Most everyone has experienced diarrhea at some point in their life. While the term diarrhea generally describes loose, even watery stools, explosive diarrhea refers to forceful and very urgent loose stools. Explosive diarrhea is typically associated with an acute condition, resolving within a day or two, but it can also be experienced long term as a symptom of chronic disease. A doctor should be consulted if diarrhea lasts longer than a week or is accompanied by rectal bleeding.
The most common cause of acute diarrhea is typically a gastrointestinal infection. Gastrointestinal infections are caused by certain bacteria, viruses or parasites. Most intestinal infections are caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and tend to resolve in a few days with or without treatment. Some intestinal infections also occur immediately following treatment with antibiotics. Bacterial infections caused by Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, Clostridium difficile or Campylobacter may produce explosive diarrhea. Giardia lamblia is the most common cause of parasitic infections and is usually responsible for explosive diarrhea. Many viruses can cause diarrhea, but the most common cause of explosive diarrhea is the rotavirus, affecting children in particular.
Medication often causes a change in bowel habits, and is sometimes responsible for bouts of explosive diarrhea. Antibiotics can cause diarrhea by killing off large numbers of good bacteria that normally inhabit the bowel. Blood pressure medication, cancer medication and antacids with large amounts of magnesium can also cause explosive diarrhea. In general, explosive diarrhea is experienced soon after starting the new medication, but it may even be experienced several weeks after taking the medication, as seen with antibiotics. It is important to let the prescribing doctor know anytime there is a change in bowel habit following the start of new medication.
Several chronic conditions can cause inflammation of the colon, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. Any of these conditions can cause explosive diarrhea, but it is most commonly seen with ulcerative colitis. Because chronic diarrhea can be a sign of several serious medical conditions, it is important to consult a doctor and obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Malabsorption refers to the body's inability to absorb certain nutrients from foods. Many conditions, medications and intolerances can cause malabsorption. According to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, the impaired absorption of certain sugars can cause explosive, foul-smelling diarrhea. Malabsorption can be serious, leading to nutrient deficiencies and weight loss. Anyone experiencing explosive diarrhea as a result of malabsorption should be under the care of a doctor.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Diarrhea
- "Textbook of Natural Medicine"; Joseph E. Pizzorno, N.D. & Michael T. Murray, N.D.; 2006
- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Malabsorption