NutritionCan Diarrhea Cause Weight Loss? Tips And Tricks To Relieve Diarrhea In...

Can Diarrhea Cause Weight Loss? Tips And Tricks To Relieve Diarrhea In 2024

Diarrhea is a digestive problem characterized by changes in stool shape and volume that can lead to complications. Its impact on health can be severe, particularly in young children, but adults can also experience a significant decrease in quality of life due to diarrhea.

A notable consequence of this condition is the potential for weight loss due to disturbances in digestion and absorption in the intestinal tract. In cases where certain diseases cause patients to lose weight, diarrhea can often be identified as one of the complications associated with such conditions.

Is Diarrhea Associated With Weight Loss?

Diarrhea, whether acute or chronic, has the ability to cause weight loss. In cases of acute diarrhea, the observed weight loss may not be considered critical because it is primarily due to bowel evacuation or water weight loss rather than actual body fat or muscle loss.

However, persistent diarrhea typically results in significant water weight loss, accompanied by loss of muscle tissue and depletion of body fat.

What Is Generally Good For Digestive Health?

Maintaining good digestive health is a combination of mindful eating, staying hydrated, and managing stress. Incorporating fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet can promote regularity, while probiotics found in yogurt and fermented foods support a balanced gut microbiome. Remember to chew your food thoroughly and practice portion control for optimal digestion.

When Should I Call My Doctor If I Have Diarrhea?

When it comes to diarrhea, it’s often a temporary annoyance caused by a variety of things, such as infections, dietary choices, or stress. But there are times when it’s important to see your doctor. If diarrhea lasts more than a few days, is accompanied by a high fever, bloody stools, or severe abdominal pain, it’s time to see your doctor.

Also, if you’re experiencing symptoms of dehydration, such as extreme thirst, dry mouth, or dark urine, or if you suspect it may be related to recent travel or antibiotic use, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider. They can provide important guidance and determine the underlying cause to ensure your well-being.

What Is Diarrhea?

What is diarrhea image

Diarrhea is characterized by loose or watery stools accompanied by an increased frequency of bowel movements. It is often accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, or general discomfort. If this condition lasts less than seven days, it is called acute diarrhea.

However, if it lasts longer than seven days without a return to normal bowel habits, it is classified as persistent or chronic diarrhea, which can be a more serious concern for a person’s overall well-being. In the United States, acute diarrhea is a common cause of hospitalizations, resulting in significant healthcare costs for individuals and the government.

What Are The Causes Of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea can be categorized according to its underlying causes or types. Inflammation plays a critical role in understanding diarrhea and has a significant impact on its clinical manifestations. Inflammatory diarrhea, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or dysentery, can pose serious health risks, often accompanied by the presence of blood or mucus in the stool.

Hospitalization may be necessary to treat unexpected weight loss, electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration. Non-inflammatory diarrhea, on the other hand, results from either increased secretion of water into the intestines or inadequate reabsorption of water by the intestines. Food-related diarrhea typically falls into this category.

Diseases And Physiological Conditions

Certain diseases can lead to the development of severe and chronic diarrhea, including conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and cancers of the digestive tract. Conversely, diarrhea can also result from a malfunction in the digestive tract’s ability to properly absorb water or from excessive secretions into the bowel.

This specific type of diarrhea falls under the category of non-inflammatory diarrhea. Sometimes, individuals may lack certain enzymes or digestive functions that are typically present in a healthy digestive system.

One notable example is lactose or gluten intolerance. In lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose can cause discomfort, bloating, and even diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Gluten intolerance, on the other hand, triggers an immune response that can lead to malabsorption and subsequent episodes of diarrhea.


The most common bacterial pathogens responsible for infectious diarrhea include Salmonella, Shigella, Clostridium difficile, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli. In addition to bloody stools, individuals infected with these pathogens often experience severe abdominal pain, high fever, and may pass up to 10-15 watery stools per day, which can lead to severe dehydration.

Dietary And Environmental Factors

Diarrhea can also be linked to foodborne illnesses, which often result from improper food processing, storage, and cooking practices that can lead to food spoilage and infections that trigger diarrhea. Another factor contributing to diarrhea is changes in the profile of the gut microbiota. When people consume significantly different foods or travel to completely new places, the composition of their gut bacteria can change.

