What Are The Different Types of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a condition which is characterized by watery loose stools. The frequency of such stools would be more than three times a day. It is a curable condition which has the potential of turning life threatening. Severe diarrhea can bring about intense dehydration and can turn into a serious condition. In the developing countries, it is still the second most common cause of infant death.

It is imperative that we understand the bodily mechanism behind diarrhea. Water and other fluids in diet are absorbed in the small intestine. The stool starts to take shape and form in the large intestine thereafter. If the fluids are not well absorbed in the small intestine then the water moves on to the large intestine and inhibits the stool from taking shape. What follows is watery stools or diarrhea.

In this article, we are going to discuss the different

types of diarrhea

. Diarrhea can be of different types depending on the cause of the underlying disease. The World Health Organization defines diarrhea as watery liquid stools which occurs for a minimum of three times a day.

Gastrointestinal Tract

What are the different types of diarrhea?

  • Secretory

    : This type of diarrhea is caused by a secretion disorder without any structural damage in the digestive tract. Cholera is a common example of this type of diarrhea. The cholera toxin stimulates the secretion of anions which are essentially chloride ions. This condition is treated with oral hydration measures wherby sodium salts are taken. The sodium salts restore the ion balance in the intestine.

  • Osmotic

    : This is the most common type of diarrhea where too much water is drawn into the bowels. Laxatives used to alleviate constipation work on this principle. Maldigestion can also lead to it when nutrients are not properly absorbed. The undigested food pulls in water before moving on to the large intestine to be discharged. Normally, an excess of magnesium, vitamin C and undigested lactose can cause diarrhea. People with milk protein allergies, lactose intolerance and fructose malabsorption suffer from the said type of diarrhea. Sugar alcohol or sorbitol also has the same effect.

  • Exudative

    : It is a severe form of diarrhea and occurs in diseases like the inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Food poisoning with an infection by E. coli bacteria could also lead to this condition. Blood and pus are present with stools in this type of diarrhea.

  • Inflammatory

    : It is a condition which is characteristic of the inflammatory bowel disease. Damage to the mucus lining of the large intestine and colon leads to loss of protein rich fluids. This is further aggravated with the decreased absorption of the lost fluids. It could be caused by viral infections, parasitic infections and bacterial infections or autoimmune disease.

  • Motility-Related

    : This condition is referred to as Hypermotility. In this condition, food moves through the gastrointestinal tract too rapidly. Water and nutrients cannot be absorbed by the small intestine and is directly passed on to the large intestine and causes diarrhea. This disease is caused by complications of menstruation, hyperthyroidism or as a side effect of bowel surgery.

  • Dysentry

    : Diarrhea like situation along with visible blood in stools occurs in this condition, namely, dysentery. It is caused by infection from bacteria like shiggela, salmonella, histolytica and entamoeba.

Other common causes apart from the above are as follows:

  • Diarrhea caused by chronic alcoholism.
  • Bile Diarrhea following gall bladder removal. Excess bile salts are secreted from the liver in the absence of the gall bladder and moves on to the large intestine causing diarrhea.
  • Hormone secreting tumors like the ones secreting excess serotonin.
  • Microscopic colitis, a condition where changes occur in the cells of the colon.
  • Ischemic bowel disease, a condition which occurs due to a problem with the flow of blood into the arteries of the bowel.

The above are the most common types of diarrhea and it is important to treat the underlying condition causing the diarrhea.


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