Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford

In this article, “Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford,” Dr. Rutherford addresses the common issue of chronic diarrhea and its connection to various factors such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, gut issues, parasites, bacterial imbalances, and stress. He emphasizes the importance of considering the potential root causes, including travel history and exposure to unclean water, as well as autoimmune gastritis, H. pylori infection, and food sensitivities. The treatment approach may involve addressing stress, using medications or supplements to support gut health, and managing underlying conditions. Dr. Rutherford provides valuable insights into the often-overlooked role of stress and bacterial imbalances in chronic diarrhea, highlighting the need for a comprehensive approach to address this condition effectively.

Dr. Rutherford’s expertise and experience make him well-suited to shed light on the causes and management of chronic diarrhea. With a focus on stress, bacterial imbalances, and underlying conditions, he offers a holistic perspective. This article serves as a valuable resource for individuals seeking to understand and address the root causes of chronic diarrhea, providing helpful tips and insights from an experienced healthcare professional. Remember, though, that this article is for informational purposes only, and it is essential to consult a qualified healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment options.

Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford

Causes of Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea can have various causes, and it is important to understand the underlying factors in order to effectively manage and treat the condition. Here are some of the common causes of chronic diarrhea:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that can cause chronic diarrhea. It is a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. In some cases, the predominant symptom of IBS is diarrhea, which can be ongoing for several months or longer. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it is believed to be linked to various factors such as abnormal muscle contractions in the intestine, increased sensitivity to pain, and changes in gut motility.

Chronic Constipation

Believe it or not, chronic diarrhea can sometimes be caused by chronic constipation. When the bowels become blocked or clogged, liquid stool can leak around the blockage, resulting in frequent loose bowel movements. Chronic constipation can be caused by factors such as a low-fiber diet, dehydration, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions.

Gut Issues

Various issues with the gut, such as inflammation, infections, and structural abnormalities, can contribute to chronic diarrhea. Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may cause chronic diarrhea due to the inflammation and damage to the intestines. Infections from bacteria, viruses, or parasites can also lead to chronic diarrhea if left untreated. Additionally, certain structural abnormalities in the gut, such as diverticulosis or polyps, can cause chronic diarrhea.

Parasites and Bacterial Imbalances

Parasitic infections and imbalances in the gut bacteria are common culprits of chronic diarrhea, especially if there is a history of travel or exposure to unclean water. Parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium can cause prolonged diarrhea, along with symptoms like stomach cramps, nausea, and fatigue. Bacterial imbalances, particularly an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the small intestine, can also disrupt digestion and result in chronic diarrhea.

Stress and its Impact on Digestion

Stress has a significant impact on digestion and can contribute to chronic diarrhea. When you experience chronic stress, it affects the function of the stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, and intestines. Stress can lead to a decrease in stomach acid production, impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients, and changes in gut motility. These disruptions in the digestive process can result in chronic diarrhea.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This overgrowth can interfere with proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, leading to chronic diarrhea. SIBO is often associated with conditions such as IBS and can be caused by factors like a weakened immune system, a structural abnormality in the small intestine, or a lack of proper movement in the intestines.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities or intolerances can trigger chronic diarrhea. Certain foods, such as lactose or gluten, can be difficult for some individuals to digest properly, leading to digestive symptoms including diarrhea. Food sensitivities can be identified through an elimination diet or medical tests, and managing them can help alleviate chronic diarrhea.

Autoimmune Gastritis

Autoimmune gastritis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the cells in the stomach lining. This can lead to a decrease in the production of stomach acid, impairing digestion and resulting in chronic diarrhea. Testing for specific antibodies can help diagnose autoimmune gastritis, and treatment may involve managing the underlying autoimmune condition.

H. pylori Infection

H. pylori infection is a bacterial infection that commonly affects the stomach lining. It can cause inflammation and damage to the stomach, leading to symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. H. pylori infection can be diagnosed through a breath or stool test, and treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics and acid-reducing medications.

Other Contributing Factors

In addition to the above causes, there are several other factors that can contribute to chronic diarrhea. These include certain medications, such as antibiotics or laxatives, hormonal imbalances, underlying medical conditions like thyroid disorders or diabetes, and certain gastrointestinal surgeries. It is essential to address these contributing factors to effectively manage chronic diarrhea.

