What Are the Different Types of Enteritis?

A. Pasbjerg

Enteritis, a condition where the small intestine becomes inflamed and which typically causes abdominal pain and cramping, fever, and diarrhea, can be the result of several different issues. The most common type is bacterial enteritis, usually occurring as the result of food poisoning from contaminated or improperly prepared food. Radiation enteritis may be the result of treatment for cancer, which can damage the intestines. Crohn’s disease enteritis sometimes affects people with that disease due to the nature of their condition. It may also be the result of taking certain drugs.

Contaminated water is one of the main causes of enteritis.
Contaminated water is one of the main causes of enteritis.

Most people who suffer from enteritis get it by eating foods or drinking water that contain viruses, toxins, or most commonly, bacteria, which then attack the intestines and cause inflammation. Food and water can become contaminated through contact with waste materials during processing or shipping, or because it is stored improperly, not thoroughly cleaned, or incorrectly cooked. Often, people who travel to and eat or drink in other countries become infected with the Campylobacter jejuni or E. coli bacteria, resulting in what is sometimes called traveler’s diarrhea. Other types of bacteria that are frequently to blame include salmonella, Shigella, or Staphylococcus, all of which are usually associated with unsanitary food handling and processing conditions.

Enteritis occurs when the small intestine becomes inflamed.
Enteritis occurs when the small intestine becomes inflamed.

Radiation enteritis is another type that occurs when the intestines are damaged by radiation being used during cancer treatment. This is particularly likely to occur when the patient has cancer in an organ in the abdomen or pelvic area, such as the pancreas, uterus, or rectum, and therefore needs radiation in close proximity to the intestines. As the radiation kills the cancer cells, it can also do damage to cells lining the intestines. The condition is often acute, with symptoms resolving within a few weeks after radiation treatment ends, but in some cases it can become chronic.

Radiation enteritis occurs when the intestines are damaged by radiation being used during cancer treatment.
Radiation enteritis occurs when the intestines are damaged by radiation being used during cancer treatment.

Crohn’s disease, a condition where a patient’s intestines and sometimes other parts of the gastrointestinal tract are chronically inflamed, can also cause enteritis. In these cases, the person’s own immune system attacks the intestinal tissue, causing it to be chronically inflamed. Depending on the person’s particular case, symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe and can flare up with varied frequency.

Enteritis can be caused by bacteria, like Salmonella.
Enteritis can be caused by bacteria, like Salmonella.

Some types of medications or drugs can also result in bouts of enteritis. Both ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can cause irritation in the intestines. People who use cocaine may also be prone to the condition.

Cocaine use may cause enteritis.
Cocaine use may cause enteritis.

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Discussion Comments


@LisaLou - I can't imagine how hard it would be to be that sick when you are away from home. If anyone has ever had food poisoning they know what I am talking about.

Both my husband and I ended up getting food poisoning from one of our favorite restaurants. We both were sick, but it ended up affecting me worse than him, and I ended up going to the hospital.

That was some of the most painful and intense cramping and stomach pain I have ever had. By the time I got to the hospital I was also very dehydrated and that was a big concern as well.

Something like infectious enteritis is nothing to take lightly. If it isn't treated the right way, it can end up being deadly.


Whenever I travel out of the country, or whenever I am traveling away from home, I am very particular about the water I drink.

I will never drink anything but bottled water when I am in a foreign country. It is just not worth the chance of getting sick.

Once when I was at a conference in another state I ended up getting very sick and was diagnosed with gastroenteritis.

They were never able to determine whether it came from the food or the water, but it is something I definitely don't want to happen again. I don't have that much control over the food, but I can certainly make choices when it comes to the water I drink.


One way people can get acute enteritis is by eating eggs that have not been handled properly, or not cooking them long enough.

We are fortunate to live close enough to a family who sells farm fresh eggs. They don't have a lot of them, so I always call ahead to make sure they have some before I stop by.

A few months ago there was a big salmonella outbreak from people eating eggs that were contaminated. This scared a lot of people and they were completely out of eggs for a long time because so many people were scrambling to find other places to buy their eggs.

I don't think this could have been fatal, but many people had symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, fever and diarrhea.

It is also important to thoroughly cook your eggs to reduce your chances of this happening.


@Perdido - Crohn's is an awful disease, and many people don't realize how serious it can be. It can also be hereditary. Something like enteritis of the small intestine in the form of Crohn's can really wreak havoc on your daily routine.

My brother and one of his son's both have Crohn's disease. My brother has been hospitalized many times because of this. He has to be very particular about everything he eats.

Even then, he never knows what might set him off. The abdominal pain and diarrhea can be intense and come on at any time.

He was really heartbroken to find out his son has the same thing. He knows exactly how he feels and what he will probably go through as he gets older.

With all of the medical advances there are today, it doesn't seem like there has been much headway in this area.


@Oceana – My neighbor actually died from enteritis of this sort. She had eaten oysters at a local restaurant, and within two days, she had to be hospitalized.

There really is no way to tell if some types of seafood are bad. That's why so many people get ill from eating oysters. Even the restaurant staff doesn't know they are bad.

My neighbor's husband said that she thought she had the stomach virus, which had been going around. It wasn't until her doctor questioned her that they figured out the oysters were to blame.

One thing you can do is avoid eating them in the summer. That's when the harmful bacteria is more likely to grow in them.


Has anyone here ever gotten enteritis from eating shellfish? I frequently eat seafood, and though I have always heard scary stories about people being poisoned by it, I can't seem to stay away from it.

Is there any way to tell if seafood is bad before you eat it? I know that if I were to buy it fresh I could tell by the smell, but if I order it in a restaurant, how am I supposed to know if it is okay to eat?


@Perdido – That sounds like a devastating condition! My dad suffers from a type of enteritis called diverticulitis, but his symptoms only surface every now and then. I can't imagine someone having to live with that inflammation all the time!

With diverticulitis, you get small pouches along your intestine. They trap feces, and then bacteria grows, causing intense pain and fever. When my dad gets an infection, he has to get antibiotics to treat it, and he also gets pain pills to help him cope.

I currently don't have this problem, but I'm afraid I might one day develop it. I am doing all I can to fight it off, though. Eating lots of fiber is really good for your digestive system, so I'm going whole grain all the way!


I had a boyfriend with Crohn's disease, and it was so hard on him. He would have terrible pain in his intestines, and diarrhea would hit him with little warning.

He lost a lot of weight and missed a lot of work because of his condition. He had to be on a special diet to reduce his inflammation.

He finally lost his job because of poor attendance, and it was hard for him to get another one. He kept having to reschedule job interviews or leave in the middle of them because of his condition, and his potential employers viewed this as a weakness. They didn't want to hire someone who wouldn't be able to handle a normal workload because of sickness.

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