Sometimes diarrhea can be the body’s way of ridding itself of a harmful substance, such as the bacteria that cause food poisoning or contaminate water. However, when you have diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days, it’s usually due to another reason.

Whenever a patient complains to me about chronic diarrhea, the first thing I look for is a change in his diet. Juice diets or diets that are high in fruit can cause chronic diarrhea when you first start the new regimen. A new medication, especially blood pressure medication, can also cause chronic diarrhea. Obviously, the continuing use of laxatives, stool softeners, and antacids can cause chronic diarrhea, as can new vitamin regimens, especially when they contain yeast.

If “you have lost weight during your bout with diarrhea, it’s probably because your intestines are not absorbing most of the food you eat; the most common cause of this malabsorption is lactose intolerance. Lactose is found in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.

A more serious kind of malabsorption is caused by an intolerance to gluten, which is found in all bread products and cereals made with wheat. If you have a gluten intolerance, you probably have a long history of diarrhea and weight loss, in addition to hair loss, mild anemia, and abnormalities in any liver function tests you take.


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