- What could be causing my upset stomach?
- Causes – Acute Diarrhea
- Causes – Chronic Diarrhea
- Risk Factors
- Treating Acute Diarrhea
- Author(s) and Publication Date(s)
- Causes of chronic diarrhea and how to treat it
- Rare Disease Database
- What causes abdominal pain and diarrhea?
What could be causing my upset stomach?
Why is my stomach upset?
Wondering why your stomach is churning? There are many possible causes for your upset stomach. Here are the main culprits:
Food and drink
If your stomach is upset, it may be something you ate or drank. This may be due to:
- food poisoning: When food becomes contaminated with viruses, bacteria, or parasites, it can cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, or fever.
- overeating and drinking: If you eat or drink too much, you can get indigestion or an upset stomach.
- eating certain types of foods: Greasy, spicy, or fatty foods can sometimes cause indigestion or an upset stomach.
Upset stomach can also be caused by lifestyle factors, such as:
- eating too fast or eating on the run
- emotional stress
- too much alcohol or caffeine
- travel (motion sickness)
Upset stomach is usually a mild problem that goes away on its own. But sometimes it can be a sign of a medical issue, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), ulcers, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, an intestinal infection, and some types of cancer.
Upset stomach can also be a sign of pregnancy. If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test and check with your doctor before using any products to treat your upset stomach. Not all products are safe for pregnant women.
See your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed below under “What can I do about my upset stomach?”
What can I do about my upset stomach?
Usually, you can treat your upset stomach at home with medications like:
- bismuth subsalicylate
- anti-nausea medication containing dimenhydrinate
- antacids containing calcium carbonate, aluminum or magnesium hydroxide
- non-prescription strength acid-blockers containing famotidine or ranitidine
To learn more, see “What can I do about occasional indigestion?”
When trying a non-prescription product, be sure the product is right for you. Always read and follow the label. Check with your pharmacist if you have any questions.
See your doctor if you have trouble swallowing, pain when swallowing, blood in the stool or black tarry stools (keep in mind that bismuth subsalicylate can darken the stool), bleeding from the rectum, fever or chills, unexplained weight loss or fatigue, chest pain, persistent vomiting, vomiting blood, moderate to severe abdominal pain, dehydration, no bowel movements for 7 days, pencil-thin bowel movements, or bowel problems that keep coming back.
These tips are intended for adults. If your baby or child has an upset stomach, get medical advice.
The biggest signs of dehydration to look out for: You’re incredibly thirsty, your skin and mouth are dry, you’re not peeing much or at all (plus your urine is a dark yellow color when you do actually pee), and you feel weak, dizzy, faint, or fatigued. If you have any of these signs along with your diarrhea, get to the emergency room, Dr. Farhadi says. You may need IV fluids to replace what you’ve lost.
3. You’ve recently developed mouth sores.
When this happens along with diarrhea, doctors generally think of Crohn’s disease, Dr. Staller says. In addition to causing diarrhea, the inflammation that comes with Crohn’s can create sores in your digestive tissue. “Crohn’s disease can affect anywhere in the GI tract, from the mouth down to the anus,” he explains. This is as opposed to ulcerative colitis, which is limited to your large intestine and rectum.
This can also be a sign of celiac disease, a condition in which eating gluten leads to an immune response in your small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. You might be tempted to chalk up your mouth pain to something like a canker sore, but if you’re also dealing with diarrhea, you should see your doctor to make sure something larger isn’t going on.
4. You have severe stomach or rectal pain.
Severe stomach pain with diarrhea can signal many issues, from something as simple as gas to a potentially life-threatening condition like appendicitis, Christine Lee, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF.
This could also be a sign of a more chronic condition like IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome where diarrhea is the main symptom) or, again, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, Dr. Staller says. “Any diarrheal disease can cause pain,” he says, because diarrhea inflames and irritates the area. “The rectum has very sensitive nerves,” he adds.
