Diarrhea, Acute

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Infant with Acute Diarrhea and Swollen Belly - Hallmarks of Celiac Disease.

Malnourished Infant With Acute Diarrhea and Swollen Belly.

What Is Acute Diarrhea?

Acute diarrhea is a small intestinal motility disorder characterized by excessively rapid movement of intestinal contents through the small intestine with excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes that leads rapidly to a life threatening hypokalemia (low potassium blood level) and acidosis.

Q: What is hypokalemia?

A: Hypokalemia is characterized by dehydration that may result in vascular collapse, muscular malfunction that may result in paralytic ileus (bowels do not move), paralysis (cannot stand), and respiratory hypoventilation (shallow breathing) or failure, metabolic acidosis resulting from diarrhea, and impaired nerve conduction.1

While diarrhea may be a common symptom of small bowel mucosal disease, the consequent malabsorption can lead to substantial malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. The small intestine, unlike the colon, has been relatively inaccessible, and systematic evaluation is often necessary to identify and treat small intestinal mucosal diseases that lead to diarrhea. All patients with severe diarrhea or diarrhea associated with features suggestive of malabsorption may have a disease of the small intestinal mucosa that requires careful evaluation and targeted management.2

What Is Acute Diarrhea In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Kathleen Mahan and Sylvia Escott-Stump, ed. Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy, 10th Edition. Philadelphia, PA. USA: W.B. Saunders Company, 2000. []
  2. Murray JA1, Rubio-Tapia A. Diarrhoea due to small bowel diseases. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;26(5):581-600. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2012.11.013. []