What Is Diarrhea? Types, Causes and Symptoms

Nov 16, 2022, 16:45 IST

Diarrhea is a condition where an individual experiences a high frequency of loose and watery stools. The term is derived from the Greek words "Dia" and "rhein," meaning "flowing." It is usually not a life-threatening disease, and its symptoms vary due to many causative factors.

It is primarily caused by a decrease in fluid absorption by the intestines or an increase in fluid secretion or rapid passage of stool through the intestines. Diarrhea is divided into two types, viz.

  • Acute diarrhea - Acute diarrhea may last 2 or 3 days but not more than a week. It is not life-threatening and can be cured by taking appropriate medicines.
  • Chronic diarrhea - Chronic diarrhea can last for 1 or 2 weeks, but it can last much longer. Other underlying gastrointestinal conditions usually cause this.

Types of Diarrhea

Following are the types of Diarrhea :

  1. Secretory diarrhea – Excess fluid is excreted into the intestines.
  2. Osmotic diarrhea – occurs when too much water is absorbed into the intestines.
  3. Motility-related diarrhea – Where the intestines are too active and move bowel contents at a high rate, so there is not enough time for water and electrolytes to be absorbed. This results in loose and watery stools.
  4. Collagenous Colitis – In this condition, the intestinal lining is damaged, so it cannot absorb water and electrolytes.
  5. Inflammatory diarrhea – Where the intestines are damaged due to bacterial or fungal infections.

Causes Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea has many pathological factors and other factors such as :

  • Intestinal disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Consuming food that affects the digestive system
  • Surgery to the digestive system
  • Radiation therapy
  • Food poisoning
  • Skin cancers

Symptoms Of Diarrhea

Symptoms of this disease include-

  • Loose stools
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • The feeling of a bowel movement
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools (rare cases)


Generally, acute diarrhea will resolve independently within 2 to 3 days without any treatment. Regardless, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

Here are some treatments your doctor may recommend:

  • Antibiotics may be helpful if bacterial or parasitic infections cause symptoms
  • Water, which contains salt and electrolytes, helps replace lost fluids
  • Medicines that treat symptomatically.
  • If the problem persists for more than a week, it is recommended to consult a gastroenterologist.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What are the four types of diarrhea?

Ans. It can be divided into three categories: watery, fatty (malabsorption), and inflammatory.

Q2. What organ does diarrhea affect?

Ans. Diarrhea occurs doe to more fluid passes through the large intestine (colon) than that organ can absorb. The colon can also absorb various times more fluid than is required on a regular basis.

Q3. Does diarrhea empty your stomach?

Ans. Your Colon Is Never Empty.

Q4. What should you not eat after diarrhea?

Ans. Following are the foods to avoid when you have diarrhea-

  • fried, fatty, greasy foods
  • spicy foods
  • processed foods, especially those with additives.
  • pork and veal
  • sardines
  • raw vegetables
  • rhubarb

Q5. What drinks help diarrhea?

Ans. The most important treatment for diarrhea is to drink fluids that may contain salt, water and sugar, such as oral rehydration solution (ORS). Sports drinks (eg, Gatorade) can be acceptable if you are not dehydrated and also otherwise healthy.

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