better to consume clean foods that are prepared at home.
  • Get yourself vaccinated against various viruses.
  • Do not consume foods that your body is intolerant of.
  • Maintain personal hygiene. Always wash your hands before eating. Bath regularly and keep your surroundings clean.
  • Always take medications after consulting your doctor, consuming OTC medications without the knowledge of their side effects can increase your risk of diarrhea and other digestive issues.   

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