What is Diarrhea After Eating?
Also known as postprandial diarrhea (PD), diarrhea after eating is a symptom of intestinal distress. PD is common in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). People who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues are also likely to suffer from diarrhea after eating.
Is it Normal?
No, it is not normal to experience diarrhea and digestive system problems, which can include abdominal cramps, after eating. Postprandial diarrhea suggests a maldigestion problem.
However, if you find yourself experiencing chronic diarrhea or if your symptoms are severe, you may want to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Is it Common?
Yes, diarrhea and other digestive system problems after eating and drinking are common complaints among adults. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 170 million cases of acute diarrhea each year within the United States alone.
Most people who experience this type of illness will recover quickly with no lasting effects or complications; however, there are some individuals who may develop chronic conditions which are associated with the digestive system.
What Causes Diarrhea After Eating?
Depending on whether the illness is acute or chronic, there are many different causes of diarrhea after eating. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes:
Causes of Acute Diarrhea After Every Meal
Diarrhea that is acute lasts for no more than 14 days. It is either treated with medication or allowed to run its course. It might be induced by:
- Food Poisoning – Bacteria or germs in food or water can cause constant diarrhea after eating. This is especially true if the contaminated food is poultry, soft cheeses, eggs, or raw food.
- Viral Infection – Viral infections such as the stomach flu or common cold can cause diarrhea after eating. The virus causes the digestive system to slow down, leading to diarrhea and other digestive disorders.
- Food Allergies – Some people experience diarrhea after eating due to food intolerance or allergy. If you find that certain foods cause your stomach to bloat, watery diarrhea after eating, and other digestive issues it may be time for you to look at a food diary to see what you are putting in your body.
- Parasites – Parasites can cause diarrhea after eating, bloating, and watery stools. When the body has worms or other parasites living inside of it they can cause severe digestive issues.
Lactose Intolerant – Lactose intolerance is a digestive system issue that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine when people consume dairy products. This can cause an individual to experience diarrhea, cramps, and bloating.
What to Do if You Have Acute PD?
If you are experiencing acute diarrhea after eating, you should:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Maintain a healthy diet by choosing easily digestible foods.
- Take over-the-counter medicine such as Imodium to get rid of your symptoms.
Avoid things that exacerbate your digestive problems such as caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, fatty foods, and greasy food.
Causes of Chronic Diarrhea After Eating
Chronic diarrhea is a persistent type of bowel discharge that lasts for at least four weeks and includes at least three loose or watery stools each day. The causes of chronic diarrhea after eating may include:
- IBS – Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that causes inflammation in the lining of the small and large intestine. This can lead to a lot of stomach cramps, abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements, diarrhea after eating and bloating.
- IBD – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a long-term condition that causes swelling and irritation in one or more areas of the digestive system. The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which can lead to cramps, diarrhea, and bloating.
- Celiac Disease – Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that causes an intolerance to gluten, which is a protein found in grains such as wheat and barley. This can trigger diarrhea, bloating, changes in bowel movements, weight loss, fatigue, and other digestive issues.
- Endocrine Disorders – Endocrine disorders can cause digestive and kidney diseases. These include type 1 diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and Addison’s disease. The endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones that play roles in things like metabolism, growth, and sexual development.
- Bile Acid Malabsorption – Bile acid malabsorption is a digestive condition that causes bile to build up in the intestines. This can cause an individual to experience frequent diarrhea, cramps, and bloating after eating.
Gallbladder Removal – Following gallbladder surgery, some patients may experience frequent loose bowel movements for the first few weeks and months. The diarrhea will eventually go away in most people, while in some it may persist.
What to Do if You Have Chronic Diarrhea After Eating?
If you are experiencing chronic diarrhea after eating, you should:
- Drink 8 glasses of water each day to stay hydrated.
- Take probiotics to aid in digestion and combat inflammation.
- Eat small meals throughout the day to promote nutrient absorption.
Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist for four weeks or more.
When to See a Doctor?
Cramping and diarrhea after eating is a common and temporary condition. However, it can become much more serious if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Blood in your stool
- Weight loss and fatigue
- Fever and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Dehydration symptoms (muscle cramps, extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, confusion)
- Chronic diarrhea that lasts longer than four weeks
- Increased pain or swelling in your abdomen
- High fever lasting more than 24 hours
Chronic diarrhea after eating can be an indication of another disease process, so it is important to seek professional medical advice for an evaluation.
Prevention of Diarrhea After Meals
To prevent diarrhea after meals, you should:
- Avoid eating food that triggers your symptoms. If you determine that certain foods are to blame for your diarrhea, be sure to avoid them at all costs.
- Limit your intake of high-fat foods that could cause discomfort to your digestive system. High-fat foods include meats, fried foods, processed meats, and greasy snacks.
- Limit your caffeine intake to no more than two cups per day. Caffeine is a known gastrointestinal stimulant that can cause diarrhea and discomfort.
- Eat smaller meals. Large portions of food may result in discomfort and diarrhea after eating.
- Include probiotics in your diet to improve gut health.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day to promote nutrient absorption and comfort your digestive system.
- Make sure you’re eating enough fiber-rich foods, which may help alleviate symptoms of diarrhea after eating.
- Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and wiping down kitchen surfaces.
- Cook your food thoroughly to avoid food-borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli that can result in diarrhea.
What Is Early Dumping Syndrome?
Early dumping syndrome occurs when food moves too quickly from the stomach into the small intestine, resulting in symptoms like nausea, weakness, diarrhea, and fainting or dizziness.
How Quickly Can Contaminated Food Give You Diarrhea?
Food can give you diarrhea almost immediately, depending on what it is. Diarrhea after eating can occur when food enters the large intestine before being fully digested. Some foods are more likely to produce diarrhea after eating, including fatty foods, processed meats, and artificial sweeteners.
Why Is Diarrhea at Night Bad?
Diarrhea at night or nocturnal diarrhea is bad because your body does not have time to absorb the nutrients and fluids. If you wake up and find that you have diarrhea, be sure to drink a lot of water or other fluids.
However, chronic nocturnal diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as diabetes, a bowel disorder, or an infection.
What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Diarrhea?
In addition to diarrhea after eating, IBS with diarrhea may cause constipation, bloating, and excessive gas. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain and mucus in the stool.
How Do You Know You’ve Got Celiac Disease?
When digestive enzymes and acids in the digestive tract damage the small intestine, this interferes with nutrient absorption and can cause multiple digestive problems like diarrhea after eating.
Loose, watery stool is one of the first symptoms that many people experience before being diagnosed with celiac disease. If you suspect celiac disease, you can try a gluten-free diet and see if the condition improves.
A doctor will take a blood sample and test it for specific antibodies. A biopsy, a sampling of gut’s mucosa, carried out in a hospital will help to confirm the diagnosis.