Wait, Why Do I Get Diarrhea Every Day (Even When I’m Not Sick)?

Photo: Getty Images/Milos Dimic
If you've been feeling a rumbling in your stomach every day (promptly followed by loose stools), but don't have any other red flags pointing to things like food poisoning or a bug, you might be wondering what the heck's going on in your gut. Turns out, it is possible to have diarrhea every day without being sick; consistently loose poop doesn't always mean you have a gastrointestinal (GI) infection. Instead, daily diarrhea can signal an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed.

Diarrhea often takes on one of two forms: acute or chronic. It's acute if it happens just a couple times or for a few days, like when you have a stomach bug or food poisoning. But it's considered chronic or ongoing if you're having three or more loose stools per day for four weeks or longer, per the National Institutes of Health.

Experts In This Article

The latter can happen for a ton of different reasons. "There are many causes of chronic diarrhea," says Ali Khan, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Fairfax, Virginia. Here's a dive into some of the most common ones, and how to get your stomach settled again.

What are the causes of daily diarrhea?

Again, there are...so many reasons. Figuring out what might be messing with your GI tract really comes down to paying attention to your symptoms, and in some cases, also looping in your doctor. The most common ones include:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is "one of the most common conditions causing chronic diarrhea that we see as gastroenterologists," says Dr. Khan. While the exact cause of the chronic intestinal disorder is largely unknown, factors that play a role in its development are frequent muscle contractions in the gut, nerve sensitivity, stress, and changes in the gut microbiome. Symptoms are often triggered by stress or certain foods and can include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Frequent abdominal cramping
  • Bloating and gas
  • Sudden watery diarrhea or loose stools (often called IBS-D)
  • Frequent constipation (often called IBS-C)

IBS is most common in women under the age of 50, but anyone can develop it, especially if it runs in your family or you have a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, per the Mayo Clinic.

What to do: IBS can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but it's not life-threatening, says Dr. Khan. You can usually manage your symptoms by identifying and avoiding dietary triggers (like gas-producing foods, gluten, or FODMAPs), getting enough sleep, and managing your stress levels. If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor can also prescribe meds to help control your diarrhea, per the Mayo Clinic.

Food sensitivity or intolerance

If your gut doesn't like a certain food, it might respond by giving you diarrhea when you eat it (especially in large quantities). According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), frequent offenders include the following:

  • Lactose, the enzyme found in dairy foods like milk, ice cream, and cheese
  • Beans or legumes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage or broccoli
  • Fruit juice
  • Coffee, energy drinks, or other caffeinated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Dried fruit
  • Artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or sugar-free foods

What to do: Steering clear of foods or ingredients that trigger GI distress can help you avoid symptoms like diarrhea. And keeping a food diary can help you identify the likely culprits. "Write down what you eat every day and any symptoms that occur," says Roshini Raj, MD, a gastroenterologist and founder of YayDay. "If you do this consistently for a week or two, the information gathered can help you and your doctor draw some correlations and identify food triggers."

You can also try taking an enzyme like Lactaid (if you're lactose intolerant) before you eat dairy, to help with digestion.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes an inflammatory GI reaction when a person eats gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can cause symptoms like bloating, cramping, diarrhea (that's often oily or greasy), gas, and constipation, and can lead to long-term intestine damage over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

What to do: If you get oily diarrhea, stomach cramping, or other GI symptoms when you eat gluten, see your doctor to rule out celiac disease. Your doctor can run blood work and other diagnostic tests to figure out if you have it. (But don't cut out gluten before your tests, or it'll skew the results, says Dr. Raj.) If you do have celiac disease, you'll need to avoid foods with gluten like wheat bread, pasta, baked goods, and many packaged foods.

Certain medications

Unfortunately, diarrhea is a common side effect of many different medications. This can range from the go-to headache reliever in your medicine cabinet to something recently prescribed by your doctor, including (but not limited to) the following, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM):

  • Antibiotics
  • Antacids with magnesium (like Mylanta)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription NSAID pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Certain immunosuppressants (like mycophenolate)
  • Metformin
  • Chemotherapy drugs

What to do: If a medication has been prescribed to you, don't stop taking it just yet. Let your doctor know you think it's giving you diarrhea, so you can decide together how to manage the problem. If your diarrhea is from antibiotics, supplementing with a probiotic like Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces could be helpful, according to an August 2022 review in Healthcare1.

Chronic stress or anxiety

Feeling tense or worried can definitely give you GI symptoms, including diarrhea. "The gut is a heavily innervated organ, so when we feel stress or anxiety, like before a big exam or job interview, it sends signals to our gut which can manifest in symptoms like cramping or diarrhea," says Dr. Khan. Anxiety may also cause you to feel heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chills, nausea, or sweating, too, per the NLM.

