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eMed previously Babylon Health


Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

Most people experience diarrhoea from time to time, and it usually clears up within a few days without treatment. It’s a condition which makes you frequently pass watery loose stools, and can be quite unpleasant. It’s a digestive problem which is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. If you don’t feel better within a week, then you should discuss your diarrhoea with a doctor. You can book a discreet appointment with a GP in the comfort of your own home.


The main symptom of diarrhoea is the urgent need to poo, and the fact it contains a lot of water.

  • Soft, loose faeces
  • Watery faeces
  • Stomach cramps
  • Less control over the bowel movements

Because you lose a lot of water in your poo when you have diarrhoea, you may also suffer from dehydration as a result of the condition. Look out for the following symptoms of dehydration, and speak to a doctor if you experience them.

  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Passing urine infrequently

Causes of Diarrhoea

There are a few reasons you might suffer from diarrhoea, but usually it’s down to a bowel infection caused by bacteria, a virus or a parasite. You may pick these up in contaminated food and water, from travelling abroad or by catching a contagious virus from another person. Here are some other known causes:

  • Food allergy or intolerance
  • Medication
  • Mental health issues such as stress or anxiety
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Gut disorders

Because diarrhoea is normally caused by an infection, you can reduce your risk by washing hands thoroughly before eating and avoiding sharing towels and cutlery with others.


In most cases, your symptoms should clear up within a week and there is no need to see a doctor. You can help your body recover by drinking lots of fluids, and avoiding foods and drinks which could irritate the gut – alcohol, spicy food, fizzy drinks. You may not feel like eating solid food but you should try as soon as you can.

You can also buy medicine over the counter to reduce episodes of diarrhoea. You might need a rehydration solution if you think you’re at risk of becoming dehydrated. If you have had diarrhoea for over a week, if you’ve lost a lot of weight, if you also have vomiting symptoms or you notice your poo is extremely dark, speak to a GP straight away.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.