‘Nocturnal diarrhoea’ could be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease, says doctor

NHS advise on how to treat diarrhoea

As anybody who enjoys spicy food would know, the after-effects can include loose, watery stools.

But sometimes, diarrhoea can signal more serious health issues. Dr Will Bulsiewicz explained what to look out for.

“Spicy meals contain a phytochemical called capsaicin,” the doctor said on the Zoe Science and Nutrition YouTube channel.

Capsaicin “irritates pain receptors that exist within the intestines”, which the body wants to get rid of as soon as possible.

READ MORE Doctors shares what is ‘normal’ when it comes to pooing

Consequently, digestion is sped up and diarrhoea is the result, but there are other classic triggers for diarrhoea, such as:

  • Non-fermented dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Sugars, including artificial sweeteners.

“When you have diarrhoea, it’s because your intestines have been flooded with an abnormal amount of water,” Dr Bulsiewicz said.

There’s a couple of ways this occurs, either the small intestine isn’t adequately absorbing water or there is water being pulled into the intestines.

To elaborate, when eating fatty foods, which is challenging for the digestive system to absorb, the extra fat can “pull water in”.

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If a person has one or two loose bowel movements, it’s probably because of something they have eaten.

Should the problem persist, however, such as having three bouts of diarrhoea in a 24-hour period, this could be an infection known as gastroenteritis (i.e. stomach flu).

Signs of an infection can include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Blood in stool.

When there’s a presence of “nocturnal diarrhoea”, which means you wake up from a slumber to evacuate the bowels, then it’s a sign of infection or an inflammatory disease.

“There are many digestive conditions that exist, but many won’t wake you up; with an infection or inflammation, it would,” said Dr Bulsiewicz.

Examples of inflammatory bowel diseases that can lead to nocturnal diarrhoea include colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The way to tell the difference between an infection or an inflammatory disease is the speed at which symptoms appear.

An infection “hits you like a rocket”, leading to diarrhoea within hours, whereas an inflammatory disease could slowly pick up steam for months.

Anybody experiencing diarrhoea is at risk of dehydration, which may lead to:

  • An increased heart rate
  • A dry mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Lightheadedness.

“To replace fluids, you need to have electrolytes by having Dioralyte, broth, soup, or a banana,” said Dr Bulsiewicz.

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