What to do: It's not necessarily an instant fix, but finding ways to cope with your stress can help you feel calmer and more physically comfortable. "We all need strategies to quiet the noise in our head," says Dr. Raj, who's a fan of activities like meditation, regular exercise, and deep breathing to slow down our nervous systems and ease stress-related diarrhea.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions that cause the immune system to attack the lining of the GI tract. Unlike IBS, IBD can cause long-term damage to the gut if not managed properly. A common warning sign of IBD is non-infectious diarrhea—particularly bloody diarrhea—but other symptoms can include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Feeling like you have to poop even after you went to the bathroom
  • Over time, unintended weight loss

What to do: Unfortunately, there's no cure for Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. But most people can manage their symptoms and reduce their risk for complications with the right medications—like a biologic or another immunosuppressant, per the Mayo Clinic. If you suspect you're dealing with an IBD, let your doctor know. They can refer you for a colonoscopy or endoscopy, which can help diagnose IBD by taking a closer look at the walls of your intestines.

Malabsorption issues

Malabsorption happens when your body isn't able to absorb certain nutrients from your food—like fat, carbs, or protein. When these nutrients aren't absorbed, they can end up coming out as chronic diarrhea that's greasy and foul-smelling. Malabsorption issues can also lead to unintentional weight loss or certain vitamin deficiencies (like vitamin D or B12) and nutrient deficiencies like anemia (i.e., iron deficiency), per the NLM.

Usually malabsorption is the result of an underlying condition. While there are a ton of possible culprits, some of the more common ones include IBD, alcohol use disorder, cystic fibrosis, liver disease, celiac disease, or another food intolerance, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

What to do: If you've been getting diarrhea on the daily (and possibly have symptoms of anemia like muscle weakness or fatigue), ask your doctor about malabsorption. Your doctor will likely start by asking about your symptoms and getting your full health history. Then, they can run things like hydrogen breath tests, stool samples, or blood work to identify any deficiencies or intolerances that may lead to malabsorption.

How to tell if your diarrhea is caused by an infection or virus

Not sure whether your diarrhea is from a nasty stomach bug or something more? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help clue you in, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • How am I feeling overall? (If your diarrhea is from an infection or virus, you might also be nauseous, achy, or have a fever.)
  • What's the diarrhea like? (Stomach bug or food poisoning diarrhea is usually loose and watery, while an intolerance or IBD often causes oily, greasy stool.)
  • How long has the diarrhea lasted? (Most stomach bug symptoms come on within one to three days of being exposed to the virus. While you can feel lingering effects for up to two weeks, the worst symptoms tend to ease up in a day or two.)

Are there any long-term risks of daily diarrhea?

There can be. "The most worrisome risks of chronic diarrhea are fluid and electrolyte losses, which can lead to dehydration," says Dr. Khan. Some signs of electrolyte imbalance to look out for include fatigue, headaches, irregular or fast heart rate, and muscle weakness, per the Cleveland Clinic.

You can also start to run into potentially serious problems—like weight loss or malnutrition—if your diarrhea is caused by an underlying condition that isn't being treated, such as IBD, celiac disease, or another malabsorption issue. That's why if your diarrhea is ongoing (and even happens on and off for a long period of time), it's best to let your doctor know.

How to prevent daily diarrhea

Preventing chronic diarrhea starts with pinpointing what's causing it in the first place. "It's important to determine the underlying cause, as reasons for diarrhea can vary greatly," Dr. Khan says. Loose stools caused by anxiety, for instance, will ease up with stress-management strategies, while diarrhea from a food intolerance calls for avoiding the foods or drinks that mess with your stomach. If you have a chronic underlying condition like IBD, you may need to take medication.

When to see a doctor about daily diarrhea

Let your doctor know if you've been having diarrhea on the reg for more than a couple weeks (or if you've had any sudden change in your bowel habits, for that matter). This can be a sign of bad gut health that needs to be addressed. While your daily diarrhea might stem from a milder concern that you can treat at home, like stress or food intolerances, it's important to rule out serious conditions that require medical treatment, says Dr. Khan.


What stops diarrhea fast naturally?

Your best bet for stopping diarrhea fast is an OTC anti-diarrheal medication like loperamide (Imodium), especially if your day doesn't allow for multiple trips to the bathroom (i.e.,  you're traveling or about to give a big speech). This med "works by slowing the gut and can be effective in infrequent doses," says Dr. Khan. But don't take it if you think you might have an infection, because it can actually make the problem worse by keeping bacteria trapped in your gut.

What are some home remedies for diarrhea?

A bland, low-fiber diet (think: white bread, white rice, noodles, or lean proteins like yogurt, chicken, or scrambled eggs) can help soothe your symptoms, because they're easy on your stomach and won't trigger any further irritation, per the Cleveland Clinic.

You can also try pectin, a form of fiber that actually slows the movement of stool through your GI tract. Find it in powdered form at most grocery stores near the pudding or gelatin. The IFFGD recommends mixing 1 tablespoon of pectin powder into 1/4 cup lemon water and drinking 20 to 30 minutes before a meal.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Kopacz K, Phadtare S. Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. Healthcare (Basel). 2022 Aug 2;10(8):1450. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10081450. PMID: 36011108; PMCID: PMC9408191.

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