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What Causes Diarrhea?

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Chronic Diarrhea continued...

3. Diarrhea caused by chronic conditions

Diarrhea that doesn’t go away might be letting you know you have an untreated medical condition. If diarrhea lasts longer than three days, ask your doctor of you might have any of these diarrhea-causing conditions:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome -- A common disorder that causes cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort. Often, simple lifestyle and diet changes can bring irritable bowel syndrome under control.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease -- The digestive tract becomes inflamed and damaged, reducing its ability to absorb and deliver nutrients to the body. Your doctor can help you reduce the symptoms and damage of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Celiac disease -- When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their immune systems attack the lining of their intestines. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Unless the condition is managed, the intestines can lose their ability to absorb nutrients over time.
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis

Coping With Diarrhea

  1. Rehydrate. Water replaces fluid but not electrolytes lost through diarrhea. Electrolytes are minerals that help your body manage its fluid levels, muscle activity, and other important functions. Go for soup and broth with sodium, fruit drinks or a rehydration fluid such as Ceralyte, Oralyte, or Pedialyte. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise against using sports drinks to rehydrate after a bout of diarrhea.
  2. Eat bland, safe foods. When you have diarrhea, stick with soup and broth. When you feel ready, add lean meat, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and bread.
  3. Avoid food triggers. To put an end to diarrhea, steer clear of foods and drinks containing caffeine and lots of sugar, as well as sugar substitutes and fried or fatty foods. Also take a break from high-fiber foods, spicy foods, dairy products, and foods known to cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, and cabbage.
  4. Wash your hands. When you have diarrhea, wash even more often than normal, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating. Don’t bequeath your discomfort to family and friends -- have someone else prepare meals, or order out.

Many things can cause diarrhea, from environmental factors to chronic conditions. Pay attention to your symptoms and be sure to keep yourself hydrated and nourished until the diarrhea clears up. If the problem continues longer than two days, seek medical attention.

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Reviewed on September 10, 2011
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