What are the Most Common Causes of Indigestion and Diarrhea?

Sara Schmidt

There are a great number of things that can cause indigestion and diarrhea to happen together, but most of the time the problem is food-related. Eating too much, choosing foods that are greasy or highly acidic, or consuming toxins or spoiled foods can all contribute. Anxiety and depression can also cause digestive distress, and the problem could also be the fault of a medical condition like gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) or dyspepsia. Pregnant women are often more prone to experiencing both things together, too. A wide range of other problems and medical issues can include both diarrhea and indigestion as symptoms, but in most cases these are just two of many other issues. Getting medical help or at least a thorough check-up is the best way for people to rule out anything serious.

Diarrhea typically resolves on its own within one to two days.
Diarrhea typically resolves on its own within one to two days.

Food-Related Problems

Indigestion and diarrhea are most commonly caused by changes in eating habits. Consuming too much food at a time, or eating too many fats, often lead to these uncomfortable bodily reactions, and eating too quickly can have the same effect. Certain foods can also trigger these symptoms. Alcohol, red meat, fats, and caffeine have been known to stimulate bowel irritation and alter gastrointestinal processes. Artificial sweeteners and dairy products may also cause pain and other symptoms associated with both diarrhea and indigestion in some people.

Changes in eating habits can lead to indigestion and diarrhea.
Changes in eating habits can lead to indigestion and diarrhea.

In most of these instances, a person’s symptoms will usually go away on their own as the body adjusts or adapts. When symptoms persist or worsen after a few days, a medical professional should be contacted to rule out any serious conditions. Dehydration is often a concern if diarrhea is not quickly treated, particularly in children.

Anxiety can lead to indigestion and bloating problems.
Anxiety can lead to indigestion and bloating problems.

Anxiety and Depression

Many researchers also believe that there is a link between anxiety and digestive problems. Anxiety that is acute or lasts for a long time can cause stomach acids to churn and irritate the bowel, and people who eat while experiencing stress may also be more prone to diarrhea. The amount of air a person takes in while consuming food while distressed, such as while crying, can cause bloating and other symptoms of indigestion as well. Stress itself has also been known to stimulate these symptoms, and bowel problems are often a symptom of depression, too.

Eating red meat can irritate the bowls, causing digestive problems.
Eating red meat can irritate the bowls, causing digestive problems.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder

Another potential cause of these two linked problems is gastroesophageal reflux disorder, also commonly known by its acronym, GERD. GERD causes the stomach to push its contents back up the esophageal tube, creating pain and various other symptoms. It’s highly treatable with medications, though it can often also be prevented through lifestyle modification, like changing the diet to include more fiber and whole grains and making an effort to exercise more frequently.

Drinking a mixture of baking soda and water can help with indigestion.
Drinking a mixture of baking soda and water can help with indigestion.

Functional Dyspepsia

In some cases, patients may experience indigestion and diarrhea due to internal factors unique to their own bodies. One of the most common is a condition known as nonulcer indigestion, or functional dyspepsia. It occurs when the patient's body cannot push food through the digestive tract properly. Certain types of surgery can also cause these symptoms depending on how the body heals and how scar tissue forms along the digestive tract.

Some women experience constant indigestion during the last two trimesters of pregnancy.
Some women experience constant indigestion during the last two trimesters of pregnancy.

Special Concerns for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is another potential cause. An increase of fluid or food intake can often cause indigestion in pregnant women, and hormonal changes can cause digestive problems. Labor itself can trigger the symptoms, too. If a woman experiences these symptoms while pregnant, her healthcare provider may be able to provide some relief with medications or personalized tips for minimizing symptoms.

As a Symptom of Other Conditions

Many different diseases can cause indigestion and diarrhea, and it can be difficult to make a diagnosis without knowing about a patient’s other symptoms or existing conditions. Some of the most common culprits are hernias, peptic ulcer disease, and Crohn's disease. A range of viruses and bacteria could also be to blame. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common cause as well, or the twin conditions could be a result of gallstones, liver cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other liver and gallbladder conditions. The problem could also be a reaction to certain medications, particularly antibiotics.

Getting Help

Most experts recommend that anyone who has experienced both diarrhea and indigestion for more than a few days get a medical evaluation. When these two things go on for a long time, a person risks damaging the delicate lining of the intestinal tract, which can lead to further complications and more challenging problems. Most of the time the problem is fairly easily treated, but a proper diagnosis is an all but essential first step.

Irritable bowel syndrome can cause digestive system issues.
Irritable bowel syndrome can cause digestive system issues.

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Discussion Comments


Sometimes when I eat red meat and chicken, after a few hours I feel dyspeptic. After the dyspepsia I have four or five loose motions. I don't know what is happening. Kindly advise and guide me on what do.


@indemnifyme - It's great the a natural supplement worked for your indigestion. However, I think if you're experiencing diarrhea (chronic, not from being sick or having food poisoning) you should go to the doctor first.

As the article said, indigestion and diarrhea can be caused by a lot of different things. Some of the causes are pretty benign, but others definitely require treatment by a doctor. So I think it's better to consult a doctor first rather than self medicating. Once you find out what's causing your symptoms, then you can decide what to do.


@JessicaLynn - Stress can do funny things to your body, that's for sure. When I get really stressed out, all I want to do it eat, which isn't good either, because overeating can also result in diarrhea symptoms.

Anyway, I was actually having a lot of problems with indigestion earlier this year. I usually like to try natural remedies first, so I went to my local health food store to see what my options were. The lady there suggested I start taking digestive enzymes, so I decided to give it a try.

