Is it true that heat can cause diarrhea? You've probably heard talk about people getting diarrhea more frequently during hot summer months than more moderate or colder temperature months… Or maybe you even believe you have experienced heat-caused diarrhea for yourself.
Diarrhea... no one wants it.
- Loose and watery stools
- Spending half your day running to the bathroom
- Hoping that you don't get a sudden urge when you are out and about
- Your plans ruined
... no one wants any of that.
But is there any real proof that heat is a potential cause? Why might heat be to blame in the first place?
Before we go any further let's first make it clear that when we say "heat" we are talking about extreme heat… Of course this depends on what your body is used to and where at you live in the world, but generally speaking we mean 90°F and above.
There is what you may have heard called "summer diarrhea" that is more common in infants and young children, but this usually isn't the result of heat itself, but rather from bacteria contamination of food and overall lack of good hygiene, which are more prevalent during the summer months with hotter weather.
That said, there is some scientific backing to the claims that heat itself is the cause, in a direct or indirect way. An assessment published in the journal Scientific Reports found that increased occurrences of diarrhea in children is linked to the intensity and duration of heat waves.
Heat Related Illness
When your body gets overly hot, it begins to to sweat in order to cool yourself down, but sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes is just too darn hot to begin with, or maybe you made the mistake of being a little bit too physically active during what some may already consider unbearable heat, further increasing your body temperature and chances of illness.
The three types of heat-related illness include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Having diarrhea in such circumstances can be especially dangerous, reason being that it is going to increase your body's loss of liquids, which are needed to sweat and help cool your body… Meaning that it might increase your chances of getting hotter and hotter, eventually leading to bursting into a big ball of fire (okay maybe not quite that far).
In the worst case scenario you may develop heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, and the results could be very serious, potentially even death.
Heat May Increase Gastrointestinal Problems
Excessive heat needs may also increase the risk of flareups from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes things like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
There isn't much hard evidence of this being the case, but if you have IBD your gastrointestinal system is already sensitive and being forced to function in undesirable circumstances, such as excessive heat, could bring out the worst of the condition.
Potential symptoms include things like abdominal pain, fatigue and fever, diarrhea, cramping, and so on.
Will It Happen to You?
Will you get diarrhea from extreme heat?
The answer is probably not. Developing a case of diarrhea from such seems to be a very rare occurrence but is definitely something that you do not want to get, especially since (as explained above) having diarrhea can lead to a decreased ability of your body to cool itself.
There is very limited information on this subject and it seems that you are much more likely to just get a sick feeling from being overly hot, accompanied by other symptoms like headaches, nausea and weakness.
Heat Ain't Not Joke
We wait for the warmer months all year round. The sun feels amazing and we all know how beneficial it is for our overall health… Providing all that good vitamin D that is great for your mood.
And it's no wonder… Cold weather sucks. It's... well... you know... COLD! And we don't get the sun expose when we are all bundles up and the sun goes down at 6pm.
But unfortunately hot weather can also suck at times. Your body isn't made to operate under extreme heat and when it is forced to, things are inevitably going to begin to fail to function as they should.
Just to reiterate… Diarrhea seems to be a very rare symptom that can stem from heat related illnesses, but it seems it is still possible.
The solution to avoid heat related illnesses which could potentially result in diarrhea is pretty simple. You are going to want to…
- Decrease physical activity
- Stay indoors if possible, in cool well-ventilated areas
- Drink lots of water, preferably cold water
And there or a lot of other little things you do. Basically anything you can think of to help cool your body down, in a healthy way of course.
It's Best to Take Your Chances
Now it should go without saying that you need to be smart about what you do. You don't want to go run a marathon in 110°F weather with the sun beating down on you… Or at least most people don't want to do that because their bodies are nowhere close to being used to it.
But the heat, in most cases, isn't something you should be avoiding like the plague. Be smart but don't let it ruin your chances of getting outside and living a healthy enjoyable life.