Body aches and diarrhea are symptoms that sometimes occur together. They may resolve on their own or can be a sign of a medical condition.

Diarrhea is when a person experiences loose, watery stools at least three times a day. It can occur for various reasons and may accompany other symptoms, such as body aches.

This article outlines seven possible causes of body aches with diarrhea, along with their associated symptoms and treatment options. It also provides information on when to contact a healthcare professional.

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Body aches and diarrhea are symptoms of a condition, rather than conditions in themselves.

Body aches

Body aches may affect a specific area of the body or the entire body. The pain and discomfort from these aches can range from mild to severe.

Depending on the cause, body aches may be either sudden and temporary or long lasting. Healthcare professionals refer to these as acute and chronic, respectively.


The term diarrhea refers to the passing of loose, watery stools at least three times per day.

Other symptoms may accompany diarrhea, including:

Below are seven of the possible causes of body aches with diarrhea.

1. Food poisoning

Food poisoning can occur when a person consumes food or drink that contains harmful pathogens or parasites, such as bacteria or viruses. Many different pathogens can cause food poisoning, including:

The pathogens responsible for food poisoning can come from various sources including:

  • undercooked meats
  • unpasteurized milk
  • improperly washed fruits or vegetables

The symptoms of food poisoning can differ depending on the pathogen responsible. However, some general symptoms include:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • muscle aches

The symptoms may develop 30 minutes to 2 weeks after consuming contaminated food or drink. The length of time it takes to develop symptoms depends on the pathogen responsible.


The symptoms of food poisoning typically go away without the need for medical treatment. In the meantime, people can try the following to help manage symptoms:

  • drinking plenty of fluids to replace water and electrolytes lost during bouts of vomiting or diarrhea
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol), to help alleviate diarrhea in adults (check with a healthcare professional first)
  • eating plain foods, such as crackers
  • using oral rehydration solutions, for people with a weakened immune system and children (only after checking with a doctor)

If a person requires medical treatment, a healthcare professional will first have to establish whether the food poisoning is due to a bacterium, parasite, or virus. If bacteria or parasites are responsible, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antihelminthics. They may also recommend probiotics to help reduce the duration of diarrhea.

2. Viral gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis (VG) is the medical term for a viral infection of the intestines. It is also known as the stomach flu.

People can develop such viral infections as a result of coming into contact with one of the viruses that can cause VG. These include:

  • norovirus
  • rotavirus
  • adenovirus
  • astrovirus

Symptoms of VG include:


People who have VG can use OTC medications, such as Imodium and Pepto Bismol, to treat diarrhea. They should also ensure they replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. It is important to discuss any medications with a healthcare professional before taking them.

3. Influenza

Influenza, or flu, viruses are a group of viruses that can cause seasonal flu. They are highly contagious. People can contract them by inhaling droplets from the coughs or sneezes of a person with the virus. They can also contract the virus if they come into contact with infected droplets on inanimate objects, such as doorknobs or computer keyboards, and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Some symptoms of the flu include:

  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • fever
  • body aches and headaches
  • occasionally, diarrhea and vomiting (more common in children)


In most cases, the flu will go away on its own without the need for medical treatment. However, people can take OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen to help alleviate some of the symptoms.

If a person is experiencing severe flu symptoms, a healthcare professional may prescribe antiviral medication.

Doctors also recommend that people get a flu vaccination before the start of the flu season each year to reduce the chance of developing the flu.

A person may wish to discuss symptoms and how to treat them with a healthcare professional before taking medications.

4. Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder in which the body is unable to break down and digest lactose. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar present in milk and other dairy products.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • bloating
  • gas or flatulence
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach cramping and discomfort
  • painful or aching muscles or joints


The main treatment for lactose intolerance is to limit or avoid foods and drinks that contain lactose. Some people may be able to consume small amounts of these foods, whereas others will not be able to consume any.

People can also try taking lactase tablets or drops immediately before consuming foods or drinks containing lactose. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, thereby preventing the symptoms of lactose intolerance. However, lactase products are not suitable for young children or people who are pregnant or nursing.

5. Gluten sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a condition in which a person experiences symptoms in response to eating foods containing gluten. Examples of such foods include:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye

Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include:

  • bloating or gas
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • numbness in the legs, arms, or fingers
  • brain fog
  • fatigue


A person who experiences symptoms after eating foods containing gluten should contact a healthcare professional, who will need to rule out more serious conditions, such as celiac disease.

A person should not try a gluten-free diet until they have had a blood test for celiac disease. Following such a diet could reduce the accuracy of the test.

If tests confirm that a person does have gluten sensitivity, a healthcare professional will typically recommend cutting gluten out of the diet to prevent symptom flare-ups.

6. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body cannot process gluten. It is similar to gluten sensitivity but more severe. In people with celiac disease, gluten consumption causes the immune system to attack and destroy healthy cells in the small intestine.

The symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • bloating and gas
  • stomach aches and pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • pale, foul-smelling stools that float


The main treatment for celiac disease is to eat a gluten-free diet. A healthcare professional may refer a person to a dietitian who specializes in devising nutritious, gluten-free meal plans.

People with celiac disease should also take steps to limit their exposure to gluten in other ways. For instance, they can check with a pharmacist whether medications or supplements contain gluten before taking them. They can also read labels on cosmetics and household items to ensure that they do not contain gluten.

7. Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the collective term for a group of symptoms that affect the digestive system. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. This definition means that it is the result of the brain and gut not working together as they should.

There are three different types of IBS:

  • IBS with constipation
  • IBS with diarrhea
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • stomach pain and aches
  • bloating
  • diarrhea, constipation, or both
  • white mucus in stools


People may be able to reduce the symptoms of IBS by making the following changes to their diet:

Using techniques to manage stress, such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga, can also be beneficial.

If a person has IBS with diarrhea, a doctor may prescribe medications such as Imodium or rifaximin (Xifaxan) to treat the diarrhea.

A healthcare professional may also prescribe antispasmodics to help treat stomach pain and cramping.

Most conditions that cause body aches and diarrhea do not require medical attention. However, a person should contact a healthcare professional if their symptoms become severe, persistent, or start to interfere with their daily activities. A healthcare professional can work to diagnose the cause of the symptoms and provide appropriate treatments.

Anyone who experiences any of the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:

  • frequent watery diarrhea lasting for more than 2 days, especially if vomiting occurs alongside it
  • black and tarry stools or stools that contain blood
  • severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • frequent vomiting
  • a fever of 102°F (38.89°C) or higher
  • lightheadedness
  • diarrhea lasting more than a week

Several conditions can cause both body aches and diarrhea. Most conditions that cause these symptoms go away by themselves without any need for medical treatment.

However, severe, persistent, or recurrent episodes of body aches and diarrhea may signal an underlying medical condition that requires management. Examples of such conditions include food intolerances and sensitivities, and other types of digestive issues.

Individuals who experience chronic diarrhea, or diarrhea that lasts more than a week, should speak with a healthcare professional.