Diagnosing Chronic Diarrhea

If you are experiencing chronic diarrhea, it is crucial to undergo a thorough diagnostic process to determine the underlying cause. Here are the common methods used in diagnosing chronic diarrhea:

Medical History and Symptoms Evaluation

Your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history and assessing your symptoms. It is important to provide detailed information about your bowel movements, the duration and frequency of diarrhea, any accompanying symptoms, and any triggers or patterns you have noticed. This information will help your doctor narrow down the potential causes and determine the appropriate tests to perform.

Physical Examination

A physical examination may be conducted to evaluate your overall health and look for any signs or symptoms that may indicate an underlying condition. Your abdomen may be palpated to check for tenderness, bloating, or abnormal masses. Additional examinations, such as checking your blood pressure and heart rate, may also be done to assess your general well-being.

Stool Tests

Stool tests, such as fecal occult blood tests, stool cultures, and tests for parasites, may be recommended to identify any infections, inflammation, or abnormal substances in your stools. These tests may involve providing a stool sample at a laboratory or using an at-home test kit. Stool tests can help diagnose conditions like infections caused by bacteria or parasites, inflammatory bowel diseases, and malabsorption disorders.

Blood Tests

Blood tests may be ordered to check for any abnormalities in your blood that could provide clues to the cause of your chronic diarrhea. These tests may include complete blood count (CBC), electrolyte levels, liver function tests, and tests for specific antibodies or immune markers. Blood tests can help identify issues like inflammation, malabsorption, thyroid disorders, or hormonal imbalances that may contribute to chronic diarrhea.

Endoscopy and Colonoscopy

Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may recommend an endoscopy or colonoscopy to examine the lining of your digestive tract and obtain tissue samples for further analysis. During an endoscopy, a thin tube with a camera is inserted through your mouth or nose to visualize the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. A colonoscopy involves a similar procedure but examines the colon and rectum. These procedures can help detect conditions such as ulcers, polyps, or signs of inflammation.

Imaging Tests

In some cases, imaging tests may be necessary to assess the structure and function of your digestive system. Tests such as abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI may be ordered to evaluate the organs in your abdomen and identify any abnormalities, obstructions, or structural issues that could be causing chronic diarrhea.

It is important to collaborate closely with your healthcare provider throughout the diagnostic process to ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for your chronic diarrhea.

Managing Stress-Related Chronic Diarrhea

Stress can play a significant role in chronic diarrhea, and managing stress is crucial in alleviating symptoms. Here are some techniques and strategies that can help you manage stress-related chronic diarrhea:

Stress Reduction Techniques

Engaging in stress reduction techniques can be highly beneficial in calming your body and reducing the impact of stress on your digestive system. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation are all effective techniques in reducing stress.

Mind-Body Therapies

Mind-body therapies, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, combine physical movements with breath control and mental focus. These practices promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Incorporating mind-body therapies into your routine can help calm your body and mind, leading to improved digestion and reduced chronic diarrhea symptoms.

Counseling or Therapy

Seeking counseling or therapy can provide you with a safe space to explore and address the underlying stressors contributing to your chronic diarrhea. A mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies, challenge negative thought patterns, and provide support in managing stress.

Stress Management Strategies

Adopting healthy stress management strategies is essential in preventing and managing stress-related chronic diarrhea. Some effective strategies include time management techniques, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and seeking social support. Identifying stress triggers and developing healthy coping mechanisms can significantly reduce the impact of stress on your digestive system.

Incorporating stress management techniques into your daily routine can have a profound effect on your overall well-being and help alleviate chronic diarrhea symptoms associated with stress.

Medications for Chronic Diarrhea

In certain cases, medications may be prescribed to manage chronic diarrhea symptoms and address the underlying causes. Here are some commonly used medications for chronic diarrhea:

Anti-Diarrheal Medications

Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), work by slowing down the movement of the intestines and reducing bowel movements. These medications can be effective in controlling chronic diarrhea and providing temporary relief.