Unless you happen to be a gastroenterologist, it’s going to be really hard for you to tell what’s behind this pain + diarrhea equation on your own. If you’re experiencing diarrhea and a lot of pain, a visit to the doctor is in order.
5. There’s pus in your diarrhea.
Pus is a yellow-ish, mucus-y liquid your body produces when trying to fight infection, Dr. Staller says. “It’s a marker of inflammation,” he explains, adding that the inflammation is part of your body’s immune response to whatever it has deemed a threat.
Diarrhea that contains pus is a common sign of ulcerative colitis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Those sores it creates in your gastrointestinal tract can lead to pus that comes out in your poop.
6. Your diarrhea is bloody or black.
Blood in your poop could hint at a range of things. You could have a hemorrhoid (a clump of bulging veins in your rectum or around your anus), Dr. Lee says, but that typically causes only a bit of blood, not the kind that might set off alarm bells. It can also be a sign of a foodborne illness, the Mayo Clinic says. (For instance, Campylobacter bacteria is notorious for causing this, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
But, like with many other items on this list, this could be a sign that you have a chronic condition like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. When you have these conditions, your immune system may attack your GI tract to the point that it bleeds, Dr. Staller says. Either way, if a good portion of your poop is bloody or black (which hints at blood that has oxidized, so bleeding may be coming from higher up in your GI tract), you need to see a doctor right away, Dr. Farhadi says.
7. You have a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
This generally indicates that you have some kind of infection that’s compromising your system, Dr. Lee says, although a fever can also be your body’s response to the inflammation that comes along with conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. “Any time there is a fever and diarrhea, you should have your guard up,” Dr. Staller says. And, as you might guess, you should see your doctor.
Acute diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States, second only to respiratory infections. Worldwide, it is a leading cause of mortality in children younger than four years old, especially in the developing world. Diarrhea that lasts less than 2 weeks is termed acute diarrhea. Persistent diarrhea lasts between 2 and 4 weeks. Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than 4 weeks.
Diarrheal stools are those that take shape of the container, so they are often described as loose or watery. Some people consider diarrhea as an increase in the number of stools, but stool consistency is really the hallmark. Associated symptoms can include abdominal cramps fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and urgency. Chronic diarrhea can be accompanied by weight loss, malnutrition, abdominal pain or other symptoms of the underling illness. Clues for organic disease are weight loss, diarrhea that wakes you up at night, or blood in the stools. These are signs that your doctor will want to do a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of your symptoms. Also tell your doctor if you have a family history of celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), have unintentional weight loss, fever, abdominal cramping or decreased appetite. Tell your doctor if you experience bulky, greasy or very bad smelling stools.
Causes – Acute Diarrhea
Most cases of acute, watery diarrhea are caused by viruses (viral gastroenteritis). The most common ones in children are rotavirus and in adults are norovirus (this is sometimes called “cruise ship diarrhea” due to well publicized epidemics). Bacteria are a common cause of traveler’s diarrhea.
Causes – Chronic Diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea is classified as fatty or malabsorption, inflammatory or most commonly watery. Chronic bloody diarrhea may be due to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Other less common causes include ischemia of the gut, infections, radiation therapy and colon cancer or polyps. Infections leading to chronic diarrhea are uncommon, with the exception of parasites.
The two major causes of fatty or malabsorptive diarrhea are impaired digestion of fats due to low pancreatic enzyme levels and impaired absorption of fats due to small bowel disease. These conditions interfere with the normal processing of fats in the diet. The former is usually due to chronic pancreatitis which is a result of chronic injury to the pancreas. Alcohol damage to the pancreas is the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis in the United States. Other causes of chronic pancreatitis include cystic fibrosis, hereditary pancreatitis, trauma to the pancreas and pancreatic cancer.
The most common small bowel disease in the U.S. is celiac disease, also called celiac sprue. Crohn’s disease can also involve the small bowel. Whipple’s disease, tropical sprue, and eosinophilic gastroenteritis are some of the rare conditions that can lead to malabsorption diarrhea.