These changes can sometimes affect bowel habits and lead to either constipation or diarrhea. This phenomenon is often referred to as “traveler’s diarrhea. Certain stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine have the potential to increase bowel movement. When the passage of food through the digestive system is accelerated, the intestines may not have enough time to absorb water, resulting in watery stools. Psychosocial stressors can also affect bowel habits.

Some people may experience constipation, while as many as 179 million people develop some form of diarrhea during stressful situations, highlighting the close link between bowel function and mental health. In addition, various medications or supplements can affect bowel movements and secretory functions. In addition, the use of antibiotics often leads to changes in the gut microbiota, which is closely linked to the regulation of bowel patterns.

How Does Diarrhea Lead To Weight Loss?

To grasp this concept better, it’s useful to start with a brief overview of intestinal physiology. When we consume food, it undergoes digestion in the stomach before reaching the intestine. In the intestinal region, the absorption of nutrients begins, and digestion processes continue.

Specialized cells within the intestinal wall are responsible for absorbing the fundamental components of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, utilizing specific regions on the cellular lining of the intestinal wall. Additionally, the absorption of vitamins and minerals takes place in this region. However, a significant amount of water enters the intestine due to the foods and beverages we ingest.

Moreover, the digestive system itself generates various liquid secretions, which ultimately reach the intestine. Approximately nine liters of water enter the intestine daily, but only a fraction of it (0.1-0.2 liters) is expelled in the stool. This demonstrates the intestine’s efficiency in reabsorbing water. However, disruptions can occur in the intestinal or structural reabsorption mechanisms for the reasons mentioned earlier.

In cases where diseases affect the intestinal tissues, the intestine is unable to fulfill its functions. Alternatively, bowel movements may accelerate to the extent that the absorption process cannot take place adequately. Consequently, the body cannot extract sufficient nutrients from the diet, potentially resulting in a calorie deficit as these nutrients are eliminated from the body through diarrhea.

It’s important to note that severe intestinal disorders are typically required for this issue to arise. In general cases of diarrhea, significant water loss occurs. In mild cases of diarrhea that are not caused by structural issues, any unintentional weight loss usually reflects fluid loss within the body.

Dehydration resulting from this fluid loss can lead to a drop in blood pressure, although it’s worth noting that the stress associated with a malfunctioning gastrointestinal tract leading to diarrhea can also induce high blood pressure. Therefore, the primary step in treating diarrhea involves replenishing the lost water and minerals.

Diagnosing The Problem

Doctors use several tests to diagnose diarrhea. These diagnostic methods include:

  • Noninvasive imaging: Doctors may use ultrasound, x-rays, or other imaging tests to evaluate the condition.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to determine the presence of an inflammatory response, check for blood in the stool, assess vitamin and mineral levels, and use biomarkers for differential diagnosis of certain diseases.
  • Fecal tests: Testing a stool sample helps identify potential infections. In addition, the shape and content of the stool can provide valuable information about the underlying disease.
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy: These procedures examine the bowel to look for structural problems, fistulas, or inflammatory tissue that may be causing diarrhea. A long, thin tube equipped with a camera is inserted through the anus, allowing the doctor to visualize the intestine. During the procedure, images can be taken and tissue samples taken. Sigmoidoscopy focuses on the lower part of the colon.

What Do Probiotics Have To Do With Diarrhea?

Probiotics, those friendly bacteria found in yogurt, kefir, or supplements, have a fascinating connection to diarrhea. They come into play when the delicate balance of your gut is disrupted. By increasing the population of beneficial microbes, probiotics can potentially reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea episodes.

While they may not offer a one-size-fits-all solution, adding probiotics to your diet is a proactive step toward maintaining digestive health. It can help support your gut’s resilience, especially during or after bouts of diarrhea, making it a valuable addition to your overall wellness strategy.

How To Manage Weight Loss Due To Diarrhea

Dietary Solutions For Managing Diarrhea

Incorporating certain foods into your diet can be beneficial when you have diarrhea:

  • Bananas
  • Plain white rice
  • Oatmeal or rice porridge
  • Bread or toast
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Applesauce

These foods can help reabsorb water in the intestines due to their soluble fiber content, which helps regulate stool consistency. It’s wise to avoid fibrous foods high in insoluble fiber, such as leafy greens or starchy vegetables, as they may worsen the condition. In addition, consider eating smaller meals rather than large amounts of food in one sitting to help your digestive system recover.

