Constipation After Diarrhea – Things You Need To Know In 2023

Donald Romeo, Researcher/Writer/Contributor
Dr. Michael DiLeo, MD
Uncover the complexities of experiencing constipation after diarrhea in 2023. Learn the causes, treatments, and when to consult a doctor.
constipation after diarrhea
Unlocking the mystery, from diarrhea to constipation and back again. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Ever jumped from the chaos of diarrhea — maybe sparked by stomach flu or temporary viral infection — straight into the gridlock of constipation? Yeah, it’s like your bowel movements can’t decide what they want to do.

This puzzling sequence, known as constipation after diarrhea, isn’t just a combination of uncomfortable symptoms. It’s genuine abdominal pain that can worsen existing gut issues, possibly linked to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. 

Understanding this phenomenon is crucial for managing your digestive tract. If you’re already dealing with gut bacteria imbalances or other health conditions, getting a grip on this issue becomes even more vital. 

So, whether you’re toggling between diarrhea and constipation or navigating the maze of irritable bowel syndrome, it’s high time we demystify this complex issue. Let’s dive in and decode this gut enigma, keeping an eye out for risk factors and when to seek medical help.

Can You Be Constipated After Diarrhea?


  • Experiencing constipation after diarrhea is a common digestive issue, often triggered by factors like gut bacterial imbalances or medication changes.
  • This condition can be particularly challenging for individuals with pre-existing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
  • Understanding the underlying causes and symptoms is crucial for effective management, which may include lifestyle adjustments and medical consultation.
  • Persistent or severe symptoms warrant immediate medical attention to rule out more serious underlying conditions.
  • Proactively seeking medical advice and making lifestyle changes can significantly improve your digestive health and overall well-being.

What Is Constipation After Diarrhea?

Imagine your digestive tract is a highway. One moment, it’s a free-flowing expressway with no speed limits — hello, diarrhea — perhaps due to a stomach bug or a temporary viral infection. This is constipation, a very familiar situation for many, even toddlers.

Constipation after diarrhea is a perplexing alternation of both types of bowel dysfunction that is both frustrating and uncomfortable. It’s as if your gut is in a state of indecision, toggling between two extremes. This phenomenon can be particularly challenging for those already dealing with irritable bowel syndrome[1] or inflammatory bowel disease.[2]

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your gut health. Understanding this condition is crucial because it can help you identify underlying causes[3] that may trigger symptoms, such as gut bacteria imbalances or food sensitivities. 

It also allows you to take proactive steps, like adjusting your diet[4] or water intake,[5] to manage constipation and diarrhea more effectively. 

This is particularly vital for those experiencing severe symptoms or pre-existing health conditions[6] like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. Being informed lets you seek medical help when needed, ensuring you’re not worsening symptoms through self-medication or neglect.

By getting a handle on this issue, you’re not just alleviating uncomfortable symptoms; you’re taking a proactive role in your overall digestive health. 

Whether consulting healthcare providers, exploring medical treatments, or simply adjusting your fiber supplements — understanding constipation after diarrhea can be a game-changer for your daily life.

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Is It Normal To Have Constipation After Diarrhea?

constipation after diarrhea
It is perfectly normal to experience occasional constipation after diarrhea. Photo: Shutterstock

Normal? In some cases, yes. Experiencing constipation after diarrhea isn’t as rare as you might think. If you’ve had a recent stomach bug or medication change, it’s often expected. But hey, normal can be a bit subjective here. 

If this flip-flop between bowel extremes becomes your new routine, that’s a red flag. Time to consult a healthcare provider. So, in short, it can be normal if it’s a coincidence; but if it persists, it’s a sign to seek medical advice.

Causes Of Constipation After Diarrhea

The causes of constipation after diarrhea can sometimes be quite complex. One cause is a bacterial infection of the gut known as bacterial gastroenteritis. This infection is an inflammation of the digestive tract[7] and disrupts gut health, leading to diarrhea and constipation.[8]

Another factor could be the use of medications like anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs can potentially[9] make constipation worse. Osmotic laxatives are often prescribed to counteract constipation,[10] but they can swing the pendulum too far the other way, leading to diarrhea. When it comes to medication, the truism applies that any drug can do anything to anybody. 

Those with irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea[11] or Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation,[12] also known as IBS-D or IBS-C, respectively, can also fluctuate between diarrhea and constipation. Medical treatment for IBS-D sometimes inadvertently triggers symptoms of constipation,[13] creating a confusing cycle for the patient. Worse, the relationship between abdominal pain and bloating[14] in IBS is real, if not confusing. Bloating and abdominal distension were more frequent with IBS-C, but simple bloating alone was more frequent with diarrhea-predominant IBS-D.

