Diarrhea can be brought on by many different reasons. Most people have experienced several bouts of diarrhea in their lifetime. But what causes diarrhea? First it is important to understand how our body works and why diarrhea can occur. When we eat food, our bodies turn the food into liquid form in order for it to pass through our digestive tract. Once the food hits the colon, the nutrition containing liquid is absorbed into the body and the remainder is formed into a firmer stool that is then expelled from the bowels. When we consume too much food or our food passes too quickly through the colon, the bowels do not have time to soak up the nutritional liquids or form the firmer stool. Also if our bowel functions are disrupted by an illness, the same can occur.
There are several reasons why our bowels may not be able to absorb the nutrients appropriately and thus causing diarrhea. One of the most common diarrhea causes is having a virus. Viral infections are extremely contagious. Those that interfere with the gastrointestinal tract can take several days or weeks to clear. When a person contracts a viral infection that results in diarrhea, it is extremely important to make sure the body is taking in enough nutrition and fluids to prevent dehydration and malnutrition from occurring. This is very important in babies and children. One of the most common viral infections that a child can contract that will result in severe diarrhea is the Rotavirus. This virus is easily transmittable and be passed in any environment with close interactions with others.
Another cause for diarrhea is a bacterial infection or a parasitic infection. Both bacteria and parasites can cause severe diarrhea in people. This can occur when a person ingests food or water that is contaminated with bacteria or parasites. A person may get extremely sick and have uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting shortly after consuming the contaminated food or water. This happens frequently in those who travel to other countries with less sanitary conditions. A few examples of such bacteria and parasites that cause severe illness are salmonella, E-Coli, shigella, campylobacter, Giardia lamblia and cryptosporidium. Many of these bacteria and parasites are also found here at home if food is not stored or prepared properly.
Diarrhea can also be caused by antibiotics. Depending on the type of medication prescribed, diarrhea can be one of the major side effects. Our digestive tracts contain many healthy bacteria that actually help us stay healthy and keep our bowels functioning properly. When we take antibiotics, they kill all the bacteria in our bodies, including the good bacteria. Without the healthy bacteria our bowels do not digest the foods properly and diarrhea can occur.
Other diarrhea causes are medically related. Those who are lactose intolerant can not consume milk products without suffering from diarrhea do to the lack of the natural enzyme lactase in the bowel. Also those who have chronic conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac Sprue or other colon disorders may suffer from diarrhea when they do not follow a very strict diet.
Many people have a problem digesting fructose or other foods containing artificial sweeteners as well. If you notice that certain food products cause you to have diarrhea more frequently then trying the elimination diet to see if that is the cause is often beneficial. Often cutting certain foods from the diet for a few weeks to see if a marked difference is noticed help you determine what is causing your diarrhea.
If you have diarrhea suddenly that is accompanied by vomiting, fever, chills or if it lasts longer than 3 days, it is a good idea to see a physician. Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do when a severe case of diarrhea strikes. Babies and children should be seen by a pediatrician if they are unable to keep any fluids in the body, dehydration can be deadly and should not be taken lightly.