While an occasional ride on the Hershey River isn’t typically cause for concern, chronic diarrhea can be a symptom of an underlying health condition.
What is chronic diarrhea?
Acute diarrhea is uber common. In fact, it’s the second most reported condition in the United States. The good news? It usually goes away within a few days.
On the other hand, chronic diarrhea is when diarrhea symptoms last more than 2 to 4 weeks.
Here are the dirty deets.
Diarrhea can turn your once proud, sturdy turds into a liquified poop sauce.
Other chronic diarrhea symptoms can include:
- abdominal cramps
- sudden, urgent need to go
- frequent bowel movements
Constant diarrhea may be a sign of an underlying health condition. But bad food or too much booze can also be a one-way ticket to poo town. Here’s the DL.
Excessive alcohol or caffeine intake
If you go too hard at $1 shot night, you might wake up with more than a gnarly headache. Alcohol consumption can alter the rate of digestion and absorption in the GI tract, which can lead to diarrhea.
Booze isn’t the only bevvy that can lead to a solo game of battle sh*ts. A coffee palooza can also trigger diarrhea. Caffeine is a stimulant and can wreak havoc on your digestive system if you overdo it.
Milk and artificial sweeteners
Certain foods just don’t vibe with your GI. Globally, an estimated 68 percent of adults have a tough time digesting dairy. So your morning cereal might come with a side of diarrhea. (You’re welcome for that visual 🥣💩.)
P.S. Some folks also experience diarrhea from artificial sweeteners (i.e., aspartame, sucralose, sorbitol, or mannitol).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If you have IBS, you know the struggle is real. In addition to diarrhea, this chronic condition can cause:
- gas 💨
- abdominal pain
Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
You’ve prob heard about ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease during a Price is Right commercial break. Both are types of IBD that can cause inflammation in the digestive tract.
In addition to chronic diarrhea, IBD symptoms include:
- bloody stool
- lower back or abdominal pain
Stool softeners and laxatives can cause diarrhea (obvi). But other meds can also lead to extra time on the porcelain throne 🚽.
- certain antidepressants
- chemotherapy treatments
- antacids that contain magnesium hydroxide
- antibiotics (i.e., cefpodoxime, amoxicillin, or ampicillin)
- proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole or lansoprazole
A bad batch of food or unfiltered water could lead to an infection. It’s pretty rare in the U.S., but you should watch out if you’re traveling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highest-risk destinations include:
- South America
- Middle East
- Central America
- Asia (minus South Korea or Japan)
It usually won’t lead to any long-term problems… but no one wants to Poughkeepsie their pants while on vacay.
Other conditions associated with chronic diarrhea include:
- gallbladder issues
- abdominal or intestinal surgery aftermath
- neuroendocrine tumors in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
- certain types of cancers such as pancreatic or colorectal
- hormonal disorders such as diabetes mellitus and overactive thyroid
There’s no one-size-fits all treatment for chronic diarrhea. How you treat chronic diarrhea depends on what’s making you poo with no abandon.
Treat underlying conditions
Treating an underlying condition — like IBD or IBS — may resolve or at least improve your chronic poop probs. Your doc can help you come up with a treatment plan for better bowel movements.
Certain meds can make it Poop O’Clock 24/7. Over the counter anti-diarrheal medications like Imodium or Pepto-Bismol can act as a short-term solution. But(t) in certain cases you might need to ditch the medication and find an alternative.
Milk, coffee, soda, or alcohol can cause diarrhea in some peeps. But clear liquids like water, noncaffeinated teas, or low sodium broth can help ease the flow. Just be sure you stick to high-quality H2O.
Switch up your meals
Not sure which foods are causing your chronic diarrhea? Remove certain nom noms from your diet until you know what’s what in the butt.
Pro tip: Try a food journal or diet app. They can help you keep track of what you’re eating. Then you can mark your symptoms after each meal.
Sometimes a tweak to your daily routine can slow the brown river’s mighty flow. Try to:
- limit or avoid alcohol
- switch to decaf coffee and herbal teas
- eat low fiber foods until your stomach settles
- practice mindful eating to avoid eating too much
Keep it natural
Natural remedies might help restore your gut to its former glory. Ask your doc about:
- probiotics that may help ward off bad bacteria and restore good bacteria
- soluble fiber supplements that can help bulk up your turds 💪
- ginger teas or supplements (Studies show ginger can be used to treat GI probs like nausea or diarrhea. But it’s def not a cure-all.)
Reminder: Avoid processed foods or foods with excessive fiber that can put stress on your tummy.
You might not be able to ditch chronic diarrhea 10/10 if you have an IBD or IBS. But changing certain habits can reduce your risks of a flare-up. These include:
- Cook your meat properly.
- Drink clean, filtered water.
- WASH YOUR HANDS FAM 🙌!
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.
- ALWAYS wash your produce before consumption.
- Keep a food diary to see which foods or drinks bother you.
- Clean kitchen surfaces to prevent bad bacteria from spreading.
A lot of liquids pass through your body when you have the runs. So it’s no surprise that diarrhea can make you dehydrated. Be sure to stay hydrated always (but especially if you’re dealing with diarrhea).
Here are some symptoms of dehydration:
- dark pee
- excessive thirst
Occasional diarrhea usually isn’t a big deal. But talk with your doctor if the liquid poo persists for more than a few days.
PSA: Call your doc ASAP if your diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms like blood in the stool, fatigue, dizziness, or nausea. It could be a sign of an underlying condition in need of some TLC.
Everyone has a poop prob from time to time. An occasional bout of diarrhea usually isn’t something to worry about. But if you deal with the trots on the reg, it might be a sign of an underlying condition.
Talk with your doc if your diarrhea lasts longer than a few days. In the meantime, try an OTC antidiarrheal and stay hydrated.