Diarrhea: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment tips


Everyone has a different bowel habit which is normal for them, but diarrhea is commonly defined as having looser or more frequent stools than is normal for you. It occurs when the lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed or irritated. This prevents essential salts and fluids from food in the intestine being absorbed by the body, causing watery poo.

Most people get diarrhea every now and then and it is usually nothing to worry about. However, diarrhea can be painful and upsetting and it can take a few days or even a week to clear up. Diarrhea can be of sudden onset and lasting for less than four weeks (acute) or persistent (chronic).


Symptoms of diarrhea can range from slightly loose stools with an upset stomach, to longer-term extremely watery stools and cramps.

Common diarrhea symptoms include the following:

  • Stomach cramps
  • An urgency to go to the toilet to pass loose motions – at least 3 times in 24 hours
  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Feeling hot and having a high temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence (wind).

Diarrhea symptoms usually stop within 5 to 7 days. If symptoms persist call your doctor.


Many different things can cause diarrhea including infection, food poisoning, medication and stress:

1. Infection and food poisoning

Diarrhea can be a symptom of an acute bowel infection, often referred to as gastroenteritis. This can be caused by:

  • Viral infection: such as norovirus or rotavirus.
  • Bacterial infection: such as campylobacter, Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella or shigella. All of these cause food poisoning.
  • Parasites: such as giardia intestinalis parasite which causes giardiasis, often caused by consuming contaminated food or drink.

Diarrhea caused by an infection in the bowel usually comes on suddenly and lasts for five to 10 days, which is described as short term or acute diarrhea. There may be vomiting associated but this tends to settle within the first couple of days.

2. Dietary changes

Diarrhea can also simply be caused by changes in diet, for example:

  • Eating foods with high amounts of the artificial sweetener sorbitol
  • Suddenly eating an excess of certain fruits
  • Eating rich creamy dishes
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

3. Stress related

Stress and anxiety can cause diarrhea in some people and may be a major factor in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

4. Chronic conditions

Some conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease can all cause persistent or intermittent chronic diarrhea.

5. Medication

Many medicines, including Antibiotics, Antacids containing magnesium, Orlistat and SSRI antidepressants have the potential to cause diarrhea. The symptoms will usually reverse on stopping the medication.

Medicines used to treat constipation if used in excess may cause diarrhea.

Certain bowel infections may be more likely if a person has had multiple antibiotic treatments when unwell and bugs that normally do not cause a problem – like Clostridium Difficile – overgrow in the bowel causing symptoms.


You can usually treat yourself and your child for diarrhea at home. Diarrhea caused by an infection should clear up within a couple of days while your immune system fights the infection, but see your doctor if your symptoms persist.

Treatment for diarrhea depends on the cause, but may include the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration

The first thing you should do is drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. Drinking more fluids than usual will help you to rehydrate. An adult should aim to drink at least 200mls of water after each bout of diarrhea, so that your urine is clear or pale straw colored. Sip gently if you’re nauseous or vomiting.

Babies, young children, pregnant and vulnerable people with diarrhea can become dehydrated very quickly and need prompt medical attention. Seek urgent medical help if you suspect someone is dehydrated and not improving.

  • Try rehydration products to replace lost salts and minerals

Rehydration products such as Dioralyte, which contains glucose, salts and water, which can be lost through diarrhea is important at all ages. These don’t stop or reduce diarrhea but replace lost salts and minerals and keep the body working normally.

  • Take anti-diarrhea medications

For adults, if you need to urgently stop the frequency of loose bowel movements (if you’re going on a plane for example), you can take anti-diarrhea medicines containing loperamide such as Imodium. Loperamide is not recommended for children under 12 as it is thought better to let the infection clear by itself.

For bacterial diarrhea in adults, a medication containing bismuth subsalicylate, such as Pepto-Bismol liquid may also be effective.

5 home remedies to treat diarrhea

Try the following tips to ease your discomfort from diarrhea:

  • Drink lots of water or squash – try sipping from a straw if you are feeling sick. For babies, try giving small sips of water between feeds.
  • Get plenty of rest and stay at home – this will help to prevent spreading the infection.
  • Eat easily digestible small meals – eat as soon as you feel like it. Try dry crackers, bread or soups. Eggs provide a good source of energy from protein and can help bind the gut contents.
  • Avoid certain foods – steer clear of milky dairy products and foods that are high in fat and foods high in fibre until you are fully recovered.
  • Take painkillers – If you experience tummy cramps, take the appropriate dose of paracetamol.


You can reduce your risk of contracting or spreading diarrhea by maintaining high standards of hygiene at all times. Try the following:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after going to the toilet and dry properly after washing
  • Wash your hands before eating or preparing food
  • Do not prepare food for others if you have been infected
  • Regularly clean your toilet with disinfectant and after each bout of diarrhea if you have been infected. Keep a cloth handy just for cleaning the toilet, or use disposable ones
  • Do not share towels, flannels or kitchen utensils if you have been infected
  • Practice food and water hygiene while travelling abroad, such as avoiding unsafe tap water or ice cubes and undercooked food
  • If you are infected with diarrhea, stay at home until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhea or sickness (vomiting) has passed.



Stellapharm is one of leading generics pharmaceutical companies and strong producer of anti-viral drugs in Vietnam. The company established in Vietnam in 2000; and focuses on both prescription drugs and non-prescription especially in cardiovascular diseases, antiviral drugs, anti-diabetics drugs, etc. and our products are now used by millions of patients in more than 50 countries worldwide.

The company is globally recognized for its quality through our facilities have been audited and approved by stringent authority like EMA, PMDA, Taiwan GMP, local WHO and others.

Additional information for this article: Stellapharm J.V. Co., Ltd. – Branch 1
A: 40 Tu Do Avenue, Vietnam – Singapore Industrial Park, An Phu Ward, Thuan An City, Binh Duong Province, Vietnam
T: +84 274 376 7470 | F: +84 274 376 7469 | E: info@stellapharm.com | W: www.stellapharm.com


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