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Diarrhea occurs when the food and fluids you ingest pass too quickly or in too large an amount — or both — through your colon. Normally, your colon absorbs liquids from the food you eat, leaving a semisolid stool. But if the liquids from the foods you eat aren't absorbed, the result is a watery bowel movement.
A number of diseases and conditions can cause diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea include:
Bacteria and parasites. Contaminated food or water can transmit bacteria and parasites to your body. Parasites such as Giardia lamblia and cryptosporidium can cause diarrhea.
Common bacterial causes of diarrhea include campylobacter, salmonella, shigella and Escherichia coli. Diarrhea caused by bacteria and parasites can be common when traveling in developing countries and is often called traveler's diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Many people have difficulty digesting lactose and experience diarrhea after eating dairy products.
Your body makes an enzyme that helps digest lactose, but for most people, the levels of this enzyme drop off rapidly after childhood. This causes an increased risk of lactose intolerance as you age.
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