In more severe cases, structural issues like rectal prolapse, when the rectum protrudes through the anus, could be an underlying cause.[15] This condition can significantly disrupt normal bowel movements, requiring more specialized medical treatment.

Treatments For Constipation After Diarrhea

constipation after diarrhea
There are different treatments for constipation after diarrhea. Photo: Shutterstock

Are you stuck in the digestive confusion of constipation after a bout of diarrhea? Let’s break down some unique yet effective ways to treat your gut –  learning how to relieve constipation and diarrhea simultaneously.

First, let’s talk probiotics. These targeted strains can recalibrate your gut’s bacterial balance. Want to zero in on constipation? Here’s your go-to guide for the probiotic for constipation.

Now, onto your plate. Ever tried kimchi or sauerkraut? These probiotic foods are not just tasty but also boost your gut health. And if you’re into biohacking your body, consider adding digestive enzymes to your regimen. They’re like little helpers that break down food more efficiently.

Supplement savvy? Check out these probiotic gummies. They’re not just for kids; they pack a punch when it comes to easing digestive woes. But, if you have a condition like IBS, talk to your doctor before diving into the supplement world.

Here’s some information on how to stop diarrhea. But a quick fix isn’t a long-term solution, so investigate the root cause.

Last but not least. Have you ever tried bone broth or kombucha? These gut-healing foods are like a spa day for your insides.

So there you have it! From gut-friendly foods to powerhouse supplements, you’ve got a toolkit to tackle constipation after diarrhea. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek professional medical advice.

When You Need To Find A Doctor

If you’re dealing with persistent digestive issues, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. Don’t overlook signs like worsening abdominal pain or bloating.[16] This could mean your symptoms are escalating. If constipation persists despite lifestyle changes, seek medical advice. Are over-the-counter treatments not helping? That’s another red flag.

Frequent bouts with constipation and diarrhea could overflow into a deeper issue. You might be dealing with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. Psychological factors like stress[17] can also worsen symptoms. A healthcare provider can help you address these mental triggers.[18]

Watch out for not only hard stool but dark urine, too. These signs often indicate severe dehydration and require immediate medical attention.[19] Are you experiencing constipation with other symptoms like weight loss or blood in the stool? That’s a cue to seek medical help right away. 

Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications. So, if these warning signs accompany your constipation, it’s time to find a doctor.


Understanding the complexities of constipation following diarrhea is not merely an exercise in curiosity; it’s proactive healthcare. This condition, often bewildering in its symptoms, can indicate underlying issues ranging from gut bacterial imbalances to more severe conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.

With the proper knowledge, you can take actionable steps to mitigate symptoms and improve your quality of life. This includes lifestyle adjustments, such as dietary changes and hydration, and the incorporation of targeted supplements under professional guidance.

Consulting healthcare providers for persistent or severe symptoms is not just advisable; it’s imperative. Medical professionals can offer diagnostic tests and treatments beyond the scope of home remedies. They can also help you navigate the potential psychological factors that may exacerbate your symptoms.

Managing constipation after diarrhea is not a passive experience. It requires an informed, active approach to healthcare that may involve multiple avenues of treatment and consultation. By taking control of your digestive health, you’re not just alleviating symptoms but investing in long-term well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is constipation?

Constipation is a digestive issue characterized by infrequent bowel movements, hard stool, and difficulty passing stool. It often leads to abdominal discomfort.

How long does it take to have a normal bowel movement after diarrhea?

The time varies per individual, but generally, normal bowel function may return within 48 to 72 hours after diarrhea subsides, depending on the cause.

How long does it take for bowels to return to normal after constipation?

Again, it varies. With proper treatment and dietary changes, most people can resume normal bowel function within a week.

What are the signs of a blocked bowel?

Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, inability to pass gas or stool, and bloating. Immediate medical attention is crucial because it may be a surgical, life-threatening emergency.

Can probiotics help with constipation after diarrhea?

Yes, probiotics can help balance gut bacteria, potentially easing both diarrhea and subsequent constipation. Always consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Is it common to experience constipation after a stomach bug?

Yes, it’s fairly common. A stomach bug can disrupt your gut flora, leading to a cycle of diarrhea followed by constipation.

What foods should I avoid to prevent constipation after diarrhea?

Limit foods high in sugar and fat. Opt for fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to regulate bowel movements.

When should I seek medical help for constipation after diarrhea?

If symptoms persist for over a week, or if you experience severe pain, dehydration, or blood in stool, consult a healthcare provider immediately.


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  2. CDC (2019). CDC -What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? – Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Division of Population Health. [online] CDC. Available at:
  3. Caminero, A., Meisel, M., Jabri, B. and Verdu, E.F. (2018). Mechanisms by which gut microorganisms influence food sensitivities. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, [online] 16(1), pp.7–18. doi:
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