“Why do we get diarrhea?” Are there actual reasons for diarrhea, or does it serve a purpose? 

You’re not the first person to google search this question. Right now, you’re crouching down in your cubicle wondering if anyone will notice you dash into the restroom ... again. “Why did this happen today?” you’re asking yourself. Tempted to take an early lunch break and run the nearest drugstore, you’re desperate to make the diarrhea stop. But what if we told you that the reason for diarrhea may serve a purpose in making you feel better?

The Cause Of Diarrhea

The uncomfortable, yet common, experience of diarrhea is often caused by an infection or virus in the stomach. Due to bacteria, food is not absorbed correctly in the intestines which causes bowel movements to become loose and often watery. Diarrhea can also be the effect of lactose intolerance or other food allergies, alcohol abuse, food poisoning, or other more chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease. While the source of the virus varies, there may be dangers in preventing diarrhea.

The Reason For Diarrhea

Studies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have determined that diarrhea plays a crucial role in clearing the bacteria that is found in the intestines at the beginning of an infection. When a virus like E. coli strikes, two molecules in the intestine work together to enable pathogen clearance before the infection causes too much damage. While you may be inconvenienced by diarrhea, it may actually be the best thing for your body. Diarrhea could limit the severity and longevity of the infection.

The Danger Of Diarrhea

The biggest danger of diarrhea is dehydration, which can be a serious issue if not addressed- especially in young children or seniors. Signs to watch for in dehydration include:

  • Constant and excessive thirst
  • Your mouth or skin feels dry
  • Dark urine and/or very little occurrence of urination
  • Weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness or fatigue.

What To Do About Diarrhea

These suggested guidelines are for adults only—please contact your child’s pediatrician for instructions concerning diarrhea in children. If you’re experiencing diarrhea, keep drinking fluids and replenishing electrolytes so that you don’t get dehydrated. Consider allowing diarrhea to run its course, rather than working so hard to prevent it. Diarrhea typically lasts for 2-3 days and may be accompanied with abdominal pain and cramping. 

If your diarrhea persists for more than three days, you have a bloody stool, or show symptoms of dehydration, please contact us at Digestive Health Partners to make an appointment. Our doctors are here to help you understand your GI needs and are committed to making you feel better!