What Is Causing My Chronic Diarrhea?
It’s not fun to talk about, but everyone experiences diarrhea from time to time. Usually, it’s an unpleasant experience that’s over quickly and, hopefully, without much fanfare. But for some unlucky individuals, diarrhea can be a weekly or even daily occurrence. The good news? You don’t need to live with chronic diarrhea. The not-so-good news? Trying to figure out the cause of your chronic diarrhea isn’t always easy.
What Is Diarrhea?
Defined as loose, watery stools, diarrhea is usually accompanied by cramping, belly pain, and an urgent, impossible-to-ignore need to race to the bathroom. There are two different classes of triggers: those that cause acute diarrhea and those that cause chronic diarrhea.
Stomach viruses, food poisoning, and traveler’s diarrhea are all common acute diarrhea culprits. You might also experience chills, fever, vomiting, headache, or bloody stools. Many people experience acute diarrhea once or twice a year, typically lasting a few days.
Diarrhea lasting longer than a few days – whether for weeks at a time or happening more than a few times annually – or occurring in response to certain foods, may be caused by a food allergy, food sensitivity, or food intolerance. These conditions sound similar, but they have key distinguishing features; and identifying the correct offender can mean the difference between living life…and living life on the toilet.
Causes of Chronic Diarrhea
Food allergies: With a true food allergy, the body releases antibodies in response to a trigger food such as peanuts or shellfish. Even a small amount of the trigger food can initiate a reaction. Diarrhea may develop within a few hours, but it is short-lived.
More importantly, diarrhea is accompanied by severe, potentially life-threatening respiratory and cardiac symptoms (anaphylaxis). Immediate medical attention is usually needed. This is called an immune system response.
Food sensitivities: Similar to an allergy, but with less severe symptoms and usually not life-threatening, food sensitivities are also an immune system response.
Food intolerances: With food intolerances, no antibodies are released to trigger an immune system response. Instead, food intolerances are related to a digestive enzyme deficiency.
Enzymes are proteins created by the body to facilitate a biochemical reaction. There are many different types of enzymes in your body; digestive enzymes help break down the food you eat. For example, lactase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar; and sucrase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down sucrose, a simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and processed treats.
Unlike people with food allergies, those of you with a food intolerance may be able to tolerate a small amount of the trigger food. You will experience excessive gas after a meal, bloating, pain, and chronic diarrhea, but no cardiac or respiratory symptoms. This is a called digestive system response.
Chronic Diarrhea Could Be a Warning Sign for Sucrose Intolerance Caused by Congenital Sucrase Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID)
Chronic diarrhea, unexplained stomach pain, bloating, and excessive gas should not be ignored. Chronic diarrhea could be a symptom of CSID. CSID is an inherited condition caused by a deficiency in or the lack of the enzyme sucrase, which is needed to digest sugar.
If you’ve been to a doctor about chronic diarrhea, been treated, and continue to have symptoms, you may have been misdiagnosed. It may be time to ask your doctor about CSID.
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