There are many causes of watery diarrhea, including carbohydrate malabsorption such as lactose, sorbitol, and fructose intolerance. Symptoms of abdominal bloating and excessive gas after consuming dairy products suggests lactose intolerance. This condition is more common in African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Certain soft drinks, juices, dried fruits and gums contain sorbitol and fructose, which can lead to watery diarrhea in people with sorbitol and fructose intolerance. Diarrhea is a frequent side effect of antibiotics. Certain other medications such as NSAIDs, antacids, antihypertensives, antibiotics and antiarrhythmics can have side effects leading to diarrhea.
Parasitic intestinal infections such as giardiasis can cause chronic diarrhea. Diabetes mellitus may be associated with diarrhea due to nerve damage and bacterial overgrowth; this occurs mainly in patients with long-standing, poorly-controlled diabetes.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition often associated with diarrhea, constipation or more frequently alternating diarrhea and constipation. Other common symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain relieved with defecation and a sense of incomplete evacuation.
Exposure to infectious agents is the major risk factor for acute diarrhea. Bacteria and viruses are often transmitted by the fecal-oral route, so hand washing and hygiene are important to prevent infection. Soap and water are better because alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not kill viruses. Medications such as antibiotics and drugs that contain magnesium products are also common offenders. Recent dietary changes can also lead to acute diarrhea. These including intake of coffee, tea, colas, dietetic foods, gums or mints that contain poorly absorbable sugars. Acute bloody diarrhea suggests a bacterial cause like Campylobacter, Salmonella or Shigella or Shiga-toxin E. coli. Traveler’s diarrhea is common in those who travel to developing countries and results from exposure to bacterial pathogens most commonly enterotoxigenic E. coli. The best method of prevention is to avoid eating and drinking contaminated or raw foods and beverages.
Most episodes of acute diarrhea resolve quickly without antibiotic therapy and with simple dietary modifications. See a doctor if you feel ill, have bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain or diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours. In patients with mild acute diarrhea, no laboratory evaluation is needed because the illness generally resolves quickly. Your doctor may perform stool tests for bacteria and parasites if your diarrhea is severe or bloody or if you traveled to an area where infections are common. If you have severe diarrhea, blood tests will be helpful to guide replacement of fluid and electrolytes and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and zinc that can become depleted.
If you have chronic diarrhea, your doctor will want to further assess etiologic factors or complications of diarrhea by obtaining several tests. These can include a blood count to look for anemia and infections, an electrolyte and kidney function panel to assess for electrolyte abnormalities and renal insufficiency, and albumin to assess your nutritional status.
A stool sample may help define the type of diarrhea. The presence of fat, microscopic amounts of blood, and white blood cells will help determine if a fatty, inflammatory, or watery diarrhea is present. A bacterial culture and ova/parasite studies of a stool specimen will also help determine if an infectious etiology is present.
Endoscopic examination of the colon with flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and upper endoscopy are helpful in detecting the etiology of chronic diarrhea, as this allows direct examination of the bowel mucosa and the ability to obtain biopsies for microscopic evaluation. Double-balloon enteroscopy and capsule endoscopy are sometimes used to examine the mucosa of the small intestine that lies beyond the reach of conventional endoscopes.
Radiographic studies such as an upper GI series or barium enema are not routinely performed in the evaluation of chronic diarrhea, and have largely been replaced by cross-sectional imaging. Ultrasound and CT scan of the abdomen can be helpful to evaluate the bowel, pancreas and other intra-abdominal organs.
Treating Acute Diarrhea
It is important to take plenty of fluid with sugar and salt to avoid dehydration. Salt and sugar together in a beverage help your intestine absorb fluids. Milk and dairy products should be avoided for 24 to 48 hours as they can make diarrhea worse. Initial dietary choices when refeeding should begin with soups and broth.
Anti-diarrheal drug therapy can be helpful to control severe symptoms, and includes bismuth subsalicylate and antimotility agents such as loperamide. These, however, should be avoided in people with high fever or bloody diarrhea as they can worsen severe colon infections and in children because the use of anti-diarrheals can lead to complications of hemolytic uremic syndrome in cases of Shiga-toxin E. coli (E. coli 0157:H7).
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have high fever, dysentery, or moderate to severe traveler’s diarrhea. Some infections such as Shigella always require antibiotic therapy.
Treatment of chronic diarrhea depends on the etiology of the chronic diarrhea. Often, empiric treatment can be provided for symptomatic relief, when a specific diagnosis is not reached, or when a diagnosis that is not specifically treatable is reached.
Antimotility agents such as loperamide are the most effective agents for the treatment of chronic diarrhea. They reduce symptoms as well as stool weight. Attention should be paid to replacing any mineral and vitamin deficiencies, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Author(s) and Publication Date(s)
Blanca Ochoa, MD and Christina M. Surawicz, MD, MACG, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA – Published October 2002. Updated April 2007. Updated December 2012.
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Causes of chronic diarrhea and how to treat it
There are many potential causes of chronic diarrhea. Some of the most common include:
Excessive alcohol or caffeine intake
Share on PinterestDrinking large amounts of alcohol may cause chronic diarrhea.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee or cola, can cause loose and watery stools.
When a person stops consuming these substances or starts to consume them in more moderate amounts, the symptoms should resolve.
Sugar and dairy
Certain sugars and artificial sweeteners may cause diarrhea. Consuming these sweet substances every day can even lead to chronic diarrhea.
Examples of such sugars and artificial sweeteners include:
- Sorbitol: Manufacturers use this calorie-free sugar substitute in candies, chewing gums, and sugar-free items.
- Mannitol: This sweetener can have a laxative effect similar to that of sorbitol.
- Fructose: This naturally occurring sugar is present in fruit and honey. Eating large amounts of fruit can cause diarrhea due to its high fructose content. Food producers may also add fructose to candies and sodas.
- Lactose: This is a natural sugar in dairy that can cause chronic diarrhea in people whose bodies cannot digest it. Around 65% of people around the world have problems digesting lactose.
Herbs and herbal remedies
Herbal remedies and herbal teas, such as senna, may contain natural laxatives.
If a person is using several herbal products at once, it may be a good idea to stop using them all, then reintroduce them one at a time. This may help the person work out which product is the cause of the chronic diarrhea.
Chronic diarrhea can be an adverse effect of several prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Some common medications that can cause diarrhea include:
- most antibiotics, including cefpodoxime, amoxicillin, and ampicillin
- some antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors
- antacids that contain magnesium hydroxide
- laxatives and stool softeners
- proton pump inhibitors, including omeprazole and lansoprazole
- chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer
Also, diarrhea may signal toxicity from some medications, such as lithium and digoxin.
In some cases, an intestinal parasite can give rise to chronic diarrhea. This is less common in the U.S. than in countries with less developed food and water sanitation.
A stool test is usually necessary to diagnose a parasitic infection. A doctor may also carry out a biopsy.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for several chronic conditions involving inflammation of the gut. Two of the most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Some symptoms of IBD include:
- blood in the stool
- stomach pain and cramps
There is currently no cure for IBD. However, people can usually manage it using medications and by making lifestyle changes.
These can include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This is a functional disorder that can cause diarrhea, constipation, or both.
- Gallbladder removal: Following this procedure, more bile may build up in the colon. This may lead to diarrhea.
- Hormonal disorders: Some examples of hormonal disorders include overactive thyroid and diabetes.
- Surgery: Diarrhea can be a complication of some types of abdominal or intestinal surgery.
- Allergies: In rare cases, food allergies can lead to loose and watery stools.
- Rare tumors: For example, carcinoid tumors produce hormones that cause diarrhea.
Winter months bring attention to influenza. And while it’s important for parents to be familiar with the symptoms, treatment and complications of the flu, moms and dads should also be on the lookout for other viruses that strike this time of year.
