Diarrhoea (also known as loose stools or watery stools) is defined as having multiple loose or watery stools in a 24-hour period. It is a symptom of many different underlying diseases and can also be caused by various medications, changes in diet, and intestinal infections. Symptoms of diarrhoea may include abdominal pain and cramps, as well as increased frequency and urgency of bowel movements. Severe cases may also cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnutrition. Treatment can include rehydration, antibiotics, and changes in diet. It is important to seek medical attention if diarrhoea persists for more than a few days, or if symptoms are severe.


The most common symptoms of diarrhoea are loose, watery stools, abdominal cramps, bloating, an urgent need to have a bowel movement, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Other symptoms that can accompany diarrhoea are loss of appetite, fatigue, gas, increased frequency of bowel movements, and dehydration.


The causes of diarrhoea can vary depending on the individual, but some known causes include:

  • Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, such as salmonella, E. coli, rotavirus, and Giardia
  • Intolerance or allergy to certain foods, such as lactose or gluten
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Medications, such as antibiotics
  • Chronic diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease
  • Poor diet and malnutrition
  • Changes in diet, such as eating too much or too little fiber
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeine in excess
  • Changes in temperature or climate

Risk factors

The primary risk factors for diarrhoea include:

  • Poor hygiene and sanitation: Poor hygiene and sanitation increases the risk of food and water contamination, leading to diarrhoea.
  • Use of antibiotics: Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut, leading to diarrhoea.
  • Unsafe drinking water: Contaminated drinking water can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause diarrhoea.
  • Poor nutrition: Malnutrition can lead to a higher risk of diarrhoea.
  • Age: Infants and young children are more vulnerable to diarrhoea due to their immature immune systems and lack of access to safe water and nutrition.
  • Poor medication management: Taking too many medications or taking medications improperly can lead to diarrhoea.
  • Travel: Travelling to areas with poor hygiene increases the risk of diarrhoea.
  • Exposure to certain bacteria and viruses: Exposure to bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and rotavirus can cause diarrhoea.


Diarrhoea is usually diagnosed based on medical history, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. During the physical exam, the doctor will check for signs of dehydration and examine the abdomen. Blood and stool tests may also be performed to look for bacteria or parasites that could be causing the infection. Additional tests, such as a scoping procedure, may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.


Diarrhoea can be broadly classified into three primary subtypes: osmotic diarrhoea, secretory diarrhoea, and inflammatory diarrhoea. Osmotic diarrhoea is caused by an imbalance between the level of water and electrolytes in the intestines. This is usually caused by an abnormal concentration of substances in the small intestine, such as lactose, which draws water into the intestines leading to frequent loose stools. Secretory diarrhoea is caused by an increase in the secretions of fluids and electrolytes into the intestine, usually as a result of a reaction to a toxin or an infection. Finally, inflammatory diarrhoea is caused by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract due to an infection or an autoimmune response, leading to an increase in the production of mucus and fluid, resulting in loose stools.


The treatment options for Diarrhoea depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Generally, the main treatment for diarrhoea is to ensure you stay hydrated by drinking fluids and electrolytes. This is important to prevent dehydration. You may also be given medications to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Other treatments include probiotics, antidiarrhoeal medications, antibiotics, and dietary changes. Depending on the cause of the diarrhoea, your doctor may suggest dietary adjustments, including reducing fibre and increasing complex carbohydrates. It may also be helpful to avoid caffeine and foods that are high in fat and sugar. Additionally, your doctor may recommend probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeast to help restore a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Finally, depending on the cause, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat any infections.


The best way to reduce the risk of diarrhea is to practice good hygiene and safe food handling. Some tips to do this include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and warm water before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Avoiding potentially contaminated food and beverages, such as raw milk, raw meat and seafood, and unpasteurized juice.
  • Cleaning fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
  • Avoiding beverages from unfamiliar water sources.
  • Making sure food is cooked thoroughly, especially when eating out.
  • Refrigerating leftovers promptly and reheating them to a safe internal temperature.
  • Avoiding those who are sick with diarrhea.
  • Not sharing food, drinks, or utensils with other people.

Following these simple tips can help reduce your risk of getting diarrhea and other food-borne illnesses.

Gender differences?

Yes, gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of diarrhoea exist. According to research, men are more likely to experience diarrhoea due to foodborne pathogens, whereas women are more likely to experience diarrhoea due to viral infections. Women are also more likely to be prescribed antibiotics to treat diarrhoea compared to men, even though antibiotics are not always necessary. Additionally, infant and young girl mortality rates due to diarrhoea are higher due to a lack of adequate care, nutrition, and educational resources made available to them.

In terms of treatment, gender considerations must be taken into account. Men are more likely to receive more aggressive treatment than women, leading to more rapid improvement of symptoms, but potentially more health complications down the line. Women may also experience greater stigmatization due to their diarrhoea, making it more difficult for them to seek appropriate treatment.


Nutrition plays an essential role in the management of diarrhoea. Eating a well-balanced diet helps to replenish lost vitamins and minerals, as well as promote healing and restore normal intestinal function. Additionally, eating foods high in fluids, such as soups and smoothies, helps to replace lost fluids caused by diarrhoea. Probiotic and prebiotics can also be very beneficial in restoring gut health and reducing the severity of diarrhoea. Finally, avoiding fatty and high-fiber foods can help to reduce symptoms as they can be difficult to digest.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can help reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea. Regular physical activity can increase the strength of the intestinal muscles and improve the body’s ability to digest food properly. This can help reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea. Additionally, regular physical activity can help the body maintain a healthy immune system, which can be beneficial in reducing the occurrence of diarrhoea. Physical activity can also help increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can also help reduce the effects of Diarrhoea.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448082/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK63847/
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-diarrhea-in-adults-beyond-the-basics
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/diarrhea.html
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158634

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *