We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Osmotic Diarrhea?

By Nat Robinson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Diarrhea is the presence of frequent loose and primarily watery stools. This is a very common gastrointestinal condition and generally most people experience it at some point or another. There are different types of diarrhea. Osmotic diarrhea is a type that generally occurs due to something a person ingests. Most commonly diarrhea of this kind occurs due to a type of intolerance to certain sugars.

Osmotic diarrhea commonly results when something ingested draws water into the intestines, producing watery and loose stools. In many cases, this happens when a person is unable to properly absorb particular types of sugar. Artificial sweeteners, commonly found in food products like chewing gum, can cause this to happen. Additionally, fructose, which is used in a variety of products such as fruit juices and beverages, can cause this to happen. Sugar commonly found in dairy products such as milk can also cause this type of diarrhea.

In addition to a sudden change in stool frequency and consistency, individuals with this type of diarrhea may also experience abdominal cramping. Sometimes, an individual will also experience general abdominal pain. There may also be a visible distention or bloating of the stomach. Occasionally, ongoing diarrhea may lead to other symptoms. For instance, some people may develop a fever or start to see spots of blood in their stool after a while.

Osmotic diarrhea can affect anyone, especially, if he or she has a intolerance to sugar. It is important to be especially careful with babies, young children and senior citizens with this condition, because they can become dehydrated more rapidly. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of the signs of dehydration, in particularly with a baby or small child. Parents of a child with diarrhea who notice a decrease in the number of wet diapers, a lack of tears when crying and a particularly sluggish or drowsy demeanor should seek medical help at once.

A professional diagnosis of osmotic diarrhea may be made by a medical doctor. He or she may make the official diagnosis after performing a complete examination. Patients may also be asked questions about their condition which may help to pinpoint this particular type of diarrhea. Some doctors may conduct certain tests also. For example, the stool output may be tested for a presence of blood.

In most cases, diarrhea will clear on its own. With osmotic diarrhea, this will typically happen once the sugar-containing product is fully evacuated from the system. Diarrhea in the elderly and very young may need to be treated though, as the condition can become dangerous more quickly in these individuals. If ongoing or chronic diarrhea leads to dehydration, the first method of treatment will generally be to replenish the lost fluids in the body. In an emergency, this may be done intravenously. To obtain osmotic diarrhea relief in a standard case, it is generally a good idea to avoid the food products that may have led to the condition.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Aug 22, 2014

My mom has lactose intolerance. For years, whenever she has constipation, she has drank milk to fight it. And she would always tell me to do the same when it happened to me. I tried it a few times and I did not develop diarrhea. I then read about lactose intolerance and realized that this is why my mom experiences diarrhea after having milk. I told her about it and she didn't believe me at first. I bought her lactose free milk to try and she also realized her intolerance after that.

I think it's an awful idea for a lactose intolerant person to use milk as a type of laxative. I'm glad my mom has understood that what she experienced was osmotic diarrhea.

By stoneMason — On Aug 21, 2014

@fBoyle-- Yes, that's the reason why some artificial sweeteners cause diarrhea. Especially sugar alcohols (which actually have nothing to do with sugar or alcohol) are used in diet foods and foods for diabetics. These are not digested by the body and pass through the digestive system without affecting blood sugar. That's why they can cause loose stools. Avoid having too much of such products.

By fBoyle — On Aug 21, 2014

Is this why sugar alcohols found in sugar free foods cause diarrhea when consumed excessively? There is always a warning about this on the label. It happened to me once when I ate to many sugar-free cookies.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.