Diarrhea: Causes and ways to Treat
Diarrhea is a condition wherein you have loose, watery stools and the need to frequently or constantly have a bowel moment.
Diarrhea, however, does not last longer than a few days.
If it does, then it is probably some other condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
The main symptom of diarrhea is watery stool.
Due to these loose stools, you will also feel abdominal pain and cramps.
This may lead to dehydration, nausea and bloating.
Passing watery stool more than two times a day signals diarrhea.
You will frequently feed an urge to have a bowel movement.
Moreover, you may also contract a fever and have blood and mucus in your stool.
Dehydration follows soon after so you should be prepared to have plenty of water and sodium-rich fluids like soup and fruit juices.
You should get checked if you have severe rectal and abdominal pain alongside black bloody stools along with a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Types of Diarrhea
Diarrhea usually goes on its own within 2 days. This short term diarrhea is called acute diarrhea.
Acute diarrhea can be due to bacterial infection or food poisoning.
However, if it persists for a month then it is probably chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is due to an intestinal condition like celiac disease.
Moreover, you may also experience diarrhea when you are traveling. This is a result of exposure to foreign bacteria and parasites.
Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by people consuming food or drinks that have been contaminated.
Server using the washroom and not washing hands before serving can be a reason for contaminating food hence causing, Traveler’s diarrhea also known as Montezuma’s revenge.
The symptoms are the same like
- loose watery stools
- extreme weakness
- painful gas
- cramps and loss of appetite
Traveler’s diarrhea cures within a week and is most common in developing countries.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused due to a number of reasons.
Some bacteria and viruses are responsible for causing infection.
Diarrhea that happens due to a virus in the small intestine is also known as stomach flu or intestinal flu.
Bacteria and Parasites
Bacteria and parasites can lead to infections in the stomach causing diarrhea.
You can get diarrhea if you consume contaminated food with bacteria and parasites which cause food poisoning.
Traveler’s diarrhea usually happens from contaminated food as well that contains E.coli.
Another bacteria known as Clostridium difficile can cause bacterial infections after a course of antibiotics or being exposed to bacteria in the hospital.
People who are lactose intolerant usually either get diarrhea or constipation after they consume any milk product.
Lactose is a sugar present in milk and dairy products and some people develop an intolerance to it as they age.
This is because the levels of enzyme, lactase keep decreasing after childhood and lactose is not broken properly.
Viruses also cause diarrhea. Children usually get acute diarrhea from Rotavirus.
Norwalk virus and viral hepatitis are behind diarrhea.
In fact, the coronavirus disease also causes diarrhea and other similar symptoms like nausea and fever.
Some people have issues digesting fructose.
Fructose is naturally found in fruits and honey as sugar.
You may get diarrhea if you are not able to digest fructose.
Cancer drugs and antacids containing magnesium can cause diarrhea.
Moreover, you may get diarrhea after an antibiotic course.
This is because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria.
Therefore, it disturbs the natural balance of bacteria in the intestines.
Other factors that can contribute to diarrhea include diseases like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
People who consume artificial sweeteners like Sorbitol can cause diarrhea in otherwise fit people.
This can be found in sugar-free products and chewing gums.
Digestive system surgery can also lead to diarrhea.
Moreover, excessive consumption of alcohol, radiation therapy, hyperthyroidism and malabsorption can cause diarrhea.
Complications of Diarrhea
Diarrhea causes dehydration which can get serious for children and adults.
Adults may get a dry mouth, experience a lot of thirst, feel weak, dizzy and may even have dark-colored urine.
Children show signs of dehydration when they do not have a wet diaper for more than three hours and cry without tears.
They may have sunken eyes and show unresponsiveness and irritability.
Just like adults, they will have a high fever and dry mouth.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will carry out a blood test and a stool test.This will help determine the cause of diarrhea and the presence of bacteria and parasites.
They may also carry out colonoscopy to get an entire view of your colon alongside a flexible sigmoidoscopy to see your lower colon.