Anti-Spasmodic Medications

Anti-spasmodic medications, such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) or hyoscyamine (Levsin), help relieve abdominal cramps and spasms associated with chronic diarrhea. These medications work by relaxing the muscles in the intestines, promoting smoother bowel movements, and reducing discomfort.

Medications to Regulate Bowel Movements

Depending on the underlying cause of chronic diarrhea, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to regulate bowel movements. For example, if chronic diarrhea is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), medications such as linaclotide (Linzess) or lubiprostone (Amitiza) may be prescribed to improve bowel function and reduce diarrhea.

It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations regarding medication use, dosage, and duration to effectively manage chronic diarrhea symptoms and minimize potential side effects.

Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford

Supplements for Gut Health

In addition to medications, certain supplements can support gut health and alleviate chronic diarrhea symptoms. Here are some supplements that may be beneficial in managing chronic diarrhea:


Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for gut health. They can help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, improve digestion, and reduce inflammation. Probiotic supplements are available in various forms, such as capsules, powders, or yogurts, and can be beneficial in managing chronic diarrhea, particularly if it is caused by imbalances in gut bacteria.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzyme supplements contain enzymes that help break down food and improve digestion. They can be particularly helpful if chronic diarrhea is caused by poor digestion or malabsorption issues. Digestive enzyme supplements are available over-the-counter and can be taken with meals to aid digestion and reduce diarrhea.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the gut. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil or flaxseed oil, may be beneficial in managing chronic diarrhea caused by inflammatory bowel diseases or other inflammatory conditions.


L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining. Supplementing with L-glutamine can help repair and strengthen the gut lining, reducing leaky gut syndrome and alleviating chronic diarrhea.

Butyrate Supplements

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that is produced by the gut bacteria during the digestion of dietary fibers. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal effects and can help regulate bowel movements. Butyrate supplements are available in various forms, including capsules and powders, and can be beneficial in managing chronic diarrhea caused by gut imbalances.

It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements to ensure they are appropriate for your specific condition and to determine the proper dosage.

Dietary Modifications

Making dietary modifications can have a significant impact on managing chronic diarrhea. Here are some dietary changes that may help alleviate symptoms:

Identifying Trigger Foods

Keeping a food diary and identifying trigger foods can be an effective strategy in managing chronic diarrhea. Common trigger foods include spicy foods, greasy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and certain artificial sweeteners. By eliminating or reducing these trigger foods from your diet, you may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic diarrhea episodes.

Implementing a Low FODMAP Diet

The low-FODMAP diet is an eating plan that restricts certain types of sugars called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). FODMAPs can ferment in the gut and cause digestive symptoms, including diarrhea, in some individuals. Following a low-FODMAP diet under the guidance of a registered dietitian can help identify specific trigger foods and provide relief from chronic diarrhea.

Eliminating Gluten or Lactose

In some cases, chronic diarrhea may be caused by gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance. Eliminating gluten-containing foods or reducing lactose intake can help alleviate symptoms and improve gut health. It is important to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure proper dietary modifications and to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Incorporating Fiber-Rich Foods

Increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods can help regulate bowel movements and reduce chronic diarrhea. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Gradually increasing fiber intake and staying adequately hydrated can promote healthy digestion and reduce the frequency of loose stools.

Increasing Fluid Intake

Staying well-hydrated is crucial in managing chronic diarrhea and preventing dehydration. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help replace lost fluids and electrolytes due to diarrhea. Electrolyte-rich beverages, like sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions, may be recommended if diarrhea is severe or prolonged.

Working with a registered dietitian can be helpful in developing a personalized dietary plan to manage chronic diarrhea and ensure optimal nutritional balance.

Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford

Addressing Underlying Conditions

Treating the underlying condition is essential in managing chronic diarrhea effectively. Here are some common underlying conditions associated with chronic diarrhea and their respective treatment approaches:

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If chronic diarrhea is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), treatment may involve a combination of dietary modifications, stress management techniques, and medications. Working with a healthcare provider or gastroenterologist can help develop an individualized treatment plan to manage IBS symptoms and reduce chronic diarrhea episodes.

