There are many different causes of watery diarrhea. The most common reasons include viral or bacterial infections. Certain medications and food intolerances may also cause this condition. In addition, certain medical problems, such as mal-absorption, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes may cause diarrhea. People who abuse laxatives or alcohol may also have bouts of diarrhea.
Viral and bacterial infections that affect the stomach and intestines are the main causes of watery diarrhea. For example, viral gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu," usually causes diarrhea, among other symptoms. There are a handful of viruses, such as the norovirus, the rotavirus, and the adenovirus, that can cause the catch-all illness, stomach flu. Some viruses, such as rotaviruses, affect mainly children, while others, such as noroviruses, affect people of every age.
Food poisoning is the general name for bacterial infections caused by a wide range of bacteria. For example, campylobacter is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea when a person drinks unpasteurized milk that has been contaminated. Salmonella is another kind of bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea when a person eats bacterially contaminated, raw poultry or eggs. With bacterial infections, the diarrhea is the body’s mechanism for getting the harmful bacteria out of the body.
Food intolerance and food allergies are also causes of watery diarrhea. People can be intolerant toward dairy, yeast, gluten, or even sugar. In addition, some people may have a food allergy toward a specific food. In those cases, the person can avoid diarrhea and other issues by avoiding the offending foods.
Sometimes starting a new medication or taking a certain medication or supplement may cause diarrhea. For example, antacids and supplements containing magnesium are common culprits of watery diarrhea. Also, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and high blood pressure medications may lead to diarrhea.
Other causes of watery diarrhea include certain medical conditions. For example, people with substance abuse issues, such as those who abuse alcohol and laxatives, may have diarrhea. Other medical conditions that may cause a person to have diarrhea include diabetes and intestinal issues. Specifically, hypothyroidism and mal-absorption may cause people to have intestinal distress, such as diarrhea.
As with any medical condition, any concerns over watery diarrhea should be addressed by a medical professional. In some cases, the substance causing the diarrhea simply needs to be evacuated from the body. In other cases, medicine may be needed to help the stool become firmer. Regardless, in most cases, diarrhea should only last a few days. If it lasts longer, medical assistance should be sought.