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Diarrhea and Weight Loss: When to Worry

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Diarrhea and Weight Loss: When to Worry

Nov 10, 2023

Diarrhea is common, and many times, it is not something to lose sleep over. However, when it persists for over a couple of days, it can cause serious symptoms such as weight loss. 

Furthermore, if your diarrhea ends up causing you to lose weight, you shouldn’t be happy about your shrinking waist. Instead, you should be running to the medical office. 

Our experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates explain just how dangerous diarrhea can be when left untreated and whether or not what you are dealing with is more than a harmless reaction to a bacteria or a virus. 

When does diarrhea become problematic? 

Weight loss may occur as a consequence of chronic diarrhea or severe dehydration

If you have an acute episode of diarrhea and are a healthy adult, you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if your diarrhea persists, you may feel lighter, but all for the wrong reasons.

The weight loss you see as a result of diarrhea is mostly fluid, meaning you are getting dehydrated. When you lose a lot of fluids, you run into the danger of your kidneys shutting down. Low sodium, potassium, and magnesium levels due to fluid loss can also cause irregular heartbeats and muscle cramps.

Children under the age of two are at a high risk of experiencing dehydration right away after a bout of diarrhea. Seek medical help if your child’s symptoms don’t improve within a day. You can counteract some of the effects of fluid loss by feeding your child meat stock and using electrolyte supplements with magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

Signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark urine, and fatigue.

In infants, signs of dehydration may include not wetting the diaper within a three-hour timeframe, crying without any tears, irritability, and high fever. 

Understanding what causes diarrhea 

Common causes of diarrhea include:

  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Digestive conditions (irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Food intolerances 
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Medications (antidepressants, antacids, cancer medications)

The cause of diarrhea is often determined using a blood test or a stool test. If our providers don’t find enough information about what could be causing your symptoms in your blood or stool, they might prescribe a colonoscopy. 

Get help for your symptoms 

Diarrhea is rarely a cause for worry, but if it persists, contact us to schedule an appointment. In most cases, both diarrhea and its complications are easy to manage, and relief can be almost immediate.