IS CHRONIC DIARRHEA SERIOUS?
Diarrhea is a common problem that has afflicted just about everyone in the world at some point in their lives. In the United States, diarrhea is generally a passing problem. However, diarrhea lasting for a week or longer could indicate a digestive disorder, meaning you should make an appointment to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.
What Causes Chronic Diarrhea?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases, which are incurable diseases of the GI system that may be managed with medication. Since IBD causes inflammation in the digestive tract, a prescription for an anti-inflammatory may be necessary to control symptoms.
Food Allergy or Intolerance
Digestive distress can be caused by any food allergy, but the most common intolerances are lactose and wheat.
- With lactose intolerance, symptoms usually appear within 2-12 hours of consuming dairy products. If you continue to ingest dairy, however, it can lead to chronic diarrhea.
- Celiac disease is when your body has an allergic reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Celiac disease makes it hard to narrow down symptoms due to a specific meal because the disease damages your digestive system, so you can experience symptoms at any time.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is not caused by a known disease, and it is not triggered by a specific type of food. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is often treated with lifestyle and diet changes, such as adding more soluble fiber into your diet or following a low-FODMAP diet, which limits certain carbohydrate-heavy foods.
Infection From Water, Food, or Parasite
Chronic diarrhea can be caused by an infection transmitted through water, food, or a parasite. These infections are especially common in developing nations, so let your doctor know if you’ve recently traveled out of the country. However, improper hygiene here at home can also lead to infection. Make sure you clean meat before cooking it thoroughly, wash your hands before and after handling food, and clean kitchen surfaces to prevent contamination. Also wash your hands after changing a diaper, using the bathroom, or caring for a person who is sick.
If you’re experiencing chronic diarrhea, make an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists today. Your physician may perform stool tests, blood tests, or an endoscopic exam of your colon through a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.