It is the frequent passage of loose, watery stools which may or may not contain blood or mucus. It occurs due to an abnormally rapid passage of food along the alimentary tract preventing complete digestion and absorption. The total quantity and water content of the feces are increased and there is undigested food in the stool. The number of stools may vary from several per day to one every few minutes.

Diarrhea if neglected can lead to dehydration due to excessive loss of water and electrolytes from the body. Diarrhea is not a disease by itself but a symptom of an underlying functional or organic disease.


  1. Acute diarrhea – It is characterized by sudden onset of frequent stools of watery consistency accompanied by abdominal pain, cramps, weakness and sometimes fever and vomiting.

  2. Chronic diarrhea – It’s called chronic when it persists for two weeks or longer. The food is passed very rapidly through the small intestine, not allowing time for the nutrients to be absorbed. It results in nutritional deficiencies.


Acute diarrhea

  1. overeating or eating foods difficult to digest

  2. infection in intestinal tract

  3. fermentation caused by incomplete carbohydrate digestion

  4. nervous irritability

  5. Excessive intake of laxatives

  6. Parasitic, bacterial infections through contaminated food and water.

  7. Food allergies

  8. Emotional stress, tension, anxiety

  9. Antibiotics and some drugs

Chronic diarrhea

  1. Malabsorption syndromes like celiac disease and lactose intolerance

  2. Chronic alcoholism

  3. Liver cirrhosis

  4. Prolonged intake of laxatives


Oral rehydration therapy is a simple, inexpensive and effective treatment. It involves administration of fluid by mouth to prevent or correct the dehydration.

ORS salt sugar should be used as soon as possible, the general rule being one glass for every stool passed. Other fluids that can be given along with ORS are coconut water, barley water, weak tea, whey water, albumin water, buttermilk, cereal water and pulse waters.

Diarrhea that persists for two weeks or more is nutritionally disturbing. Treatment of this defect, along with an adequate intake of fluids and electrolytes, normally helps. Gradual progression from liquid to soft diet can be done as severity of diarrhea decreases and appetite increases.

Generally a soft diet rich in proteins and calories, with liberal vitamins and minerals and large amount of fluids is recommended along with low fiber and residue foods.

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