Causes of diarrhea after eating.


Diarrhea immediately after eating is called postprandial diarrhea. It may have started, in which case it is acute, or you may have had it for a long time, and it is a chronic condition. Knowing the common causes of diarrhea after meals can help you develop an effective treatment plan with your healthcare provider.

Any new or persistent digestive symptoms should be reported to your healthcare professional so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. While diarrhea after eating can be the result of one of the health conditions described here, it can also be a sign of other serious medical conditions.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

Acute diarrhea after eating

Acute diarrhea is the sudden onset of episodes of diarrhea. Diarrhea for any reason can occur after eating, as the simple process of eating stimulates the muscles of the colon to move to empty the intestines. When you have an underlying cause, such as an infection, food poisoning, or IBS, these contractions can be stronger and more painful than usual and cause a sense of urgency .


Acute diarrhea can be caused by:

  • Bacterial infections such as salmonella or E. coli.
  • Poisoned food
  • Viral infections (commonly known as "stomach flu")
  • Parasites like giardia
  • Medications such as antacids, antibiotics, chemotherapy.
  • Lactose intolerance (can also be a chronic cause)
  • Diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome ( IBS-D ), which can also be a chronic cause

What to do in case of acute diarrhea

Follow these tips for a bout of diarrhea:

  • Keep hydrated. You will need to replace fluids and minerals that your body cannot absorb due to the rapid passage of stool through your system. Try drinking water, plain fruit juice, and broth.
  • Don't be too quick to use over-the-counter diarrhea medicine like Imodium or Kaopectate . These products should not be used if you have a fever or have mucus or blood in your stool. Pepto Bismol may be an option, but check with your healthcare professional first. None of these medications should be given to children without the prior approval of a physician.
  • Be careful with your meals and eat only small portions. Eat foods that are easily digestible until symptoms disappear and avoid dairy, fatty and gas-producing foods .

When to call your healthcare provider

You should call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Dehydration symptoms, including decreased urine output, dry mouth, sunken eyes
  • Fever greater than 100 ° F or more than three days.
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Worsening symptoms of diarrhea, or if diarrhea is still present after two days in a baby or child and after five days in an adult.
  • Be aware of the alarming symptoms of the digestive system, which are especially dangerous symptoms, so watch out for them to seek immediate medical attention. These include rectal bleeding, vomiting, poor appetite, significant weight loss, fever, abdominal pain , and night cramps, and anemia.

Chronic diarrhea

A persistent problem of diarrhea after meals can be associated with a wide range of health problems, one symptom of which is chronic diarrhea. If you have one of these disorders, a simple meal can trigger bouts of diarrhea.

Common causes

Eliminating the underlying medical condition can help relieve symptoms of running to the bathroom after eating:

  • Infection : As with acute diarrhea, there are infections that can cause chronic diarrhea. These include giardia , strongyloidosis, and amoeba.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) : A simple meal may be enough to cause diarrhea symptoms in some people with IBS. It is not clear why such hyperresponsiveness of the digestive system is observed in this disease.
  • Bile acid diarrhea (BAD) : Researchers are beginning to find evidence that some people diagnosed with IBS take dietary supplements. Bile acids are secreted by the gallbladder to help the digestive system digest fats. When these acids are not reabsorbed properly, they stimulate contractions in the large intestine, leading to diarrhea. Sometimes the cause of BAD is unknown; in other cases, it occurs after surgery or a disease of the digestive system (for example, the gallbladder, pancreas, or small intestine).
  • Gallbladder Removal : Without the gallbladder, some people experience a problem with poor regulation of bile acids in the small and large intestines, causing symptoms similar to those of BAD. Although this symptom usually resolves quickly after the date of surgery, it is still a persistent problem for some people.
  • Lactose intolerance: People with lactose intolerance lack enough of an enzyme to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. This can lead to the symptom of diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Lactose intolerance can be determined with a breath test or an elimination diet .
  • Sugar malabsorption : In addition to lactose, some people cannot digest the sugars fructose and sorbitol. Fructose is found in many fruits and in high fructose corn syrup. Sorbitol is also found in some fruits and artificial sweeteners. Like lactose intolerance, fructose or sorbitol malabsorption can be determined by breath tests or an elimination diet.
  • Celiac disease : People with celiac disease experience an autoimmune reaction in response to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Diarrhea caused by celiac disease often smells bad, and stool may float rather than sink. Celiac disease has serious health consequences, and you should be screened for the disease if you have chronic diarrhea.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) : Two forms of IBD , Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis , can cause symptoms of diarrhea after eating. Unlike any of the health problems above, IBD diarrhea can include signs of blood in the stool . Any sign of blood in your stool should be reported immediately to your healthcare professional.
  • Dumping syndrome: This syndrome is more common in people who have undergone bariatric weight loss surgery. The emptying syndrome is also known as rapid gastric emptying because the contents of the stomach pass into the small intestine too quickly. Eating food can cause symptoms like diarrhea, especially foods that are high in sugar.
  • Microscopic colitis : This type of colitis is different from ulcerative colitis. In microscopic colitis, the inflammation of the cells that line the intestines can only be seen when the tissue is examined under a microscope. The cause of microscopic colitis is poorly understood. Its symptoms include persistent or recurring episodes of watery diarrhea.
  • Colon cancer : Chronic diarrhea is not usually a sign of colon cancer (constipation is more likely), but any change in bowel frequency is associated with the presence of cancer. Other symptoms of colon cancer include blood in the stool or stool, fatigue, anemia, and unexplained weight loss. If you have any of these symptoms along with chronic diarrhea, you should see your doctor immediately.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency : In this condition, the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes to fully digest the food you eat. Although there is a test for exocrine pancreatic function, which includes measuring the amount of fat in the stool, researchers have suggested that this test may be inaccurate in detecting mild pancreatic insufficiency that causes postprandial diarrhea. Research in this area is quite limited. The review found one study that showed that a small percentage of IBS-D patients did have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. In another small study, IBS-D patients who received pancrelipase, a form of pancreatic digestive enzymes, reported a decrease in episodes of postprandial diarrhea.

