What is Diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is when there is a sudden change in the frequency and consistency of stools.  This is generally three loose or more watery stools a day, which may have been caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. (1)


Diarrhoea can be:

Acute – sudden onset with three or more loose stools per day, lasting up to 14 days. In most cases, acute diarrhoea is infectious – resulting from a viral intestinal infection (this is usually the most common cause), bacteria or parasites. (1)


Chronic – is when diarrhea lasts for more than four weeks. (1)

Causes of Diarrhoea

  • Traveller’s diarrhoea – It is infectious and usually picked up in countries where climate or sanitary practices are different from yours at home. Traveller’s diarrhoea is generally caused by contaminated food and drinks. (2)
  • Gastroenteritis – Acute gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, leading to diarrhoea, frequent abdominal pain and vomiting. This is a very common condition: millions of people are affected every year (3)
  • Anxiety diarrhoea – Anxiety accelerates the transit of food through the intestines and colon. Stress & anxiety episodes may lead to diarrhoea. (3,4)
  • Food-induced diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea can also be caused by food poisoning through contaminated food or allergens. Contaminated food are key to triggering diarrhoea, such as: cooked meals, spicy dishes, seafood, confectionary, unpasteurised dairy products and more(2,3)

Treatment of Diarrhoea

Why should you treat diarrhoea?

Acute diarrhoea should be addressed. Although common, it may lead to significant loss of water and minerals. In cases of severe diarrhoea, medical attention is needed. It is important to limit the transmission of viral diarrhoea to people around you. (1)


What to eat when you have diarrhoea?

If you have acute diarrhea, it is advisable to adjust your diet.

Eat lighter meals that contain salt, glucose and no residues.

It is best to consume rice, boiled carrots, and bananas.

Do avoid milk, raw fruits and vegetables, frozen foods and beverages. (5)


Antidiarrheal drugs

To treat diarrhoea, you can use anti-diarrhoeal medications available without a prescription from a pharmacy. They will help relieve symptoms. However, it is most important to rehydrate. (5)

In cases of acute diarrhoea that are infectious, you may use the following drugs:

  • Motility inhibitors: They reduce the contractions of the intestines and the frequency of bowel movements. Do not use them if you have diarrhoea with blood in the stools or chronic intestinal inflammation. Use these medicines with caution because they slow down the elimination of the microbe in question and therefore, healing. (5)
  • Intestinal adsorbents and protectants: These medications, like diosmectite, binds harmful viruses, bacteria and toxins, and coats the intestinal mucosa, enabling it to repair and restore the intestinal walls. Thus, not just stopping but treating diarrhoea. If you are taking other treatments, it is generally advisable to take these intestinal protectors apart from other medicines, as they may reduce the effect. (5)
  • Anti-diarrheal agents based on microorganisms: Designed to act on the intestinal flora. (5)


  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diarrhoeal-disease

  2. AFSSAPS. Well treat yourself with medications available without a prescription. Transient diarrhoea of the adult. June 2009.

  3. Website of the Health Insurance. http://www.ameli-sante.fr/gastro-enterite-de-ladulte/les-symptomes-les-causes-et-levolution-de-la-gastro-enterite.html and https: //www.ameli. en / guarantees / health / themes / gastroenteritis-adult / prevention

  4. Delvaux M, Gay. Approach of the patient with functional diarrhoea. Gastroenterol Clin Biol, 2006; 30: 415-20

  5. PediatricOnCall. Diarrhea and Vomiting – Diet. https://www.pediatriconcall.com/articles/nutrition/diarrhea-and-vomiting-diet/diarrhea-and-vomiting-diet

  6. MIMS Gastroenterology. Diarrhoea in Adults – Infectious. https://specialty.mims.com/diarrhea%20in%20adults%20-%20infectious/treatment