Diarrhea, often referred to as loose stools, is a common tummy problem in the United States, affecting many people each year. It occurs when you have loose and watery stool more often than usual. The causes of diarrhea can vary, including infections, certain foods, or medications. It is a serious issue, leading to numerous hospitalizations annually. This highlights the importance of understanding and managing this condition. Loose stools can cause dehydration and other complications, so it’s crucial to seek appropriate care when needed. By learning more about the causes and symptoms of diarrhea, you can take steps to alleviate discomfort and maintain your overall health.
What Is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a condition that affects your tummy and makes you have loose and watery stools more often than usual. Normally, when you eat food, your body absorbs water from it, and the waste becomes solid as it passes through your digestive system. But when you have loose stools, this process gets disrupted. The food and water move too quickly through your intestines, and your body doesn’t have enough time to absorb the water. As a result, the poop comes out watery and loose.
Causes of Diarrhea
Diarrhea can happen for different reasons; some causes are more common than others. The most common causes of loose stools include viral infections, like stomach flu, or bacterial infections from eating contaminated food or water. These infections can make your tummy feel upset and lead to loose stool. Another common cause is food intolerance, where your body has trouble digesting certain foods, like lactose intolerance when you can’t handle dairy products. Medications, such as antibiotics, can also disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your gut and cause diarrhea. Sometimes, stress or anxiety can make your tummy act up and result in loose stools. In some cases, an underlying health condition, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can cause chronic loose stools. Other less common causes include:
- Parasitic infections
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Food poisoning
- Malabsorption disorders
- Gallbladder problems
- Gastrointestinal infections
Identifying the cause of loose stools is essential to determine the best way to manage and treat it effectively. Continue reading on the next page and discover how you can recognize diarrhea and if & when it’s time to find medical help.