Learn About Ailments | Diarrhoea


(or Diarrhea in American English) is an unpleasant ailment where the patient has frequent and profuse watery loose bowel movements, which can cause dehydration.

In This Article
Watch the diarrhoea video Causes of diarrhoea
Symptoms of diarrhoea Diagnosis of diarrhoea
Related terms


Did you know?
  • Diarrhoeal diseases account for 1.4 million child deaths worldwide
  • 16,000 people die in Europe every year because of diarrhoeal disease
  • On average, adults get four cases of diarrhoea every year
  • Around 20% of people using antibiotics will get diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is grouped into two types: acute and chronic.

Acute diarrhoea is typically caused by an infection of the bowel (known as gastroenteritis). The infection can be caused by the following:
  • Viruses
  • Food poisoning – e.g. salmonella, campylobacter
  • Bacterial infection – e.g. E.coli
  • Antibiotics
  • Contaminated water
  • Contaminated food
Acute diarrhoea can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, anxiety, excess caffeine or as a side effect of certain medications.

Chronic (or persistent) diarrhoea can be a symptom of:
  • A viral infection
  • A bacterial infection
  • Poor nutrition
Or it can be caused by chronic conditions such as:
  • IBS
  • Diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Coeliac disease
  • Lactose intolerance

The main symptoms of diarrhoea include watery stools, stomach pains and stomach cramps. There may be an urgent need to go to toilet as well as feeling nauseous or vomiting.

Diarrhoea may be accompanied by a fever, headache or loss of appetite as well as dehydration (it's important to drink water when suffering with diarrhoea to prevent dehydration). Diarrhoea lasting two weeks or more may be a signal of a more serious underlying condition.

Acute diarrhoea usually settles within a few days and a GP visit may not be necessary. Should symptoms persist or if blood is present in the stools then seek medical advice as soon as possible. Your GP may request you bring a stool sample to your appointment to test for bacteria or parasites.

Should a more serious condition be suspected your GP may refer you for blood tests and a sigmoidoscopy whereby a thin lens is inserted into the rectum to view the intestines.

Therapies to consider
Acupuncture Allergy Intolerance Testing Aromatherapy
Ayurvedic Medicine Baby Massage Bowen Therapy
Chinese Herbal Medicine Colonic Hydrotherapy Detoxification
Flower Essence Therapy Herbal Medicine Homeopathy
Naturopathy Nutrition Shiatsu


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