Chronic diarrhea is an intestinal motility disorder characterized by 1) alteration in stool formation causing loose to fluid movements and quantity of movements with or without abdominal pain and 2) interference with normal carbohydrate salvage by the intestinal microbe population.
The severity of diarrhea is determined by the frequency and quantity of fluid lost.
Q: What is carbohydrate salvage by microbes in the colon?
A: Carbohydrate salvage in the colon is the necessary process whereby billions of microbes normally present in the colon work to breakdown undigestible carbohydrate foodstuffs such as fiber that continually arrive from the small intestine.
The microbial action releases energy to the body that would otherwise be lost with defecation, generates short-chain fatty acids, and stimulates sodium and fluid absorption. In this important process, butyrate and proprionate are produced which nourish the colonocytes (cells that line the colon), and acetate is produced for the liver.
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.1
What Is Chronic Diarrhea In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?
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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. ↩