Once your digestive system returns to normal, it’s important to replenish your calorie deficit with a balanced, healthy diet rich in essential macro- and micronutrients. If you’re interested in taking probiotics, consult your doctor to determine if they are appropriate for your specific condition. Certain strains of probiotics may be more effective than others for digestive problems such as diarrhea.

Staying Hydrated And Replacing Fluids

The most important guideline is to stay adequately hydrated by drinking water during diarrhea to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea can lead to the loss of essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, so it’s beneficial to replace them with an electrolyte replenishing solution. In some cases, a low-fiber diet may be recommended because fiber can stimulate the bowels and make diarrhea worse.

If you are hospitalized, your healthcare provider may give you a special rehydration solution to prevent dehydration. However, if you do not have access to a hospital, you can opt for oral rehydration salts, which are designed to treat diarrhea and dehydration. If these salts are not readily available, you can make a rehydration solution at home.

This home-made rehydration solution is a highly effective way to prevent adverse health consequences associated with diarrhea and dehydration. This is particularly important in low-income countries, where diarrhea remains a leading cause of child mortality. In addition, adults with severe diarrhea can also benefit from this oral rehydration solution.

Making An Oral Rehydration Solution

To make an oral rehydration solution, you will need:

  • Six teaspoons of granulated sugar
  • One quart of clean water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of table salt

Make sure you use clean water, either by getting it from a safe, reliable source or by boiling it before use. Then add the specified amounts of sugar and salt to the clean water. You may be curious about the addition of sugar. Excess sugar can indeed contribute to diarrhea, but in this case, a specific amount of sugar is added to achieve the necessary osmolarity for effective rehydration.

In addition, our cells absorb sodium ions along with glucose, so it is beneficial to include a controlled amount of sugar in the solution. For added flavor and a source of potassium, you can also consider consuming banana or orange juice in conjunction with the solution.

Things To Avoid

Dairy Products

It’s important to be careful with dairy products, especially if you are lactose intolerant. Many adults have lactose intolerance, which can cause digestive upset when consuming dairy products.

Consider taking lactase enzyme supplements if you are lactose intolerant. It’s also worth noting that some digestive problems, such as diarrhea, can interfere with the production of lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose in milk. This means that you may develop lactose intolerance as a result of a digestive disorder, even if you are not typically lactose intolerant under normal circumstances.

Caffeine And Spicy Foods

The intestines are often irritated during bouts of diarrhea, and certain substances, such as caffeine and certain spices, can make this condition worse by stimulating the intestines. This can lead to a worsening of diarrhea symptoms. Caffeine, in particular, has the ability to speed up bowel movements by stimulating muscle cell contractions in the intestines.

Excessive Sugar

Excessive sugar intake can interfere with the absorption of water in the intestines due to the osmotic density it creates. To promote a healthier digestive state, it is advisable to avoid beverages and processed foods that contain excessive amounts of sugar.

Fats And Fatty Meats

Fatty foods and meats can pose challenges to the digestive process, especially if there are pre-existing problems within the digestive system. In cases of chronic or acute diarrhea, it is advisable to eliminate fatty and processed foods from your diet to facilitate smoother digestion.

Excessive Exercise

Fatigue from diarrhea may limit your ability to participate in vigorous physical activity. Regular exercise may also make lactose intolerance worse. In addition, increased physical activity can lead to increased water loss, increasing the risk of dehydration, especially if diarrhea persists. In addition, increased physical activity may further increase your energy expenditure and deepen the calorie deficit.

Keto Diet-Related Diarrhea

Following a keto diet can trigger diarrhea due to factors such as low fiber intake, an excess of medium-chain triglycerides, and a reduction in digestive enzymes, all of which can occur while on this diet. If you have recurrent diarrhea, the keto diet may not be a good choice for you.

What Are Some Natural Remedies For Diarrhea?

When it comes to treating diarrhea naturally, there are several remedies to consider. First, hydration is key-drink plenty of water, herbal teas, or clear broths to prevent dehydration. Include foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT diet), which can help firm up stools. Ginger or peppermint tea may help ease stomach discomfort.

