Most healthy people open their bowels between three times a day and three times a week. Normal stools are usually solid because the small intestine and colon are highly efficient in absorbing nutrients, fluid and salts from the gut contents.
Diarrhoea occurs when these processes are impaired, for example when bacteria or viruses damage the lining of the gut and/or there is excessive secretion of fluid, such as water, into the bowel that overwhelms the ability of the gut to reabsorb this fluid and salts. The stools become loose and watery and more frequent bowel movements occur. In acute diarrhoea, symptoms come on suddenly but usually clear up within five to 10 days.2
More than half of all adults in the UK (55%) experience diarrhoea as a common gastrointestinal symptom, so if you’re experiencing this issue, you’re not alone!3
Diarrhoea can be caused by intestinal infection (gastroenteritis), food poisoning, medications, anxiety or IBS. You should seek medical attention in any of the following cases:
- If diarrhoea persists for more than 14 days
- If you notice blood in the diarrhoea
- If you develop a high fever
- If your cramping and abdominal pains become severe and constant