A lot of people see diarrhea as a temporary symptom of an underlying gastrointestinal illness. It exhibits itself with watery, loose and frequent bowel movements. Diarrhea is very common and most people will suffer from it every once in a while. In some countries, particularly in the developing world, a lot of illnesses cause diarrhea and since health care is not as available, it can also be more dangerous. For those who have chronic diarrhea, they may get dehydrated and this could be fatal, especially in children and the elderly. This is why understanding the causes of prolonged diarrhea is so important.

Understanding the Causes of Prolonged Diarrhea:

In most cases, diarrhea starts suddenly and then goes away on its own again, usually within just a few days. This is known as “acute diarrhea” and is nothing to worry about. Medical attention is rarely needed. However, if it lasts for more than four weeks, it is classed as “chronic”. In this case, understanding the causes of prolonged diarrhea becomes more important and a physician should be consulted to find out what is going on.

Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of different things, including:

  1. Infections. Infections are usually caused through human interaction, either by touching each other or by coming into contact with contaminated water or food. If, for instance, you consume meat that wasn’t cooked properly, or that was contaminated after it was cooked, you could develop food poisoning. This is a common cause of diarrhea. Children in day care centers are also more likely to develop food poisoning, despite stringent sanitation standards there.
  2. Traveler’s diarrhea. This is very common in people who visit foreign countries. They are often forced to drink water that is either contaminated or treated differently from the usual water that they drink, which can cause stomach upsets. It is important in many countries, to boil water before drinking it.
  3. Medication. There are a lot of pharmaceutical drugs that can cause diarrhea, including laxatives, antacids with magnesium, diuretics, digitalis, chemotherapy drugs, some antibiotics, lithium, cholesterol-lowering agents, thyroid hormone drugs, theophylline, and colchicine.
  4. Caffeine and alcohol. These are common causes of diarrhea. Reducing your consumption usually resolves the issue.
  5. Digestive problems. You may have pancreatic problems, celiac disease, or lactose intolerance. Again, this is why understanding the causes of prolonged diarrhea is so important.
  6. Surgery in which part of the small intestine has been removed. This makes it more difficult to properly absorb food. This is also known as “short bowel syndrome”.
  7. Gallbladder removal surgery. This leads to higher levels of bile in the colon, which can make stools watery.
  8. Hormone problems. Conditions such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, adrenal disease, diabetes, and overactive thyroid disease can all be at play.
  9. Rare tumors, including pheochromocytoma or carcinoid tumors.