Chronic diarrhoea: what might be causing it?

Written by: Dr Mani Naghibi
Published: | Updated: 19/10/2023
Edited by: Robert Smith

Diarrhoea is when you pass stools more frequently than usual. Most people will experience it from time to time, and it’s usually nothing serious. However, if you’re suffering from diarrhoea for several weeks, this is classed as chronic diarrhoea and you should talk to a doctor.

One of our top consultant gastroenterologists Dr Mani Naghibi who has more than 35 years of experience, spoke to us about this condition, how it’s diagnosed and treated.

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How common is chronic diarrhoea?

Chronic diarrhoea is a common condition and approximately 5% of the general population suffers from it at any one time. Diarrhoea can be defined as soft to watery stools which can be associated with increased frequency of defecation to urgency or incontinence. The stool consistency becomes loose to watery.


How long until diarrhoea is classed as chronic? Can it last years?

If diarrhoea persists for more than four weeks, it will be classified as chronic and in some conditions, it can last for years.


What causes chronic diarrhoea?

A detailed history is required from the patient in addition to arranging investigations. The most common conditions which can cause diarrhoea are:


In younger age:

Irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, lactose malabsorption and bile acid malabsorption.


In older age groups:

In addition to the above conditions, it can be due to microscopic colitis which is less common in younger age groups.

Certain conditions that can occur in any age group such as coeliac disease and infections like clostridium difficile which can last for more than four weeks can also cause chronic diarrhoea. Infections can also cause diarrhoea in people with immunodeficiency. Diarrhoea due to pancreatic insufficiency and bacterial overgrowth can also occur at any age.


What medical treatments are available?

Medical treatment requires a definite diagnosis. The diagnosis can be reached by taking details of the symptoms and arranging certain investigations in the form of blood and stool examination. In some people, a colonoscopy will be required to reach a final diagnosis.


What can I do from home to manage chronic diarrhoea?

The treatment will depend upon the diagnosis. If all the causes have been excluded, then one may be left with the probability of irritable bowel syndrome. This is a condition due to altered gut sensitivity and rapid transit of food products leading to diarrhoea. This can be triggered by stress and can be a lifelong condition. It can be managed with dietary modification, drugs which slow the gut movements and stress management.



If you have been suffering from frequent episodes of diarrhoea, make an appointment with Dr Mani Naghibi​ so that you can find out the root cause and be treated as soon as possible.

By Dr Mani Naghibi

Dr Mani Naghibi is a highly experienced consultant gastroenterologist who specialises in gastrointestinal cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, heartburn and reflux, conditions causing diarrhoea and constipation, helicobacter pylori and ulcers.

Dr Naghibi earned his medical degree and a further degree in anatomy and physiology at Guy’s King's and St Thomas’ School of Medicine in London. In his post-university medical training, he specialised in gastroenterology, nutrition and general internal medicine.

He is a speaker at international gastrointestinal conferences and is an honorary senior lecturer at St Mark's National Bowel Hospital, which is one of the few in the world that is entirely dedicated to treating gastrointestinal disorders. He has also been awarded the Shire Prize in innovation in Gastroenterology.

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