It is quite common to sometimes have loose stools, either in the morning or anytime during the day. However, it is a matter of concern if passing loose stools every morning starts becoming a pattern. Morning diarrhea refers to a condition where you have a loose and watery stool, along with an urgent need to have a bowel movement immediately upon waking up in the morning. For many people, the need to pass stool may even wake them up from sleep in the early hours. Diarrhea is the body’s way of getting rid of toxic or unwanted substances in the body. If you suffer from morning diarrhea then it is time to get a proper diagnosis to determine why this is happening daily. Morning diarrhea could be a result of something you ate the night before that did not agree with your stomach. Or it could also be a resultant of staying up too late every night working. Even the cup of coffee you drink in the morning or the morning cigarette could very well be the cause of morning diarrhea. Read on to find out the common causes of morning diarrhea, why it occurs, and how you can prevent it.
What is Morning Diarrhea & What are its Symptoms?
Loose and watery stools along with a sense of urgency to have a bowel movement, upon waking up in the morning, is known as morning diarrhea. Some people experience such an urgent need for a bowel movement that they end up waking up from sleep. While an occasional episode of morning diarrhea is no cause for concern, but if it starts to occur regularly for several weeks, then it is time to diagnose the underlying cause and seek help from a doctor. Apart from loose and watery stools, morning diarrhea can also cause other symptoms, such as:
- Frequent bowel movements
- Abdominal pain, usually also followed by cramps
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Feeling bloated
- Blood in stool
Prolonged morning diarrhea is a cause for concern and usually indicates an underlying health problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a bacterial infection. It could even be a simple reason such as a dietary pattern that is not suiting your stomach and needs to be changed.
5 Common Causes of Morning Diarrhea
Let us look at some of the common causes of morning diarrhea:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is one of the most common causes of morning diarrhea and is usually the first condition doctors diagnose you with if you complain of diarrhea. IBS occurs when the intestines do not contract in a manner they are supposed to. Symptoms of IBS, apart from the morning diarrhea, may include:
The exact cause of IBS remains unclear, though it is believed that stress, certain foods, poor dietary choices, changes in your day to day routine, etc., can trigger morning diarrhea and other symptoms of IBS. Eating healthier or changing the timings of y our evening meals can actually help solve the symptoms of IBS. Having your evening meals earlier can also help reduce the occurrence of morning diarrhea. If you are diagnosed with IBS, then consider adding bananas and probiotic yogurts to your daily diet to get relief from symptoms.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also another common cause of morning diarrhea. IBD is not actually one condition. IBD is a collective term for a group of chronic intestinal conditions, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. The infection that occurs causes the bowel walls to become inflamed. If you have Crohn’s, then it is possible for this inflammation to spread from the lining of the digestive tract to surrounding tissues. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, causes ulcers or sores to form along the lining of the large intestine.
- Morning diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Weight loss
- Blood or mucus in stool
Watery diarrhea is commonly associated with Crohn’s disease, while ulcerative colitis is associated with bloody diarrhea, combined with severe lower abdominal cramps. IBD has periods of flare-ups and then a period of remission. IBD is known for causing morning diarrhea and it is likely that the urgent need to pass stool may even interrupt your sleep in the morning.
Infections Caused by Viruses and Bacteria
Morning diarrhea can also be a result of a viral or bacterial infection. Having contaminated food is one of the primary ways in which these bacteria and viruses enter the body. Having bacterial or viral infections, or even having a case of food poisoning, causes both diarrhea and vomiting throughout the day, with the problem being more rampant during the morning. Morning diarrhea is particularly present in cases where the infection is mild to moderate or if you consumed the contaminated food or beverage just the night before.
Rotavirus is one such virus that triggers morning diarrhea. Salmonella is also another common bacterial infection that causes morning diarrhea.
Adverse Reactions to Medication
Certain medications, particularly antibiotics, are often associated with morning diarrhea. Diarrhea is a direct result of a side effect to the antibiotic. Due to the fact that the organs of the body remain in a dormant state while sleeping, upon waking up, these organs become active and thus react to the medication that has been circulating in your bloodstream all night. This sort of a reaction is more prominent when you take the medication just before going to bed.
While morning sickness is common in many pregnant women, many are not aware that morning diarrhea can also occur because of the same reason why morning sickness occurs. The elevated levels of hormones in the body during pregnancy lead to morning sickness, and it can lead to diarrhea as well in the morning hours. It is particularly common in the first trimester of the pregnancy. The condition tends to subside on its own and does not require any treatment.
Treatment for Morning Diarrhea
The treatment for morning diarrhea depends on treating the underlying cause. Usually, treatment includes dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and medications to manage the symptoms. If you want to undertake a diet change, then the following tips are recommended:
- Avoid high-gas producing foods and beverages such as carbonated sodas, raw fruit, vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli.
- Avoiding consumption of bread, cereals, pasta, and food items containing gluten can help get rid of morning diarrhea.
- Consume foods rich in fiber such as beans and lentils
- Have probiotics every day to restore the intestinal bacteria to its normal condition and treat the problem of morning diarrhea
- Avoid foods that irritate the lining of the intestines, such as spicy foods, alcohol, fruit juices, caffeinated beverages, and certain dairy products
- You can take anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide, to get relief from the symptoms while you wait for your doctor to diagnose the underlying cause of morning diarrhea.
- Antidepressants can also sometimes be prescribed for the treatment of IBS, particularly to treat morning diarrhea, even without depression. Antidepressants such as desipramine (Norpramin) and imipramine (Tofranil) are known to help. Bowel spasms that cause diarrhea can be treated with anticholinergic medications such as dicyclomine (Bentyl).
- Antibiotics and antivirals are often prescribed to treat infections, but diarrhea can be a caused by some of these medications as well.
How to Prevent Morning Diarrhea?
Once the underlying cause of your morning diarrhea has been diagnosed, your doctor will then recommend the necessary steps to prevent further episodes. If you have IBS, aim to prevent IBS flare-ups. You can look at ways to reduce stress through meditation, counseling, progressive relaxation techniques, etc.
Prevention of IBD symptoms requires dietary modifications. Try limiting dairy products and high-fat foods. You should also switch to having smaller and more frequent meals, rather than three heavy meals in the day.
You can prevent bacterial and viral infections by consuming food and beverages that are safe and prepared in hygienic conditions.
It is possible that your morning diarrhea is temporary, particularly if it is caused by an infection or pregnancy. You can treat morning diarrhea successfully with medication and if the problem is occurring due to dietary issues, then you should make the required changes to prevent future problems. If you suffer from a chronic condition such as IBD or IBS, then lifestyle modifications, medications, and dietary changes together can help get relief from symptoms. In cases of chronic morning diarrhea, you should work with your doctor to work out a treatment plan. There is no reason to worry as successful treatment options are available for morning diarrhea.
- Mayo Clinic – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation – Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-crohns-disease/symptoms
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Rotavirus: https://www.cdc.gov/rotavirus/about/symptoms.html
- Salmonella Infections – MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/salmonellainfections.html
- MedlinePlus – Diarrhea: https://medlineplus.gov/diarrhea.html
- American College of Gastroenterology – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Treatment: https://gi.org/topics/irritable-bowel-syndrome/
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) – Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/treatment