Nocturnal diarrhea

Nocturnal diarrhea refers to diarrhea that happens at night. 

Chronic nocturnal diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious health condition: diabetes, a bowel disorder, or an infection.

Persistent diarrhea can also interrupt sleep and affect the quality of life.

Diarrhea may be acute and last for a few days, or it can be chronic and continue for 4 or more weeks. 

Nocturnal diarrhea symptoms commonly includes the following:



interrupted sleep


stomach pain

the urge to pass stool

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and they will also typically be present during the day. 

People with mild diarrhea often experience symptoms for just a few days, and these can usually be managed with home remedies.

Serious diarrhea can cause additional symptoms, such as:

blood in the stool

severe pain

weight loss

Diarrhea that occurs several times a day for a month or longer is classed as chronic.

Long-term nocturnal diarrhea may also lead to sleep problems, which can affect mood and energy levels.

Diarrhea may be caused by:






If any of these factors are responsible, nocturnal diarrhea typically clears up once the infection is treated or the trigger is eliminated.

Chronic nocturnal diarrhea is likely to have a more serious underlying cause.  such as:

Secretory diarrhea

Causes of diarrhea may include foods, infections, and stress.

Secretory diarrhea occurs when the intestine cannot properly absorb electrolytes. 

Secretory diarrhea a common cause of both acute and chronic diarrhea.

Secretory diarrhea can result from:


bacterial toxins


intestinal surgery

other medical problems that interfere with intestinal function

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Symptoms include:

Other alarm symptoms include:

blood in the stool

progressive pain

unexplained weight loss

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD refers to several chronic conditions that cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Up to 1.6 million people in the United States experience IBD.

IBD causes inflammation, unlike IBS. It also leads to changes in the gut that can increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Some people with IBD experience nocturnal and daytime diarrhea. 

Most people with IBD are diagnosed before the age of 30.

Microscopic colitis causes inflammation of the large intestine and leads to persistent diarrhea. 

Older adults are more commonly affected by microscopic colitis, but anyone who continues to experience nocturnal diarrhea, even when fasting, should be tested for this condition.

Other symptoms of microscopic colitis include:

fecal incontinence


stomach pain and cramping

weight loss

The cause of microscopic colitis is unknown, but taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for 6 months or longer may increase the risk of developing it.

Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes and insulin-dependency are at risk for nocturnal diarrhea, as are those with  diabetic neuropathy.

IBD cannot be cured, so treatment aims to reduce symptoms and achieve and maintain periods of remission.

Medications for IBD include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressors, and therapies that target inflammation.

In some cases, surgery is needed to widen a narrow bowel or remove damaged parts of the digestive tract.

Discontinuing medications that cause problems and making dietary adjustments can treat persistent or severe cases of microscopic colitis.

If these approaches do not work, anti-inflammatory drugs and medicines that block bile acids can be used.

In rare cases, a surgeon will need to remove part or all of the colon.

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