Health Questions and Answers

Question: What are the four pathophysiologic mechanisms of diarrhea?


  1. Osmotic: An osmotically active agent in the intestinal lumen cannot be absorbed and therefore draws fluid in the intestinal lumen.
  2. Exudative: Due to infection, food allergy, celiac sprue, inflammatory bowel disease, collagenous colitis, graft-versus-host disease
  3. Secretory: Mucosal stimulation of active chlorine ion secretion is seen with E. coli, Vibrio cholerae, hormone-producing tumors, bile acids, and long-chain fatty acids.
  4. Altered intestinal transit

Reference: Sleisenger MH, Fordtran JS (eds): Gastrointestinal Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Management, 7th ed. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders, 2003

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