What is Adenovirus?
Adenovirus infections peak in winter and spring; but unlike the flu, they remain common throughout the year. These viruses cause about 10 percent of all childhood fevers, and nearly every child has had at least one adenovirus infection by 10 years of age. The most common site of infection are cells lining the upper respiratory tract. Adenovirus can also invade the lungs and infect the eyes, stomach and intestines. Rarely, these viruses sneak past the immune system and strike the liver, heart or brain.
Adenovirus hijacks the inner-workings of cells, turning them into virus-producing factories. This serves to multiply the virus and spread infection, but eventually leads to cell destruction and an intense inflammatory response. There are over 60 human serotypes of adenovirus, so while you may form immunity against one type, there are plenty more waiting to strike again.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of adenovirus depend on the site of infection. Since the upper respiratory tract is most common, kids usually present with fever, nasal congestion, cough and sore throat. Eye involvement brings conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”), and gastrointestinal infection leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes all these symptoms are present during the same illness!
Fever from adenovirus is usually short-lived, but other symptoms can last a week or more. This is because even after the virus has been defeated, the body must clean up destroyed cells and make new ones. More serious adenovirus infections, including viral pneumonia and involvement of the liver (hepatitis), heart (myocarditis), or brain (meningitis and encephalitis), are RARE in healthy kids, but can become a life-threatening concern for young infants and those with weakened immune systems.
How is it diagnosed?
Many viruses cause symptoms similar to adenovirus. These illnesses tend to be mild, well-tolerated and treated the same. Since testing does not change the course of disease or impact its treatment, and since adenovirus tests are expensive and have limited availability, they are generally reserved for those admitted to the hospital with severe or complicated disease.
How is it treated?
Most adenovirus infections are self-limited. This means they get better on their own with time. Families can offer supportive care: lots of rest, plenty of fluids, nasal suctioning or nose blowing, humidifier in the bedroom and age/weight-appropriate doses of fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Still, it’s recommended your child see his/her doctor to verify the illness is caused by a virus and no complications, such as pneumonia, sinusitis or an ear infection have set in.
When adenovirus infects the eyes, antibiotic eyedrops may be used to prevent secondary bacterial infection, and gastrointestinal involvement may be treated with medication to control nausea and vomiting, along with fluids to prevent or treat dehydration.
Can it be prevented?
Adenovirus is a hearty microorganism. It remains viable on objects and surfaces for a long time, and alcohol-based sanitizers do not kill it. The virus is present in oral secretions, respiratory droplets, eye drainage and stool (where it can shed for weeks or months following infection). It transmits easily from one child to another, especially when kids are in close contact within daycare centers and classrooms. It also spreads without direct contact, with shopping carts, doorknobs, toys and play equipment common sources of contamination. This explains why adenovirus infection is common!
Kids should stay home when they have a fever, learn to cover coughs and keep hands away from eyes, nose and mouth. Frequent hand washing with soap and water, especially after using the restroom and prior to eating, will also lower the risk of acquiring adenovirus disease.
For more information on choosing urgent or emergency care for your child, .
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Rare Disease Database
Symptoms of the following disorders may be similar to those of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Comparisons may be useful for a differential diagnosis:
Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome may be characterized by TSS-like symptoms and findings, the sudden onset of shock, and impairment of various organ systems due to infection with certain toxin-secreting strains of streptococcus bacteria (group A beta-hemolytic streptococci). The syndrome, which was initially reported in the mid to late 1980s, may occur in adults or children. The skin and soft tissues are usually the primary sites of infection. Factors that appear to increase the risk of infection may include certain surgical procedures, particular viral infections (e.g., varicella, influenza), and exposure to affected individuals in close environments such as hospitals or nursing homes. Associated symptoms and findings may vary from case to case, depending upon the causative bacterial strain and other factors. Reported features have included initial flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting; low blood pressure (hypotension); confusion; an accelerated heart rate (tachycardia), unusually rapid breathing (tachypnea), and other findings; and sudden onset of shock and multiple organ failure, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.
