What are possible causes of acute onset diarrhea?

Updated: Jan 31, 2020
  • Author: Stefano Guandalini, MD; Chief Editor: Carmen Cuffari, MD  more...
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Causes of diarrhea with acute onset include the following:

  • Infections

    • Enteric infections (including food poisoning

    • Extraintestinal infections

  • Drug-induced

    • Antibiotic-associated

    • Laxatives

    • Antacids that contain magnesium

    • Opiate withdrawal

    • Other drugs

  • Food allergies or intolerances

    • Cow's milk protein allergy

    • Soy protein allergy

    • Multiple food allergies

    • Olestra

    • Methylxanthines (caffeine, theobromine, theophylline)

  • Disorders of digestive/absorptive processes

    • Glucose-galactose malabsorption

    • Sucrase-isomaltase deficiency

    • Late-onset (adult-type) hypolactasia, resulting in lactose intolerance

  • Chemotherapy or radiation-induced enteritis

  • Surgical conditions

  • Vitamin deficiencies

    • Niacin deficiency

    • Folate deficiency

  • Vitamin toxicity

    • Vitamin C

    • Niacin, vitamin B3

  • Ingestion of heavy metals or toxins (eg, copper, tin, zinc)

  • Ingestion of plants (eg, hyacinths, daffodils, azalea, mistletoe, Amanita species mushrooms

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