Chronic diarrhea, an often persistent condition, can lead to chronic dehydration and renal lithiasis i.e kidney stones. This article explores how your digestive health and dietary habits can lead to affecting other organs' healthy functions in the body. Resulting in conditions like kidney stones.
Your kidneys contain millions of tiny filtration units called nephrons. Each nephron filters blood to remove toxins, extra water and other materials that your body needs to remove. This material accumulates as urine in the kidney tubules until it is removed by urination.
Kidney stones form when too much material (crystals) builds up in the urine. These crystals consist of chemicals found in urine such as calcium, phosphorus, citrate, cystine or oxalate. The most common type of crystal that forms into a kidney stone is Calcium Oxalate (CaOx).
Kidney stones (renal lithiasis) can range in size from very tiny to larger than a golf ball. They usually consist of uric acid or calcium, though they may also be composed of cystine or struvite (also called triple phosphate).
A person is at higher risk for developing kidney stones if they have chronic diarrhea as opposed to just regular acute diarrhea.
Diarrhea is characterized by more frequent bowel movements, usually with watery stool.
Chronic diarrhea is a term used to describe persistent diarrhea lasting more than two weeks and may be accompanied by cramping abdominal pain and bloating as well as weight loss, fatigue and weakness. Chronic diarrhea is typically caused by an underlying disease or disorder of the intestine.
Acute diarrhea on the other hand is defined by watery stool and only lasts for a few days (usually less than 2 weeks). Chronic and acute diarrhea can sometimes overlap, making it difficult to precisely identify the nature of the problem, but common causes can be food poisoning or flu.
Loose stools associated with chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The main constituents of urine are sodium and chloride, they are exchanged for potassium in the kidney tubules. If there is a large amount of fluid loss through diarrhea then the body will lose too much sodium and chloride in the urine which also leads to an imbalance of potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia). This electrolyte imbalance can cause Kidney stones.
Additionally, diarrhea can cause chronic dehydration, which leads to Kidney stones because the mineral salts in the urine are more concentrated due to the fluid loss. At this high concentration, small crystals of calcium phosphate or oxalate form around certain types of bacteria, which is how many kidney stones are made.
Other conditions associated with chronic diarrhea are celiac disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Chronic diarrhea can stem from several medical problems that affect the gastrointestinal tract i.e Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
Treatment for chronic diarrhea must aim at restoring normal hydration and electrolyte balance along with regulating bowel motility i.e slowing the intestinal transit time.
Chronic diarrhea can become a medical concern if it is accompanied by fever, blood in stool or significant weight loss. In case of chronic diarrhea lasting longer than 2-3 weeks you should consult your Gastroenterologist as soon as possible as the underlying cause needs to be uncovered and treated as early as possible. In cases where chronic kidney disease is present/suspected it becomes even more important to seek medical attention.
To learn more about how we can help with chronic diarrhea, or if you’d like to be seen by a physician, contact us today. We treat all gastrointestinal issues and disorders with quality, comprehensive care.