Scarlet Fever is an infectious disease of childhood usually caused by certain toxin-secreting strains of streptococci bacteria (group A beta-hemolytic streptococci). Symptoms may include sore throat, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a strawberry color to the tongue, and the development of a pinkish-red rash that may be most apparent on the sides of the chest, on the abdomen, and within skin folds. Following resolution of fever, the outer region of previously reddened skin may peel. Other symptoms and findings may also be present.
Kawasaki Disease is a rare inflammatory disease of unknown cause that most commonly affects infants and young children. It may be characterized by a sudden fever that lasts for approximately one week or longer; dryness and cracking of the lips; a strawberry-red tongue; swelling of one or more lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy); and/or a reddish skin rash affecting the hands and feet, trunk, and other regions. By about two to three weeks following symptom onset, affected skin tissue may peel (desquamate) from the tips of the fingers and toes, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and/or other affected areas. Other symptoms and findings may include inflammation and redness of the “whites” of the eyes (bilateral conjunctivitis); irritability; fatigue; inflammation, pain, and swelling of many joints (polyarthritis); and/or other abnormalities. In addition, affected individuals may develop inflammation of arteries that transport blood to heart muscle (coronary arteritis); associated bulging or widening (aneurysms) of the walls of affected coronary arteries; inflammation of heart muscle (myocarditis); and/or other symptoms and findings. Evidence suggests that Kawasaki Disease is the primary cause of acquired heart disease in children in the United States. Some researchers indicate that toxic substances produced by certain forms of bacteria, such as streptococci or staphylococci, may play some role in causing the inflammatory disease process. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Kawasaki” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
The Ehrlichioses are rare infectious diseases caused by bacteria in the Ehrlichia family. Three forms of Human Ehrlichial infection have been identified, including Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis (HGE), Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (HME), and Sennetsu Fever. The bacteria that cause HGE and HME are carried and transmitted by certain ticks. Cases of Sennetsu Fever, which have been limited to Malaysia and Western Japan, are thought to result from ingestion of raw fish. Though caused by different strains of Ehrlichia bacteria, the three disorders are characterized by similar symptoms. Such symptoms may include a sudden high fever, headache, muscle aches (myalgia), chills, a general feeling of ill health (malaise), and fatigue. Some affected individuals may also develop nausea, vomiting, sore throat, cough, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and/or other symptoms. Rarely, a skin rash may appear. Laboratory testing may reveal abnormally low numbers of circulating blood platelets (thrombocytopenia), reduced numbers of white blood cells (leukopenia), and increased levels of certain liver enzymes. Without prompt, appropriate treatment, potentially life-threatening complications may occur in some cases. (For further information, choose “Ehrlichiosis” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Leptospirosis is a group of infectious diseases caused by bacterial organisms known as spirochetes (Leptospira), which are transmitted in the urine of certain domestic and wild animals, including dogs, raccoons, and rats. Symptoms may include fever; chills; muscle aches; inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain (meningitis), with associated headache, stiffness of the neck, and, in some cases, mental changes; and/or other abnormalities. The most severe form of Leptospirosis, known as Weil Syndrome, may also be characterized by reduced blood clotting and associated bleeding within tissues; inflammation of the liver (hepatitis); yellowish discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes (jaundice); kidney (renal) failure; and/or other complications. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Leptospirosis” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Other infectious diseases or inflammatory syndromes may potentially cause certain symptoms and findings similar to those associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome. (For further information, please choose the exact disease name in question as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
What causes abdominal pain and diarrhea?
Diarrhea may be acute and occur suddenly, or chronic and develop slowly and last for a few days.
Some of the most common causes of abdominal pain and acute or chronic diarrhea include:
Share on PinterestA viral infection may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Diarrhea may result from a bacterial or viral infection of the stomach and bowel, which doctors call gastroenteritis.
People may get bacterial gastroenteritis by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms usually occur within a few hours or days of consuming the contaminated food.
