Can Diarrhea Cause Weight loss?-What science reveals

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Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery faeces and the need to have a bowel movement more frequently. It usually only lasts a few days and then goes away on its own. Diarrhea is typically divided into two types. It can be either acute or chronic in nature.

Acute diarrhea is a term used to describe a condition that lasts one to two days. A viral or bacterial infection can cause this form of diarrhea, or it might also result from food poisoning. Acute diarrhea is a common occurrence. (1)

Chronic diarrhea, on the other hand, refers to diarrhea that lasts for at least four weeks. It is frequently caused by an inflammatory bowel condition like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. Chronic diarrhea causes you to lose a lot of water and electrolytes, which forces you to lose a significant amount of weight on the scale and puts you at risk of being dehydrated. (2)

Digestive Tract Disorders Accompanied by Diarrhea that trigger Weight loss.

There is a list of conditions that are accompanied by diarrhea and cause irregular bowel movements. (3) Let us take a closer look at each of them to see how they cause you to lose weight.

  • Food Poisoning

Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, is caused by consuming infected, expired, or poisoned food. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most frequent symptoms of food poisoning. Food poisoning is not uncommon, despite how unpleasant it is. (4)

It is unlikely that you would go unnoticed if you have food poisoning. Depending on the cause of the illness, the symptoms may differ. The time it takes for symptoms to show varies depending on the source of the infection; however, it might endure from about one hour to 28 days.

One of the most common symptoms of food poisoning is prolonged diarrhea, which depletes many essential nutrients from the body, leaving you sick and causing significant weight loss.

You lose a lot of bodily fluid in a short period if you experience diarrhea and vomiting several times. You are also unlikely to be able to retain any food or liquids inside, so you will not be able to readily restore what you have lost.

The scale may reflect this significant shift in fluid volume in your body. If these symptoms persist for many days, you will eventually notice a consequential weight loss.

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Most instances of food poisoning may be treated at home, and it will clear up in 3 to 5 days. It is essential to stay hydrated if you have had food poisoning. Electrolyte-rich sports drinks may be beneficial in this regard. Fruit juice and coconut water can aid with fatigue and carbohydrate replenishment. A sufficient fluid intake will help in the restoration of nutrients lost.

Individuals with severe episodes of food poisoning may require hospitalization and intravenous (IV) fluids. In the most severe cases of food poisoning, a prolonged stay in the hospital may be necessary while the patient heals.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that affects many people. It causes stomach pains, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. (5) These usually come and go throughout time, lasting days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Weight loss or increase might occur as a result of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in certain people. Some people may feel severe stomach cramping and pain due to diarrhea, causing them to consume fewer calories than they would ordinarily. Others may eat meals that are more in calories than they require. (6)

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to diagnose IBS. They may also take one or more of the following procedures to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as requiring you to follow a specific diet or abstain from particular food categories for some time to rule out food allergies, have a stool sample checked to check out infection, and blood tests to test for anaemia and celiac disease.

Your doctor may also perform a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is usually performed when your body detects colitis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), or cancer as the source of your symptoms.

IBS has no known treatment. The goal is to alleviate the symptoms for which you may need to adopt certain lifestyle modifications at first.

Healthy habits such as daily exercise, attempting to avoid fried or heavy meals, clamping down on caffeinated beverages that stimulate the intestines, eating fewer calories, taking probiotics with good bacteria typically found in the intestines to help alleviate gas and bloating may help you relieve the symptoms.

  • Traveller’s Diarrhea

Traveller’s diarrhea affects many people who move from developed to poorer nations. This disease might strike at any point throughout the journey or even after the individual returns home.

It is usually a self-limiting problem that goes away in a few days. Eating infected food or drinking polluted water is a common reason. The microorganisms that induce the sickness may seem innocuous to the native community, probably because the locals have developed immunity. (7)

Traveler’s diarrhea is often caused by bacterial illnesses, the most frequent of which include ETEC, Shigellosis, Cholera, or stress, and can linger for many days.

It can be problematic if it lasts for several weeks or more since it causes water loss in the body. People who have diarrhea can lose weight if they have been suffering for a long time, but it is primarily water weight.

Your body loses a lot of fluid and salts if you have traveller’s diarrhea. Sweating exacerbates the situation in tropical climates. The essential thing is to drink as much as possible and restore the salts and sugar that have been lost. This is certainly relevant for newborns, infants, and the elderly since they are more prone to dehydration than healthy individuals.

Taking charcoal tablets or items derived from a particular type of yeast is sometimes recommended. They are supposed to thicken your poop. However, there is not enough reliable research in this field to establish how effective such medications are.

  • Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

Viral gastroenteritis, often known as stomach flu, is an infection of the intestine that causes watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and, in rare cases, fever. (8) Contact with an infected person or ingestion of contaminated food or drink is the most common route to get viral gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis targets your intestines, causing symptoms such as watery, generally non-bloody diarrhea or bloody diarrhea if the disease worsens, stomach cramps and discomfort, nausea, vomiting, occasional muscular pains or headache, and low-grade fever.

Weight loss caused by stomach illness is typically very transitory. This form of weight loss is sometimes considered unintended weight loss because you did not work out or maintained a diet to drop the weight.

If any weight is lost, most of it is water weight due to the volume of water lost during diarrhea and vomiting. You may also experience a minor weight loss due to the stomach flu due to a loss of appetite while you are suffering.

You may drop several pounds as a combined result of loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Usually, the weight returns after regular dietary patterns are resumed. (9)

Dehydration, a significant loss of water and vital salts and minerals, is the most severe consequence of viral gastroenteritis. Dehydration should not be an issue if you are healthy and consume enough fluids to replenish fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea.

When an infant, an elderly person, or a person with a weak immune system loses more fluids than they can restore, they can become severely dehydrated.

Typically, no special treatment is required. In most situations, all you need to do is drink lots of fluids and stay home until the virus has left your system. In specific circumstances, you may require IV (intravenous) fluids to treat severe dehydration.

The Link between Diarrhea and Mal-Nutrition

Poor nutrition is linked to more severe and persistent diarrhea. Experimental studies have revealed a significant unfavorable association between diarrhea and a child’s physical growth and development. Each day of diarrhea disease results in a weight loss of 20-40 grams.

Malnutrition is a significant predictor of diarrheal frequency, and the extended illness may aggravate nutritional insufficiency, increasing the risk of mortality. (10) Malnutrition is recognized as a direct impact of illness of the gastrointestinal system, with its historical association with infectious disorders.

Malnutrition causes diarrheal infections to occur more frequently and for more extended periods, with a 37% increase in frequency and a 73% increase in duration contributing to the doubling of the diarrhea burden in malnourished children. (11)

Final Thoughts

Some of the known mechanisms that have an impact on nutrition and eventually causes weight loss throughout a diarrhea episode include loss of appetite, throwing up, intentional withholding of food resulting in insufficient intake; malabsorption of macro and micronutrients; hastening of intestinal transit time; disturbance of metabolic and endocrine functions; and direct loss of protein and other nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract.

Drinking plenty of water, gradually introducing semisolid and low-fibre meals when your bowel movements begin to recover, and considering taking probiotics might all protect you from the severity of diarrhea.

On the recommendation of a health practitioner, you may also consider taking anti-diarrheal medications.

Furthermore, a diet known as BRAT may help to alleviate diarrhea promptly. BRAT is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. The bland character of these meals and the fact that they are starchy, low-fibre meals make this diet beneficial. These meals bind to one another in the digestive system, causing bulkier stool.

Reader Comments

  1. Lyne

    Like you say “Traveler’s diarrhea” is one of the reasons why I”m not a big traveler. Having diarrhea it’s like dying in an uncomfortable seat and not being able to relax because of the cramps it gives you.

    I had two colonoscopies because I had cancerous polyps and it is not at all pleasant. Everything is ok now but because of these reasons now that I pay attention to what I eat and where I travel
    Thank you for sharing this great article.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Lyne
      Yes I know many people who don’t travel much due to this issue so you are certainly not alone in this.
      I am sorry to hear about the two colonoscopies that you had and I hope all will be well with you in the future as you travel more.
      You are welcome.

  2. Lyne

    I have had two colonoscopies in my life. Due to cancerous polyps and it is really not pleasant … (a long time ago, everything is fine now). This is why now I am very careful with my diet so as not to have to go through this colonoscopy again.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Lyne

      I am sorry to hear about what happened to you and the colonoscopy. That is a horrible thi ng to happen. But I am glad this has been able to ensure you take good care of your diet.

  3. Femi

    Diarrhea is one of the worst things to happen to anyone. First it’s a nice way of getting stuff out of your tummy but once it won’t stop when you need it to can be very uncomfortable.

    I remember once having diarrhea for two days, I definitely lost some amount of weight because I could it keep anything in, I was scared to eat anything as well so the only thing that I could take was water and a little juice and nothing solid and also these I mentioned would just come right out. So not cool. I ate something bad and it just ruined two days of my life.

    Thanks for the tips on how to prevent and control diarrhea in most situations too. Keep up the good work.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Sorry to hear that this was very bad for you and I know many people have faced this issue to so I do know that you need to be careful when it comes to looking after yourself in this regard.
      Diarrhea can make many things happen. not just weight loss so also eating well can be a huge benefit to stop or manage this.

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