Causes, Treatment & Complications

Understanding the causes of diarrhea can help you plan a treatment protocol that works for your loved one.

The different causes of diarrhea can be separated into specific categories. Reviewing these should help you determine what the most likely culprit can be.

This condition can be overwhelming for you as a caregiver and has medical complications for your loved one. It can quickly lead to exhaustion for the entire household, especially if it is associated with bowel incontinence.

Chronic or severe, the impact can be devastating.

Many elderly people are very private about bowel issues so you may not even know if they are using the toilet independently. Try to open up the conversation a little so you can at least be aware and encourage some of the natural treatments and if necessary, medication to help as well.


The first step in overcoming this is to understand the cause.

  • Is it related to an intestinal infection?

  • Is it caused by a specific infection called C Diff?

  • Are the stools bloody?

  • Are the stools black?

  • Are the stools maroon colored?

  • Is it related to certain medications?

  • Is it related to an underlying medical condition?

  • Does it follow eating certain types of food?

  • Has your loved one developed a gluten or lactose intolerance?

  • Does it occur only under periods of emotional stress?


There are several medications that can be used to treat if the condition is chronic.

However, be cautious in their use and only take for the recommended amount of time. This caution applies to both OTC (over the counter) diarrheal aids as well as prescription medications.

Talk to your doctor about this issue before starting medications. There are a few instances when it should NOT be treated, where treatment can cause more harm than good.

Dietary and Natural Treatments

There are a variety of foods that may help bulk up the stool and prevent the need for frequent toileting.

One specific diet ... the BRAT Diet .... is easy to implement and is effective for acute cases. It may also prove to be useful for chronic cases; however, other foods will have to be added to it to provide for adequate nutrition.

There are a variety of natural and homeopathic treatment options as well that you may want to consider.


Complications can range from mild and simply irritation to severe and in extreme cases, deadly. It is a condition that MUST be taken seriously to avoid serious side effects.

A few examples of the complications include:

  • Failure to thrive

  • Electrolyte imbalance

  • Dehydration

  • Skin breakdown

  • Bowel incontinence

  • Fever

  • Weight loss

  • Anorexia

  • Malnutrition

Knowing the cause and preventing the complication is critical in developing a treatment plan.

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