People may also contract viral gastroenteritis, which some people call stomach flu, from someone who has the infection.
Symptoms typically go away without treatment after a few days in both cases. People can try home remedies, such as drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking over-the-counter medications to ease discomfort.
Parasitic infections can also cause acute diarrhea and abdominal pain. This type of infection often clears up within a few weeks. Persistent outbreaks may require medical treatment.
2. Reactions to food
Something a person has eaten or drunk can potentially cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other types of stomach problems. Symptoms typically occur for short periods and will usually go away a few hours after eating.
Diarrhea after eating may have causes including:
- sudden changes in diet
- eating rich, fatty foods
- food sensitivities
- celiac disease, where the body cannot break down gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley
More than 20 percent of people experience food sensitivities, according to some research.
It is not always clear why diarrhea occurs after eating. Keeping a food diary can help. Once people know which foods are causing the problem, they can address it.
Remedies may include introducing new foods and dietary changes slowly, eating fewer rich meals, and limiting or avoiding trigger foods. People with celiac disease will need to remove gluten from their diet permanently.
3. Indigestion and overeating
Overeating can result in indigestion, diarrhea, and stomach ache because the digestive system struggles to deal with large amounts of food.
Both adults and children can experience the side effects of overeating, but children may be more likely to do so. This is because children cannot always differentiate between feeling hungry and feeling full.
To avoid overeating, people can:
- practice portion control and measure out foods
- fill up on high-fiber, low-calorie options, such as vegetables
- take the time to chew food thoroughly
Another helpful technique is mindful eating, which involves paying attention to the taste and texture of each bite of food. This includes avoiding distractions, such as television, during mealtimes.
Persistent diarrhea can suggest a chronic condition, such as IBS. This condition does not damage the digestive tract but may cause symptoms including:
- stomach cramps
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) about 12 percent of people in the United States have IBS. The majority are female.
There is no cure, but people can manage their symptoms by:
- reducing stress
- making dietary changes
- getting enough good quality sleep
- drinking plenty of liquids
- taking supplements
- using medications
5. Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of conditions that affect the bowel, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 1.3 million people in the United States have IBD.
- abdominal pain
- bloody stool
- weight loss
IBD may result in damage to the digestive tract, unlike IBS. It is therefore essential that people with the condition manage their symptoms.
Treatment aims to reduce the inflammation that causes bowel damage and digestive symptoms. Options include medication, supplements, dietary changes, and surgery.
Share on PinterestArt therapy may help reduce stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety can stimulate bowel movements, which may result in diarrhea.
Stress may also play a role in the development of IBS or make symptoms worse.
There is a link between the brain and the gut, which may explain why stress can lead to digestive problems.
For example, occupational stress may stimulate the gastric response.
People can reduce stress by trying:
- meditation and mindfulness
- regular exercise
- deep breathing techniques
- art or music therapy
People should see a doctor or mental health professional who can recommend medications, therapy, or a combination of both for persistent or severe stress.
6. Medications and alcohol
Too much alcohol can interfere with digestion and lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or other symptoms. People might consider limiting alcohol intake to avoid these issues.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists moderate alcohol consumption as up to 1 drink daily for females and up to 2 drinks daily for males. People should aim to avoid alcohol for several days per week.
Some medications can also cause stomach problems, with many medicines listing diarrhea as a side effect.
Drugs that may cause diarrhea include:
- antacids containing magnesium
- chemotherapy drugs
- laxative overuse
- metformin, which is a diabetes drug
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Diarrhea sometimes goes away after a few days of using a new medication as the body adjusts. If diarrhea persists for several days after beginning a new drug, people should contact their doctor who may suggest an alternative.
Pregnant people often experience diarrhea and other bowel changes, potentially due to hormonal and structural changes in the body.
Changes in dietary habits and new food sensitivities can also cause diarrhea during pregnancy.
Contact a doctor for a check-up and advice if diarrhea persists for more than a few days during pregnancy.