Morning diarrhea may be caused by temporary conditions, such as pregnancy or an infection. If it happens frequently, morning diarrhea may be a symptom of a health problem like IBS.
An occasional bout of loose stools in the morning is normal. But when morning diarrhea occurs regularly over a period of several weeks, it’s time to diagnose the problem.
You may have morning diarrhea without otherwise feeling sick and while experiencing no other symptoms. But in addition to loose stools and more frequent bowel movements, other symptoms may include:
If you often experience morning diarrhea, it’s important to discover its cause.
It could be a symptom of a chronic health problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Or you may have a bacterial infection or simply a dietary pattern that needs to change.
Some causes of morning diarrhea are chronic, meaning they’re long-term health issues. Others are temporary, such as pregnancy.
Among the more common causes of morning diarrhea are:
IBS is one of the main causes of morning diarrhea. The condition is a problem with your large intestine. In addition to diarrhea, symptoms of IBS can include:
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is actually an umbrella term for several chronic intestinal disorders, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions are characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract.
With Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can spread from the lining of your digestive tract and into the surrounding tissue. Ulcerative colitis causes sores to form along the lining of the large intestine.
Both of these disorders share symptoms, including:
Untreated bacterial or viral infections can cause morning diarrhea and other related symptoms.
Salmonella is a common bacterial infection that can cause morning diarrhea. Bacterial infections that cause loose bowel movements usually develop after consuming contaminated food or water.
Drinking alcohol the night before may trigger morning diarrhea.
Alcohol increases how quickly the muscles in your colon move to push out stool. This prevents water from being absorbed by your colon, which can result in diarrhea.
Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for Crohn’s disease, as well as for many other problems affecting organ health. It can make the symptoms of Crohn’s disease more severe.
However, the research is mixed on whether smoking cigarettes may cause diarrhea.
Several types of medications list diarrhea as a common side effect. Some antibiotics, in particular, are linked with diarrhea.
If you take a medication before bed, the drug is in your system all night and can result in morning diarrhea.
Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative may cause diarrhea the next morning.
Stress and anxiety
The digestive tract has its own type of nervous system that responds to stress hormones released by the body. Perhaps as a way to remove toxins from the body, stress hormones speed up movement in the large intestine, which can cause diarrhea.
If you have anxiety, which is feelings of worry, unease, or fear that aren’t related to a particular situation, it could cause chronic bouts of morning diarrhea.
Drinking caffeinated coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in the morning may cause diarrhea.
Food allergy or intolerance
These symptoms are triggered when the proteins in these foods cause an abnormal immune system response.
An intolerance to lactose or gluten may also cause diarrhea, as well as symptoms including gas and bloating. Unlike an allergy, a food intolerance occurs when the body is unable to digest or metabolize a component of the food.
Some people who have no food allergies or intolerances may experience morning diarrhea after eating spicy food or foods containing a lot of oils or artificial ingredients.
Successful morning diarrhea treatment depends on its cause. The treatment may include a combination of dietary changes and medications.
It can be helpful to keep a food journal to identify foods that trigger IBS. Depending on the triggers, consider avoiding foods such as:
- highly gas-producing foods and beverages, including carbonated drinks, raw fruit, and some vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- breads, cereals, pasta, and other foods containing gluten
- foods made with FODMAPs, which are any of several types of carbohydrates, including fructose and lactose
Some of these medications are administered by giving yourself an injection, while others require an intravenous (IV) infusion under the supervision of a healthcare professional. They include adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), and golimumab (Simponi).
Other medications sometimes prescribed for IBS include antidepressants. If diarrhea is the problem, but there’s no diagnosed depression, antidepressants including imipramine (Tofranil) or desipramine (Norpramin) may help.
Treating IBD means reducing the inflammation that’s causing your symptoms.
Some of the first anti-inflammatory drugs you may be prescribed include corticosteroids. Other IBD medications include aminosalicylates such as mesalamine (Asacol HD), balsalazide (Colazal), and olsalazine (Dipentum).
A doctor may also prescribe immunosuppressant drugs such as cyclosporine (Gengraf), mercaptopurine (Purixan), and methotrexate (Trexall) to help prevent the release of inflammatory chemicals in the wall of the intestine.
Antiviral or antibiotic medications can treat infections, but be aware that some medications may cause diarrhea, too. Be sure to talk with a doctor or pharmacist about all potential side effects of the drugs you’re prescribed.
If stress is causing your morning diarrhea or is responsible for IBS flare-ups, talk with a doctor or a therapist about ways to better deal with the stress in your life.
Once you know the cause of your morning diarrhea, you can take the necessary steps to help prevent future episodes.
Preventing IBS flare-ups, for example, means reducing stress or better managing how you respond to stressful situations.
This may be done with:
- mindfulness training
- progressive relaxation techniques focusing on mental and muscle relaxation
You may want to also avoid known food triggers. IBD prevention requires dietary changes, such as limiting dairy products and consuming more low fat foods than high fat foods. You may need to start eating smaller, more frequent meals.
If you believe alcohol is your trigger, consider going without or cutting back on your alcohol consumption and see if that has an effect.
The most common complication from diarrhea is dehydration. It can be a serious health risk for older adults and young children, especially.
Dehydration is also a particularly serious concern if you have a weakened immune system.
If the cause of your morning diarrhea is a temporary condition, such as pregnancy or an infection that can be treated successfully with medication, then your outlook is generally good.
If the problem is related to something like diet, alcohol use, or smoking, your outlook will depend on whether you’re able to make the lifestyle changes needed to prevent future problems.
However, if the cause is a chronic condition, such as IBS or IBD, you may have to be mindful of your condition every day.
A combination of dietary changes, medications, and lifestyle adjustments may be necessary. Future symptom flare-ups may be unavoidable. But it’s recommended that you try to stick to a treatment plan to limit episodes in the future if possible.
Consider working with a doctor and reporting any changes in your health. There’s no reason to put up with discomfort if treatment options are available.