Diarrhea, while inconvenient and annoying, diarrhea happens to everybody once in a while. However, when diarrhea lasts for four weeks or more, it can be considered chronic, and properly addressing chronic diarrhea is essential for avoiding a potentially dangerous situation.
What is Chronic Diarrhea and Why Does it Occur?
Typically, bouts of diarrhea or loose stools are acute, meaning they last for a short period of time and resolve on their own or with the help of some safe and gentle at-home support, like DiaResQ and probiotics. Chronic diarrhea is classified as having symptoms that last for four weeks or more, and it’s very important to get to the root of the problem.
Symptoms you might experience with chronic diarrhea include cramping, bloating, gas and local pain. While chronic diarrhea and acute diarrhea can have similar causes, an underlying medical condition could also be the source of your chronic diarrhea. Medical conditions that have been known to cause chronic diarrhea include irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
Another possible cause for chronic diarrhea is an unknown food allergy or sensitivity. Common intolerances include dairy, gluten, and artificial sweeteners, among others. Working with a nutritionist or other qualified health professional to do a thorough elimination diet and/or food allergy testing can be helpful in finding the cause of your discomfort. Keep in mind that certain food sensitivities (as opposed to allergies) will not show up during testing, but might still be contributing to your symptoms, which is why an elimination diet can provide particularly useful information.
Other potential triggers include medications, alcohol abuse or chronic health conditions like diabetes. If you know or suspect one of these factors to be causing your chronic diarrhea, it’s best to seek medical attention.
Treatment Options for Chronic Diarrhea
While it’s best to meet with your doctor to address what might be causing your chronic diarrhea, there are also some simple, safe measures you can take to support chronic diarrhea at home.
Diet and Lifestyle
Dietary and lifestyle factors can play a significant role in chronic diarrhea, so starting here is a good first step. Avoiding triggering foods like alcohol, caffeine, overly spicy or fatty foods, dairy, gluten, and sugar can oftentimes help alleviate diarrhea. Experimenting with a food and symptoms journal where you note when symptoms seem to worsen and connect them to possible problem foods can determine what foods might be causing the issue. Since overeating can exacerbate symptoms, keep portions reasonable and eat slowly – chewing your food thoroughly.
Probiotics and Supplementation
Supporting a healthy gut with a high-quality probiotic is safe and can be a useful tool in combatting diarrhea. Choose a broad-spectrum product and if any negative symptoms such as gas or bloating occur for more than a few days, stop taking your probiotic and meet with your doctor to discuss whether a probiotic is right for you.
When to Call Your Doctor
While the above at-home tips may help alleviate some symptoms of chronic diarrhea, we always recommend addressing the issue with your doctor. Stool and blood testing can help pinpoint specific causes, and they may feel a CT scan of the abdomen is necessary, especially if you are dealing with bloody stools or chronic pain in addition to diarrhea.
Of course, daily preventative measures are crucial, such as proper hygiene and food preparation. Chronic diarrhea can potentially lead to dehydration, so drinking plenty of water and replenishing electrolytes is always important. Lastly, never let symptoms persist without seeking advice or treatment from your physician.
DiaResQ is not intended for the treatment of chronic diarrhea.