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Osmotic diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common ailment of the gastrointestinal tract which is described as an increase in the frequency of loose watery stools. Diarrhea can be classified as osmotic, secretory and inflammatory. Diarrhea causes bowel movements or stools that are watery and loose.

Some individuals experience diarrhea once or twice in a year and usually last t2-3 days and can be treated by over-the-counter medications. Some people suffer diarrhea due to irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic diseases of the large intestines.

Osmotic diarrhea simply means that something in the bowel is drawing water from the body such as sorbitol which is a sugar substitute and ingredient present in sugarless candies and gum that cannot be properly taken in by the body but then it causes water in the bowel which results to diarrhea.

Secretory diarrhea develops when the body generates water into the bowels and certain infections, medications and conditions can cause this condition.


An individual with osmotic diarrhea can experience abdominal cramps.

Exudative diarrhea happens with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s syndrome or ulcerative colitis and there is blood and pus in the stool.

Osmotic diarrhea occurs when ingesting food and is not fully absorbed in the small intestines which result in exerting an osmotic force that draws fluid into the intestines, and this can happen to anyone, usually people who are intolerant to sugar and people suffering from malabsorption syndrome.

Causes of osmotic diarrhea

  • A type of sugar known as lactose that is found in milk and dairy products and also found in ice cream, bread, candies and salad dressings.
  • Artificial sweeteners found in chewing gum can cause osmotic diarrhea.
  • Hard to absorb carbohydrates such as fructose and sorbitol which are used as ingredient in beverages and fruit juices can also cause osmotic diarrhea.
  • Some conditions that can also cause osmotic diarrhea include Celiac disease, malabsorption syndrome, chronic pancreatitis and some laxatives that have magnesium sulphate and phosphate as ingredients

Symptoms of osmotic diarrhea

  • Bloating or abdominal cramps
  • Watery stool
  • An urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of weight
  • Fever
  • Presence of blood, mucus and some undigested food in the stool

Diarrhea that persists for a long time, presence of blood in the stool and fever that lasts more than 24 hours, seek medical help

Treatment and home remedies of osmotic diarrhea

  • Avoid consuming foods that contains sugar, especially milk and dairy products, ice cream and other sugary food at least for 3 to 4 days.
  • Take the BRAT diet which includes bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Yogurt and buttermilk also helps in minimizing the frequency of stools because they are natural probiotics.
  • Drink plenty of liquids especially water in order to replenish lost fluids due to diarrhea, but with severe dehydration, the affected person is usually intravenous fluids to replace the lost electrolytes.

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