Chronic Diarrhea: What Are the Causes and How to Get Relief

Chronic Diarrhea: What Are the Causes and How to Get Relief

by Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian

Chronic diarrhea is a problem affecting approximately 5% of the population and is defined by loose stools, increased stool frequency, or increased urgency lasting for more than four weeks.1 The causes of chronic diarrhea can range from diet to medication, surgery to radiation therapy and working with your healthcare practitioner is essential to get to the root of the problem and address any potential issues that may arise from it (dehydration, nutritional imbalances, etc.).

If you are someone who suffers from chronic diarrhea, it is common to look to an antidiarrheal therapy to mitigate some of the symptoms. As the microbiome is such a vital part of our intestinal health, it is also critical to understand how chronic diarrhea may impact the microbiome and what do to best support if you are suffering.


Defining Diarrhea & Chronic Diarrhea

Diarrhea is best defined as frequent, loose, and watery bowel movements.2 In acute instances, diarrhea is typically caused by a virus or bacteria.2 It may also be the result of antibiotic therapy, which results from the disruption of the normal microbiota that resides in our gut.3

Diarrhea is defined as “chronic” when it lasts for longer than four weeks. This type of diarrhea is generally not infectious but instead the result of an issue that is altering normal gut motility and transit time.


Causes of Chronic Diarrhea

Food Intolerance: occurs when something in a food (e.g. lactose, soy, gluten) irritates a person’s digestive system and cannot be properly digested.4

Antibiotic Therapy: while antibiotics are great at killing infectious bacteria they also kill off good bacteria. This creates an unstable gut microbiota that enables the growth of diarrhea-causing bacteria (like C. difficile).5 Antibiotic-associated diarrhea may also result from a decrease in metabolism of carbohydrates and bile acid.5

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): those who suffer from IBS typically experience abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating and constipation along with diarrhea. If you think you might suffer from IBS look to see if you fit these criteria and follow up with your doctor.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease): both of these ailments are serious diseases affecting the intestine, causing abdominal pain, discomfort, fatigue, food triggers, and frequent bouts of diarrhea. If you suffer from either of these, it is recommended you work closely with a healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of action for you.


Diarrhea and Your Microbiota

The human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells, these being primarily bacteria in the gut.6 Our ability to understand this complex system in our body is ever-evolving but what is certain is that the microbiota plays an important role in regulating our digestion, metabolism, inflammation and overall systemic responses in the body.

When your microbiota becomes imbalanced (otherwise known as gut dysbiosis), it can result in a chronic bout of diarrhea. But, unfortunately, any bout of acute or chronic diarrhea, regardless of the cause, can strip the bacteria in your gut and result in gut dysbiosis, which can exacerbate the issue creating a very uncomfortable negative feedback loop. Regardless of the cause, any type of chronic diarrhea can have lasting effects on your body and your health, so it is absolutely critical to be both proactive and reactive with probiotics.


Chronic Diarrhea Treatment

Treatment for chronic diarrhea will be highly personalized based on your specific issue that is at the root of it. We can’t reiterate this enough, but if you are experiencing chronic diarrhea, it is important to work with a healthcare practitioner and address your individual needs.

That said there are a few lifestyle tips that anyone suffering from digestive upset can benefit from.

To support your gut and reduce diarrhea, the following are critical to consider:


1. Eat a Mindful Diet

Food can either be the root issue (like lactose intolerance) of chronic diarrhea or exacerbate other issues (like inflammatory bowel disease). If you suspect a particular food or food group may be behind chronic diarrhea, it is advised to keep a food journal of what you ate and how you felt after to inform your healthcare team better. If you aren’t sure of whether or not a specific food is behind your digestive issues, you could also try an elimination diet, avoiding the main culprits like gluten, dairy, soy, alcohol, fried foods, or spicy foods to see if that improve your digestion.7

If you have been suffering from a recent bought of diarrhea, you may want to support your digestive system with easy to digest foods such as banana, rice, oats and crackers. Consider adding an electrolyte drink in daily, too, to replenish lost fluids.8


2. Limit Stress

Stress is an environmental factor that manifests itself in many ways in our body. In addition to other issues, stress can result in chronic diarrhea making stress management an important factor to pay attention to. If you think stress is taxing your gut and causing frequent bouts of diarrhea, consider exploring ways to manage it daily through a calming outlet. This might include exercise, meditation, yoga, massage, reading, or writing.


3. Take a Daily Probiotic

When suffering from diarrhea, supporting your gut with a probiotic is imperative to help repair or maintain the balance of good bacteria. In fact, scientific research shows that when taking a high-quality probiotic, the incidence of diarrhea is resolved at a faster rate than when not taking a probiotic.

Choosing to use a high-quality probiotic that contains Lactobacilli cultures will effectively support gut dysbiosis and help repair the microbiome. The three unique strains of bacteria contained in Bio-K+ products, which are of human origin, work in synergy with the families already present in our digestive tract to stimulate growth and repopulation of good bacteria in our bodies and help eliminate the cause of diarrhea.


If you have questions about your intestinal health, diarrhea or the human microbiota in general, reach out to us in the comments below. Join our community for more healthy tips. To stock up on Bio-K+, click here. Contact us or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.














Jef L’Ecuyer
About the author
Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
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