What causes diarrhoea?
There are a few causes that result in diarrhoea, they are commonly known as infections of the bowels, those being:
- A viral infection – these can be norovirus (a very common stomach bug in the UK, known as the winter vomiting bug, even though it can be caught at any time of the year) or rotavirus which causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis).
Rotavirus results in severely watery stool, vomiting and fever. However, it can be treated and medical advice should be sought. It is commonly known to affect children and can be prevented with a vaccine known as the rotavirus vaccine.
- A bacterial infection – this can often be picked up in food and include examples such as E. coli (Escherichia coli), salmonella or cholera.
- A parasitic infection – these are spread in water and can cause giardiasis and amoebiasis (also known as amoebic dysentery)
Some of the above infections may often be caught when travelling through foreign countries where your stomach is not used to the foreign foods and water and therefore can easily pick up an infection. This acute type of diarrhoea is referred to as traveller’s diarrhoea and it is something many of us are prone to experiencing or have experienced – making for a very uncomfortable few days when on holiday.
It is therefore important to eat food that is not undercooked, expired or unhygienically prepared as well as to avoid water that is not from a tap and clean. It is always a good idea to check out the healthcare options in countries you may be travelling to.
Other causes of diarrhea
Although diarrhoea can be the result of a bowel infection, it can also be linked to other causes:
- Feeling anxious or suffering from anxiety – this puts a lot of physical stress on your bowels which may lead to your body not processing food well. This can also link to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), often resulting in chronic diarrhoea.
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Food allergies – when your body is unable to digest a particular food such as lactose found in milk and dairy products, it will often not process it properly, resulting in diarrhoea. Sugary fruits can also result in diarrhoea for some people as their bodies are unable to digest the sugar found in fruits and honey called fructose. This is also common with artificial sweeteners.
- Damage to the intestinal lining due to radiology
- Medication – it is not uncommon that diarrhoea is the side effect of the medicine you are taking. Common medication includes:
- Antibiotics (this can be alleviated by taking these in conjunction with probiotics)
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Other digestive disorders resulting in chronic diarrhoea such as:
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Inflammatory bowel diseases – these are conditions that cause inflammation of the gut such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease as well as Gastroenteritis.
- Gluten intolerance such as coeliac disease
- Bowel cancer