Chamomile tea may also be soothing. Resting and avoiding spicy or fatty foods can also help with recovery. Probiotic-rich yogurt may help restore intestinal balance. However, if diarrhea persists or worsens, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for proper guidance and evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve been experiencing diarrhea lately. Could it lead to weight loss?

Diarrhea can indeed lead to temporary weight loss, but it’s usually due to fluid loss, not fat loss. When you have diarrhea, your body sheds water and electrolytes rapidly, which can result in a decrease in the number on the scale. However, this weight loss is usually not a sustainable or healthy way to shed pounds.

How can I prevent weight loss during episodes of diarrhea?

To prevent excessive weight loss during diarrhea, it’s crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and, if necessary, rehydration solutions. Focus on consuming easily digestible, nutritious foods like rice, bananas, and plain yogurt. Consult a healthcare professional to address the root cause of your diarrhea and receive appropriate treatment.

Is diarrhea an effective way to lose weight?

Diarrhea is not an effective or safe method for weight loss. It can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies. Healthy weight management should involve a well-balanced diet and regular exercise rather than relying on digestive issues like diarrhea.

Can diarrhea be a symptom of an underlying medical condition causing weight loss?

Yes, chronic diarrhea can be a symptom of various underlying medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or malabsorption disorders. In such cases, weight loss may be a result of the underlying condition, not the diarrhea itself.

Can I regain the weight lost due to diarrhea?

Once you address the underlying cause of diarrhea and your digestive system returns to normal, you can regain the lost weight by following a balanced and nutritious diet. It’s essential to prioritize your health and well-being during this recovery process.


Diarrhea is a common digestive problem that can occur in adults on a daily basis and is often quickly resolved. However, if you are experiencing persistent diarrhea due to an underlying medical condition, it is important to seek medical attention.

Consultation with your healthcare provider and a registered dietitian is recommended. Ignoring chronic diarrhea can lead to unhealthy weight loss and impaired nutrient absorption, underscoring the importance of timely intervention and treatment.


  1. Shane, A.L., Mody, R.K., Crump, J.A., Tarr, P.I., Steiner, T.S., Kotloff, K.L., Langley, J.M., Wanke, C., Warren, C.A., Cheng, A., J. Robert Cantey, and Pickering, L.K. (2017). “2017 Infectious Diseases Society of America Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Infectious Diarrhea.” Read article.
  2. Ilkay Sensoy (2021). “A review on the food digestion in the digestive tract and the used in vitro models.” Read article.
  3. J. Jaime Miranda, Davies, A., George Davey Smith, Liam Smeeth, Cabrera, L., Gilman, R.H., Garcia, H.H., Ortega, Y.R., and Cama, V. (2009). “Frequency of diarrhea as a predictor of elevated blood pressure in children.” Read article.
  4. Meisenheimer (2022). “Acute Diarrhea in Adults.” Read article.
  5. Burgers (2020). “Chronic Diarrhea in Adults: Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis.” Read article.
  6. Arasaradnam, R.P., Brown, S.R., Forbes, A., Fox, M., Pali Hungin, Kelman, L., Major, G., O’Connor, M., Sanders, D.S., Sinha, R., Smith, S.C., Thomas, P., and Walters (2018). “Guidelines for the investigation of chronic diarrhea in adults: British Society of Gastroenterology, 3rd edition.” Read article.
  7. Switaj (2015). “Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illness.” Read article.
  8. Nemeth, V. and Pfleghaar, N. (2022). “Diarrhea.” Read article.
  9. Yu Ming Chang, Mohamad El-Zaatari, and Kao, J.Y. (2014). “Does stress induce bowel dysfunction?” Read article.
  10. (2021). “Drug-induced diarrhea: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Read article.

Jayson Peterson is an experienced pharmacist, naturopathic physician, medical examiner, and minister. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, Jayson Peterson completed clinical rotations at several prestigious healthcare institutions and has been affiliated with several pharmacy chains throughout his career. His main passion and zeal is focused on providing world-class patient care by giving precise details and thorough instructions to those who need it most.



Subscribe Today


Expert content on a wide variety of health topics. Always stay up to date!

* About our Privacy Policy

Exclusive content

More article