Stomach cramps and diarrhea are common digestive symptoms that can affect anyone at any time and usually do not indicate an underlying problem. Severe stomach cramps and diarrhea that last for a few days can be a sign of a bacterial or viral infection, however. Persistent bad stomachaches and diarrhea may indicate chronic digestive problems.
Viral gastroenteritis, commonly called the stomach flu, is an intestinal infection that can develop as a result of consuming contaminated food or water or close contact with someone who is infected. MayoClinic.com notes that the virus that most commonly causes viral gastroenteritis is the rotavirus.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis include bad stomach cramps, severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, headaches and low fever. There is no specific treatment for viral gastroenteritis since viruses are not responsive to antibiotics. Bed rest and an increased consumption of liquids can help ease symptoms until the infection goes away, usually within a couple of days.
Food poisoning is a parasitic infection caused by eating food or water that has been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins. Most cases of food poisoning are from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.
Symptoms of food poisoning usually begin within two to six hours of ingesting contaminated food or water and include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting and weakness, according to MedlinePlus. Most types of food poisoning resolve on their own within 12 to 48 hours, but in severe cases, emergency medical attention may be required. While symptoms persist, increased fluid intake and avoidance of dairy products are recommended.
Crohn's disease is a chronic digestive disorder that is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. Although the inflammation can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, it most often affects the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Crohn's disease belongs to a group of diseases referred to as inflammatory bowel diseases and the exact cause is unknown.
The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are severe stomach cramps and diarrhea. Some people may experience rectal bleeding, weight loss, arthritis, skin problems and fever as well. Because the exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, treatment usually consists of a combination of options that includes medications, nutritional supplements and surgery, in severe cases.