Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
If you are having a severe case of diarrhea and are concerned that it could be due to something more serious, take a deep breath and relax. Though a painful and unpleasant experience, it is a common occurrence that will pass in a few hours or days. However, if your condition is severe or lasts longer than a day or two, you should consult a doctor right away. This article will explain why diarrhea causes pain.
Why does diarrhea hurt?
There are several reasons why you might have painful diarrhea. Some of them are described below.
Incomplete digestive process: Food enters the stomach after you devour the taste of the meal on your tongue. Afterward, stomach acids and digestion enzymes are released and come into contact with the food to break it down.
During diarrhea, your digestion speeds up, resulting in food not being properly digested. As a result, stomach acids and digestive enzymes persist, causing tissue damage and causing your rectum to burn when you have a bowel movement.
Consumption of spicy foods: Another factor that causes painful diarrhea is the consumption of spicy meals. When some ingredients in spicy foods come into contact with bodily tissues, they can induce a burning sensation.
Capsaicin, for example, can irritate gut tracts and cause diarrhea. Its effect was established in the study titled “Capsaicin, the spicy ingredient of chili peppers: Effects on gastrointestinal tract and composition of gut microbiota at various dosages,” published in MDPI Foods in March 2022.
You now know that diarrhea hastens digestion and that when capsaicin remains undigested in the body, it can cause painful bowel movements.
Injury: Some food substances may not be completely broken down by your body. When these leave your body, they might cause minor injuries and cuts to the rectum’s soft tissues. Furthermore, after passing the stool, you may wipe harder than usual without realizing that this can cause pain.
Several health issues can make you more susceptible to painful diarrhea, as described below.
- Smoking cigarettes
Cigarettes include nicotine, which can cause loose stools that hurt. Diarrhea can occur if a smoker takes a puff late at night or first thing in the morning. Excessive smoking before bedtime can also cause burning diarrhea.
- Excess alcohol intake
If you drink too much alcohol, you may get loose stools. Diarrhea might be caused by drinking too much alcohol the night before. The alcohol may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in painful loose stools.
- Taking medication
Painful diarrhea is a common side effect of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Antibiotic medications might cause diarrhea that hurts, according to a study.
The study titled “Acute diarrhea in adults” was published in the American Family Physician journal in 2014. Antibiotics can cause diarrhea by disrupting the gut’s natural microbiome balance. This could lead to bacterial overgrowth or infection by toxin-producing bacteria. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea may necessitate medical attention.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
One of the most common causes of painful diarrhea is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although certain foods and psychological stress may be triggers, the exact cause of IBS is unknown.
People with IBS with diarrhea have an average of 200 episodes of gas and diarrhea each year.
Painful diarrhea can be due to the following conditions:
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Swollen veins in the lower rectum or surrounding the anus are known as hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids can get irritated and swollen due to diarrhea, resulting in a burning, unpleasant sensation.
Metformin, a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes, is known to cause diarrhea as a side effect. According to a study, about 10% of persons who take metformin report gastrointestinal adverse effects.
The study titled “Severity of gastrointestinal side effects of metformin tablet compared to metformin capsule in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients” was published in the Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice in 2017. Diarrhea is one of the side effects, according to this research.
- Food intolerances or allergies
People who eat items to which they are allergic or sensitive may experience stomach pain and diarrhea in the morning. Common food allergens include peanuts, wheat, egg, dairy, and fruit.
The small intestine triggers an increased immune response when it detects a molecule or substance to which it is allergic. Also, a sign of lactose intolerance is diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme needed to digest the proteins in cow’s milk. A study titled “Update on lactose malabsorption and intolerance: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, and clinical management” was published in BMJ Journals that supported this theory.
- Food poisoning
Painful diarrhea is a symptom of nearly every type of food poisoning. This can be caused by eating food that has gone bad or being infected by bacteria.
Food poisoning symptoms can continue for days, weeks, or even months. If it extends longer, it can increase the risk of irritation from more frequent wiping after going to the toilet. The majority of bacterial and parasite infections necessitate medical attention.
- Surgical or medicinal treatments
According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments can all produce diarrhea. An article titled “Diarrhoea” was published by the American Cancer Society. This symptom can also be due to tumor growth.
Diarrhea caused by cancer treatment might linger up to three weeks after the treatment is completed. It can be a side effect of surgeries involving the gastrointestinal system.
How to manage painful diarrhea
Avoiding certain foods and habits that cause painful diarrhea is the best way to manage it.
- Spicy foods are likely to be the source of your discomfort. Try to stay away from such items and instead go for milder alternatives.
- When wiping up after a bowel movement, be soft, and cleanse the area with lukewarm water.
- Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as these can dehydrate you.
- Refrain from smoking.
- Limit your intake of high-sugar foods.
- The only way to prevent diarrhea caused by food allergies or lactose intolerance is to avoid the foods that induce symptoms.
When to call the doctor
It is a good idea to see a doctor if you have been experiencing painful diarrhea for longer than a week. High temperature, nausea and vomiting, confusion, difficulty speaking, eyesight issues, rapid heart rate, and seizures are all symptoms that need immediate medical attention.
Viruses, food reactions, drugs, stress, alcohol consumption, and IBS are the most common causes of painful diarrhea. Some other reasons are gut health problems, including cystic fibrosis, appendicitis, and intestinal obstructions. It is best to be safe and visit a doctor if you experience chronic symptoms of painful diarrhea.
It is not normal if you have diarrhea daily. Changes in your diet, medications, and lifestyle modifications can assist if the cause is a chronic illness like IBS. Work with your doctor and let them know if your health changes. Remember that the best method to treat your gut troubles is to address them.
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