Diarrhea is quite common, a disease that comes and goes a little too often and leaves us drained. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing if you are anywhere else but home because of the frequent bathroom visits. But, diarrhea should not be overlooked or taken lightly. It is the second leading cause of death among children under 5 years. For effective treatment, it might help to know the different kinds of diarrhea.
General Classification Of Diarrhea
Depending on how long the condition lasts, diarrhea can be classified as follows:
- Acute diarrhea: Frequency and consistency of stools that last for less than two weeks
- Chronic diarrhea: Acute diarrhea that persists for more than two weeks and is associated with abdominal pain
Another general classification of diarrhea is based on its cause.1
- Infectious diarrhea: Caused by a parasite, virus, or bacterium and can spread from person-to-person
- Noninfectious diarrhea: Caused by toxins (food poisoning), chronic health conditions, or medications like antibiotics
This is just a general way of classifying diarrhea. According to clinical classification, diarrhea can be divided into 5 different types.
Clinical Classification Of Diarrhea
Although diarrhea can be defined as loose stools in general, there is a lot each type can tell about your health condition. Clinically, diarrhea can be classified into 4 different types.
Osmotic diarrhea occurs when food that is ingested orally is not absorbed properly by the small intestine, leading to malabsorption. When this happens, water is drawn into the intestines, resulting in watery stools.
The following are some of the possible causes of osmotic diarrhea:2
- Lactose intolerance
- Fat malabsorption
- Dumping syndrome after gastric surgery
- Certain medications
Usually, osmotic diarrhea subsides when you stop eating the food that caused diarrhea. The following steps will help ease osmotic diarrhea.
- Avoid eating all kinds of sugary products, including sweeteners even though they are labeled sugarless at least for 3–4 days.
- Avoid eating high-fructose fruits like apples, pears, mangoes, cherries, and watermelons.
- Give up milk and milk products for a few days. If you are lactose-intolerant, avoid them completely.
2. Secretory Diarrhea
Secretory diarrhea is caused when there is an over-secretion of water and salts in the intestine. In most cases, this type of diarrhea does not resolve over a 2–3 day fast or by eliminating a suspected food that may have been thought to cause it.
The causes of secretory diarrhea include the following:3
- Bacterial toxins (Clostridium difficile, E. coli)
- Increased bile acids
This type of diarrhea requires medical attention and, therefore, should be treated by a healthcare professional. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) can be used to restore the electrolyte balance and to prevent dehydration. However, use this only after you have consulted the doctor.
3. Exudative Diarrhea
Exudative diarrhea is a more severe form of diarrhea that is associated with a damage caused due to the intestinal lining. In this type of diarrhea, there is a release of mucus, blood, and plasma proteins from the cells as a result of the intestinal injury or inflammation.
Exudative diarrhea requires immediate medical treatment; nothing much can be done at home. However, drinking lots of water can help reduce the effects of dehydration.
4. Paradoxical Diarrhea
Paradoxical diarrhea is a complicated form of diarrhea that may be considered a false indication of diarrhea. In this disease, liquid stool flows around the hard stool, which is still inside the rectum.
Paradoxical diarrhea, also known as fecal impaction, occurs when the individual has chronic constipation.
To treat paradoxical diarrhea, consult a doctor as soon as possible. It might help to eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as they relieve constipation.4 Drinking water and other fresh fluids like clear soup and fruit and vegetable juices will also do some good.
Apart from these 4 types of diarrhea, there is another condition called pseudodiarrhea. Also known as hyperdefecation, it causes the individual to pass stools more than 3 times a day with a normal daily stool weight of less than 300 g. This condition is associated with irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, and anorectal disorders such as proctitis.
Diarrhea is not always caused due to food or harmful microorganisms. Extreme stress and anxiety can also cause this condition. To prevent diarrhea, eat clean, drink lots of clean water, exercise regularly, and take steps to manage stress.