Diarrhea After Every Meal

Diarrhea refers to 2/3 instances of loose stools for a period of 3 or more days. In addition to watery, loose stools, diarrhea after every meal may be accompanied by symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and blood in stool in some instances.

Diarrhea leads to loss of water and fluids from the body. This can cause dehydration which may occur along with dry skin, thirstiness, dry mouth, tiredness, weakness, lightheadedness, darkened urine, dizziness, and low urine output. Dehydration in kids can be serious and needs to be immediately treated.

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Causes of diarrhea after every meal

Some of the common causes of diarrhea after every meal are presented below along with associated signs and symptoms and treatment options.

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  1. Viral gastroenteritis
  • Also referred to as stomach flu, viral gastroenteritis is caused by a viral infection.
  • Affected people may suffer from diarrhea after every meal, increased vomiting, chills, nausea, and stomach cramps. It is extremely contagious, but persists for only one to 3 days.
  • Treatment involves home remedies like intake of bland simple diet that does not contained processed food, fat, and spices. Large meals also need to be avoided.
  1. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • The disease is characterized by impaired immune system and prolonged bowel inflammation and can be of many types.
  • Symptoms include loss of weight, pain in rectum, poor appetite, bowel movement discomfort and pain. The two most prevalent IBDs are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The latter is marked by increased inflammation of digestive tract and abnormal immune reactions, while latter involves occurrence of ulcers and other problems of the rectum and lower intestines.
  • Primary treatment is drug therapy. Surgery may be required in some cases to treat inflammation of the bowels and other digestive system abnormalities.
  1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • It is a condition of the large intestine marked by excessive sensitivity, stretching, and contraction of the muscles and/or nerves in the bowels, which causes varied digestive system problems like diarrhea after every meal, cramping and pain in abdomen, alternating constipation and diarrhea episodes, bloating, etc.
  • Doctors are not aware about the cause of IBS. It affects a large percentage of the US population and is more common in women than men.
  • IBS has no cure. Treatment is focused on alleviation and management of symptoms via medicines, diet changes, self-care, and lifestyle changes.
  1. Food Intolerance
  • It refers to inability to digest certain food types. The most common type of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, i.e., not being able to digest lactose present in milk and dairy items. Patients do not have the lactase enzyme which helps process naturally occurring sugars in dairy. Gluten intolerance is another kind of food intolerance wherein affected people are unable to digest gluten occurring in wheat, barley, etc.
  • There is no cure for food intolerance. Patients need to avoid trigger foods to avoid the adverse symptoms like diarrhea after every meal, etc.
  1. Food Poisoning
  • It is caused due to intake of contaminated food or water. Contamination can occur due to improper cooking, storing, food handling, and non-hygienic conditions as well as eating leftovers. Food may be contaminated by viruses like rotovirus; bacteria like E. coli, shigella, staph, and salmonella; and parasites like tapeworm, giardia, etc.
  • Symptoms include fever, chills, cramping, weakness, diarrhea after ever meal, headache, and vomiting, etc.
  • Food poisoning is treated as per underlying cause. For example, antibiotics are used for treatment of bacterial infections
  1. Malabsorption Syndromes
  • This condition is marked by digestive and bowel anomalies that adversely affect their ability to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Malabsorption syndromes can be caused by varied factors such as genetic causes, inflammatory bowel disorders, etc. The most common type is fructose malabsorption characterized by inability to absorb fructose present in sorbitol, HFCS, xylitol, and other artificial sweeteners, and/or fruit sugars occurring in fruits, honey, etc. The unabsorbed nutrients then cause symptoms like diarrhea after every meal, gas, bloating, etc.
  • Treatment and alleviation of symptoms is dependent on the cause.
  1. Food allergy
  • Food allergy refers to adverse immune system response after intake of certain foods like nuts, eggs, fish, wheat, shellfish, and soy, etc. It can cause a variety of allergic reactions including chronic diarrhea after every meal, vomiting, hives, skin rash, respiratory issues, inflammation of small bowel, stomach pain, and congested nose, etc.
  • Food allergy is different from food intolerance. It is caused due to an inflammatory adverse reaction of the immune system and may not have any links with enzyme deficiencies that cause bloating, gas, and other symptoms in food intolerance patients.
  • Treatment involves use of antihistamines and other anti-inflammatory drugs. It is also vital for affected people to avoid allergic foods as life-threatening immune system reactions may also occur due to food allergy.
  1. Other causes
  • Other causes of diarrhea after every meal include supplements, mineral water, etc. with excess magnesium; bowel irritation caused by intake of certain foods in combination; SBS or short bowel syndrome; bariatric surgery; microscopic colitis; and surgeries like gall bladder removal.


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