It totally worked! Ever since I started taking the digestive enzymes with every meal, I haven't had any weird stomach symptoms.


I definitely get diarrhea and upset stomach from being stressed out. It's horrible. Every time I get really upset about something, or stressed out for a long period of time, my stomach ends up being a total mess. I also get nauseated, but luckily I don't usually throw up.

Also, I always lose weight. This might sound like a good thing, but I'm pretty thin to begin with. So when I lose more than a few pounds, I end up looking completely emaciated and sick. Which in turn causes me more stress! It's such a vicious cycle.


I had a friend that was having trouble with diarrhea and an upset stomach. This kept getting worse and finally someone recommended she try a gluten free diet to see if that would help.

This can be quite a chore trying not to eat anything that contains gluten because it is in just about everything. There are several more products that are gluten free than there used be. They are usually more expensive, but at least there are options available.

She said after about 3 weeks, most of her indigestion and diarrhea went away. She also lost about 12 pounds by simply changing the way she ate. I guess this is more of a problem for a lot of people than what I realized.

She is often tempted to eat a piece of pizza or something that has gluten in it, but when she thinks about the consequences she will have, it isn't worth it.


The only time I have had troubles with indigestion was when I was pregnant. With each one of my pregnancies, I would get GERD. Since I was pregnant I didn't want to take any kind of indigestion treatment that involved medication.

I had a chiropractor tell me to raise the head of my bed by a few inches. She said this should help with my indigestion as gravity would help keep this from coming back up the esophageal tube.

I really doubted if this would work, but figured I didn't have anything to lose. After about a week I did notice that I had fewer symptoms. The GERD did not completely go away during my pregnancy, but this made it a little bit more tolerable.


I have had to make some major changes in my diet which has helped with my indigestion. Eating fatty and greasy foods really affected me, but it took me awhile to figure out what was going on.

My indigestion was always worse if I ate these foods late at night. I would lay awake with heartburn and my stomach would be rumbling. I finally realized these indigestion signs were telling me I needed to make some changes.

Now I try to eat my evening meal at least 3-4 hours before going to bed. I also avoid foods that are going to cause me problems and make sure this is a light meal. I know if I eat a big meal with a lot of grease shortly before going to bed, I am going to pay for it all night long.


I try to eat healthy foods most of the time, but know when I am under a lot of stress I have more problems. I will experience stomach pain and diarrhea if I am worried or overly anxious about something.

As soon as that certain event that I am uptight about is over, I don't have any more symptoms. Instead of changing my eating habits, I think I need to learn how to deal with my stress better.

Getting regular exercise can help, but many times I don't take the time to do this. I am amazed at how many physical changes happen in our body when we are under stress.

Some people are able to deal with this better than others. I always know I am going to have digestive problems when I have a high amount of stress, or something is really bothering me that I don't have any control over.


@OeKc05 – I had those bloating and pain issues as a teenager, but I don't think mine were psychological. I loved school, even though it was a bit hard to enjoy life through all that abdominal discomfort.

I believe that my diet was to blame for my abdominal pain and diarrhea. My metabolism was so fast back then that there was nothing to stop me from eating fried chicken, hamburgers, french fries, and chips really often. I had no clue that this was causing my issues until I met a nutritionist in college.

She was just about to graduate, and we had become friends. I told her about the issues I'd been having for years, and she told me that my fatty, greasy diet was causing the discomfort. As unappealing as changing my diet sounded, I decided to give it a try, because feeling normal again sounded like heaven to me.

I started ordering grilled chicken instead of fried, and I began eating salads and fruit instead of fries on the side. I noticed a big difference in just a day. The cramps and the diarrhea were gone, and I felt satisfied yet not overly full.


I have a friend who has heartburn and nausea after every meal. She eventually began having diarrhea, too, and she kept becoming dehydrated.

She has problems with her esophagus. She has had surgery on it before, but it didn't work too well.

She keeps having acid reflux and feeling sick at her stomach. She has trouble keeping food down, and even when she can, she has trouble keeping it in her system long enough to get nutrients from it, because it tries to exit quickly as diarrhea.

She definitely has the worst set of intestinal and digestive issues I have ever heard of, and even her doctors don't seem to know what to do for her. She has lost a lot of weight, because eating just isn't fun anymore.


I recall having abdominal pain and diarrhea while I was in a particularly one-sided relationship. I put my whole heart into it, but he didn't, and I felt physically ill from worrying about him leaving me.

I would go for a long time without eating, and then, I would get very hungry. I would eat a lot at one time because of the hunger, and almost immediately afterward, I would have abdominal cramps and diarrhea. I would have to go to the bathroom at least two or three times with it.

I kept taking anti-diarrheal medicine, but eventually, I saw the light. I realized that anyone who could do this to me was not the one for me, and once I got over him, my gastrointestinal system returned to normal.


I had problems with my stomach bloating and gas all throughout elementary school. I was having a difficult time adjusting to being at school instead of at home, and the anxiety and stress of it all just made me so uncomfortable.

Every time I would eat, whether it was a small snack or a meal at lunch, I would be in so much discomfort. I had to deal with it until 3 in the afternoon every day, when the bus would take me home.

I remember the pain being so bad one day that once I got off the bus, I actually had to crawl up my driveway to the house. I could not straighten myself up enough to walk.

My parents eventually decided to home school me. That took care of all my physical ailments, which had originally been psychological.

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