Managing Chronic Constipation

Addressing chronic constipation is crucial in managing chronic diarrhea caused by the leakage of stool around blockages. Treatment may involve dietary changes, increased fiber intake, adequate hydration, and the use of laxatives or stool softeners to regulate bowel movements and eliminate blockages.

Addressing Gut Issues and Imbalances

Treating gut issues, such as inflammatory bowel diseases or structural abnormalities, may involve a combination of medications, dietary modifications, and lifestyle changes. Depending on the specific condition, anti-inflammatory medications, immune-suppressing drugs, and biologics may be prescribed. Surgical interventions may be necessary in cases of severe structural abnormalities.

Parasite Treatment

If chronic diarrhea is caused by a parasitic infection, treatment will involve targeted medications to eliminate the parasites. Antiparasitic medications can vary depending on the specific parasite, and it is important to complete the full course of treatment to ensure eradication.

Treating Autoimmune Gastritis and H. pylori Infection

Autoimmune gastritis and H. pylori infection may require specific treatments targeted at reducing inflammation and eradicating the bacteria. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antibiotics, or immunosuppressants may be prescribed, depending on the severity of the condition.

Addressing the underlying conditions contributing to chronic diarrhea is vital in managing symptoms and improving gut health. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan based on your specific condition and needs.

Lifestyle Changes for Chronic Diarrhea

In addition to medical treatments and dietary modifications, certain lifestyle changes can complement your management of chronic diarrhea. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help alleviate symptoms and support gut health:

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve digestion, reduce stress, and support overall gut health. Exercise stimulates the muscles of the intestines, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation or diarrhea. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Sleep deprivation can disrupt digestion, increase stress hormone levels, and contribute to symptoms of chronic diarrhea. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night to support gut health.

Quitting Smoking

Smoking has numerous detrimental effects on overall health, including the digestive system. Smoking can increase the risk of gastrointestinal disorders, irritate the intestinal lining, and disrupt gut motility. Quitting smoking can significantly improve gut health and reduce chronic diarrhea symptoms.

Limiting Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol can irritate the stomach and intestines, causing inflammation and disruption of gut function. Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can help alleviate chronic diarrhea symptoms and improve overall digestion.

Hygiene and Water Safety Practices

Practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, can help prevent infections that can lead to chronic diarrhea. Additionally, ensuring the safety of your drinking water, particularly when traveling to areas with a higher risk of waterborne illnesses, can minimize the chances of developing parasitic infections or bacterial imbalances.

Incorporating these lifestyle changes into your daily routine can have a positive impact on managing chronic diarrhea and supporting overall gut health.

Managing Chronic Diarrhea: Tips from Dr. Martin Rutherford

When to Seek Medical Help

While certain home remedies and lifestyle changes can help alleviate chronic diarrhea, there are instances when it is essential to seek medical help. Here are some indications that warrant medical attention:

Symptoms Worsen or Don’t Improve

If your chronic diarrhea symptoms worsen or persist despite home remedies and self-care measures, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. Persistent diarrhea may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical intervention.

Severe Dehydration

Chronic diarrhea can result in dehydration, which can be serious if left untreated. If you experience symptoms such as excessive thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, decreased urine output, or dark-colored urine, seek immediate medical attention to prevent dehydration complications.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Unintentional weight loss is a concerning symptom that should not be ignored. If you are experiencing chronic diarrhea accompanied by significant weight loss, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

Blood in Stools

The presence of blood in your stools can indicate an issue within the digestive tract, such as inflammation, ulcers, or bleeding. If you notice blood in your stools, it is important to seek medical attention promptly to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Persistent Abdominal Pain

Chronic diarrhea accompanied by persistent or severe abdominal pain may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical evaluation. Abdominal pain that is interfering with your daily activities or not responding to over-the-counter pain medications should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

If you experience any of these warning signs or are unsure about the cause of your chronic diarrhea, it is always recommended to consult with your healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate management.


Chronic diarrhea can significantly impact your quality of life, but with the right diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to effectively manage the condition. Addressing the underlying causes, managing stress, making dietary and lifestyle changes, and seeking medical guidance can help alleviate chronic diarrhea symptoms and promote optimal gut health. Remember to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. With patience and persistence, you can regain control over your digestive health and enjoy a better quality of life.

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