What to do for chronic diarrhea after eating.

Follow these tips if you continue to have diarrhea problems after eating:

  • Tell your doctor. Any unusual symptoms should always be reported to your healthcare professional. This helps to ensure that you are diagnosed correctly and therefore a useful treatment plan can be developed.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions to better manage your underlying health problem.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day and avoid fatty foods like fried foods, fatty meats, and thick sauce. Heavy meals and fatty foods can increase the strength of intestinal contractions and therefore lead to a bout of diarrhea.
  • Use relaxation exercises to calm your body. Due to the close connection between the brain and the gut, stress can lead to diarrhea. Many people experience stress in their lives, not to mention that diarrhea after eating is stressful. Both deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation skills can be effective in calming your body and thus can slow down your bowel movements.

Theories of postprandial diarrhea syndrome in IBS

New theories are emerging suggesting that something else may be happening to some patients who have been diagnosed with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Research on postprandial diarrhea is quite limited. Here are the directions the preliminary investigation has highlighted.

Postprandial diarrhea syndrome

Two IBS researchers, Dr. Mani and Camilleri, have proposed three possible reasons for what they call "postprandial diarrhea syndrome." They recognize that diagnostic markers are limited and suggest that a positive response to treatment of a theoretical problem can serve as confirmation of the diagnosis.

They believe that three diagnoses should be considered: bile acid malabsorption (BAM), exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and glucosidase deficiency.

Excess stomach acid

Excess gastric acid has long been associated with the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A small study found that GERD medications given to a group of IBS-D patients led to a significant reduction in symptoms of diarrhea and the urge to eat after meals. However, this result has not been reproduced.

Water content of the small intestine

The research team found that compared to healthy controls, IBS-D patients had less water in the small intestine and more water travels to the colon faster, which can contribute to postprandial diarrhea.

This study is consistent with the FODMAP theory for IBS , as foods with a high osmotic value (that is, they produce large volumes of fluid) are especially unpleasant for people with IBS. If this is true, then the development of drugs that slow the transit and thus better regulate the flow of fluid into the colon could be of great help.

Obviously, research on the factors underlying postprandial diarrhea in IBS is quite limited and therefore no definitive conclusions can be drawn. Furthermore, despite many plausible theories explaining the problem, there is no data on the treatment of this condition, so it is not yet clear which treatments will help patients and which ones will not.

Hopefully, more research will shed more light on this topic and suggest some effective treatment options. In the meantime, if you tend to experience bouts of acute diarrhea after eating, discuss this with your doctor to see if any of the suggested interventions are safe for you.

Get the word of drug information

When diarrhea occurs immediately after eating, it becomes difficult to enjoy food. You may be afraid of what you eat and worry about eating anything. You are not alone. Many have this symptom. See your doctor to find out the cause. You may be able to find solutions that allow you to enjoy your food without rushing to the bathroom.

Frequently asked questions

  • Some foods are more likely to cause diarrhea and can include foods high in sugar, dairy products, foods that contain gluten, fried or high-fat foods, spicy foods, and caffeine. In people with certain intolerances, FODMAP products can cause diarrhea. These foods include wheat, rye, onions, garlic, artificial sweeteners, beans, pistachios, asparagus, and artichokes.

  • In addition to diarrhea, a person with food poisoning may experience stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Symptoms can last from 30 minutes to several days, depending on the bacteria causing the poisoning.

  • Yes, if the symptom persists, diarrhea immediately after eating can be a sign of some cancers. A case of this symptom is probably not cancer. Bowel changes, such as chronic diarrhea, can be a sign of colon, stomach, or pancreatic cancer, and any bowel changes should be reported to your doctor.

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