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What causes daily diarrhea?

I never used to get diarrhea, but now I get it every day. I thought for a while that it was my diet, but now I'm not even sure. How bad is this? What could cause diarrhea for long periods of time? I'm a 33 y o woman.
Diarrhea experienced on a daily basis can be a very distressing symptom of a variety of underlying disorders. Certain types of diet can certainly contribute to daily diarrhea, such as foods rich in poorly-absorbed sugars such as fructose and sorbitol, which have the effect of drawing water into the colon and loosening the stool. If fasting for 24 hours stops your diarrhea, then diet may be the cause of your diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is another common cause of daily symptoms of diarrhea, often associated with bloating. This occurs with gradual loss of the lactase enzyme in the intestines, which is crucial in the breakdown of lactose, a sugar found in milk and various other dairy products. If a trial of non-dairy products or the addition of "Lactaid" supplements with milk products alleviates your symptoms, then lactose intolerance may be the cause of your diarrhea. Other causes of daily diarrhea that must be considered include irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis, chronic infection such as Giardiasis, and malabsorption due to celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis, among others. Evaluation by your primary care doctor, and possibly a referral to a gastroenterologist, are crucial steps in the work-up of your symptoms. Associated symptoms of blood in the stool, weight loss, fevers, abdominal pain, diarrhea that wakes you up from sleep, or greasy malodorous stools can signify a more serious underlying disorder, and should prompt an urgent visit to your doctor.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.

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