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

 

Defining Diarrhea & Chronic Diarrhea

Diarrhea is best defined as frequent, loose, and watery bowel movements.2 In acute instances, acute diarrhea is typically caused by a virus or harmful 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

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

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

IBS

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.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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.

 

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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 diarrhea or chronic diarrhea, regardless of the cause, can strip the live bacteria in your gut and result in gut dysbiosis, which can exacerbate the issue creating a very uncomfortable negative feedback loop. So, will probiotics help with diarrhea? Regardless of the cause, any type of chronic diarrhea can have lasting effects on your body and your gut health. So, the answer is yes, 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 severe 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 fermented food and 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 Supplements

 

Can probiotics help with diarrhea? When suffering from diarrhea, supporting your gut with a probiotic supplement is imperative to help repair or maintain the balance of good bacteria. In fact, scientific research shows that when taking probiotics, the incidence of diarrhea is resolved at a faster rate than when not taking a probiotic.8 So, what are the best probiotics for diarrhea?  



Choosing to use a high-quality probiotic with the right probiotic strain like Lactobacilli cultures will effectively support gut dysbiosis. The three unique strains of live bacteria contained in Bio-K+ products, which are of human origin, work in synergy with the families already present in our digestive tract to support the population of good bacteria in our body and may 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.

 

 

References

1. https://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(16)30501-8/pdf

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024806/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123310/

4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-intolerance

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123310/

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426293/

7. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-to-eat-when-you-have-diarrhea#foods-to-eat

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0088728/

 

 


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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