Diarrhea mostly goes away in a matter of days.
Your doctor may recommend some medicines if home remedies do not work by three to four days.
Diarrhea due to bacteria cures using antibiotics. However, these antibiotics will be ineffective against viruses.
Moreover you will be advised to drink a lot of fluids. You need to balance your electrolytes and minerals sodium and potassium, hence, you will be told to consume more soups, broth or fruit juices.
Children are recommended to try oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte to counteract dehydration.
Your doctor may reduce your dose if any medication or antibiotic caused diarrhea.
Moreover, if this diarrhea is a result of another condition then they will find out a treatment plan.
Drinking plenty of fluids, around two to three liters of broth, water, soup and fruit juices can help prevent dehydration.
This restores the minerals and electrolytes in your body.
You should also avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
Avoid foods that cause diarrhea such as dairy products, fructose, fried fatty foods and high fiber foods that ease constipation.
Try very light on the stomach foods that are also low fiber and preferably semi-solid. Examples include toast, chicken, egg and rice.
Eat foods like potatoes, peanut butter and yogurt.
Avoid foods that cause gas like spicy foods, raw veggies and raw fruits, apple juice and beans.
You can take over-the-counter medicines like loperamide to help reduce the frequency of bowel movements.
Moreover, they may also cure your diarrhea. However, take these medicines with caution.
They can worsen other infections because they prevent the body to get rid of diarrhea.
Therefore, you should take them after consulting your doctor.
Furthermore, you can use probiotics. These are present in some yogurt brands and also available as a capsule.
Your intestine needs good bacteria to restore balance and probiotics provide just that.
Your treatment depends on the severity of diarrhea.
The doctor might change the treatment plan if you have another condition.
Your dehydration status, medical history and age are factors to take into consideration.
However, it is likely that your doctor recommends to treat acute diarrhea with home remedies.
Diarrhea due to medical conditions is unavoidable but infectious diarrhea is controllable.
To prevent that, you should prevent yourself from getting in contact with anything infectious.
The best way around it is to wash hands regularly.
You can prevent traveler’s diarrhea by washing hands regularly and sanitizing them often.Maintain good hand hygiene during your travels to avoid any bacterial infection.
But also wash hands regularly and thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap before and after eating and using the washroom.
You can also use a hand sanitizer if you are outdoors.
You should specifically use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has more than 60 percent of alcohol.
Put the sanitizer thoroughly on the palms, back of the hand and in between fingers.
Young children can get vaccinated against rotavirus as this virus is the leading cause of diarrhea in children.
Furthermore, you should care about keeping your environment hygienic.
Wash your cooking space and utensils frequently. Moreover, eat food as soon as you prepare it.
Thaw frozen food in a fridge and also refrigerate leftovers regularly rather than leaving them on the table.
You can get traveler’s diarrhea if you go to certain parts of Asia, the Middle East or Africa.
However, you can get affected if you are in a place with contamination and insufficient sanitation.
People are extra careful during Covid-19 but there can always be an exception.
Be watchful of what you eat!
Do not consume raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables. If you really want to, then peel them yourself.
Moreover, avoid undercooked meat and dairy products, only eat hot fully cooked meals.
Only drink bottled water. Even if the tap water is okay for locals, you should avoid drinking it.
In fact, use bottled water while brushing your teeth and keep your mouth closed while bathing.
Also avoid ice made from tap water.
You will have to be very careful about the water you consume because that is the easiest way to get diarrhea while traveling.
Hot drinks made using boiling water will be safe to drink.
You should carry a few antibiotics with you.
Ask your doctor beforehand for a prescription especially if you suffer from weak immunity and are likely to get diarrhea while traveling.
Check for disease warnings of that specific region you wish to travel to.
You should get vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid prior to your trip to prevent getting these diseases and diarrhea.
Diarrhea can make you very restless and weak. However, it is usually nothing serious.
Give yourself about 2 to 3 days while following home remedies to get better.
If you still see less improvement then consult your doctor.