Diarrhea is a very common condition characterized by the passage of 3 or more watery stools a day, followed by abdominal pain and frequent cramping commonly referred to as gas or flatulence.. Getting occasional diarrhea is a part of everybody’s life.
It is very common amid people residing in the areas with poor hygienic conditions. The countries having poorly designed sewerage system face this problem more often. In developing countries sewer water pipes leakage is very usual which leads to mixing of dirty water with drinking water causing extremely serious contamination and consequently an elevated number of diarrheal patients. Can you imagine drinking sewage water?
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Let’s Talk About the Types of Diarrhea
There are three clinical types of diarrhea.
Acute watery diarrhea (Cholera): Also known as cruise ship diarrhea is caused by viruses like rotavirus and norovirus. It lasts for several hours or days.
Acute bloody Diarrhea (Dysentery): It may last for up to 14 days. The subject suffers from severe bloody stools. This type of diarrhea needs immediate medical attention.
Persistent Diarrhea: Also knows as chronic diarrhea, may last for as long as 14 days or even more. Don’t delay seeking medical care if your diarrhea prolongs for more than two weeks, it could be due to some serious health issues.
What Are the Possible Causes for Diarrhea?
There are a myriad number of reasons that could cause diarrhea including;
- Parasitic infection
Contaminated water contains innumerable number of parasites and when this water is consumed, it develops an infection in the digestive system causing diarrhea.
Another cause of parasitic infection is the fecal-oral route, wherein the pathogens from one person’s feces are transmitted to the mouth of another person (via fingers, flies, fields, fluids, and food). Therefore, make sure that you properly wash your hands after changing the baby diaper and performing anal hygiene.
- Lactose Intolerance
Lactose tolerance is one of the very common reasons for diarrhea. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. Many people have lactose sensitive digestive system which means that their digestive system cannot tolerate lactose. And if they consume milk or other dairy products it leads to diarrhea.
- Food intolerance
Diarrhea can also be caused as a result of eating anything that you are allergic to. People can be allergic to any food component for example, gluten, sorbitol, salicylates, amines, sulfites and so on.
Caffeine is a laxative which stimulates bowel movement. Therefore, if you consume coffee in large volume then you might suffer from diarrhea.
A few days before you go on your period, the endometrial wall of the uterus makes a chemical compound, prostaglandin, in large volume and as soon as your period starts the endometrial cells break to release prostaglandin consequently causing contractions in uterus and intestine which leads to severe to mild cramping as well as diarrhea.
- Unhygienic food
One of the most common causes of diarrhea is the intake of unhygienic and unhealthy food like street food and the food rich in fat.
Many medications may also lead to diarrhea for example, when you start taking antibiotics, it may disturb your bowel regularity causing frequent watery stools but as soon as you finish taking the medicine you start feeling better – without taking any anti-diarrheal.
What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?
The symptoms of diarrhea include;
- Frequent watery motions
- Traces of blood, mucus or undigested food in stool
- Severe Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
Normally diagnosis of diarrhea is made based on symptoms unless there is a condition prolongs for more than a week and if it lasts for more than two weeks then few tests are done to identify the reason behind delayed illness.
What Foods You Should Be Avoided in Diarrhea?
- Milk and dairy products
- Fried and fatty foods
- Red meat
- Beans and pulses
- Raw vegetables
- Potassium-rich citrus fruits
- Caffeinated drinks
- Carbonated drinks
- Artificial sweeteners, e-g; sorbitol
What Measures Should Be Taken to Get Rid of Diarrhea?
You might have experienced that most of the time we treat diarrhea using home remedies or by taking medicines available over the counter. But it is extremely important to take immediate measures for untreated or delayed treatment of diarrhea may lead to severe dehydration and could become fatal especially for young children and individuals with an impaired immune system.
Let’s have a look at some very effective ways which can help you to get rid of diarrhea.
ORS: You must have heard of ORS which is the short form of Oral Rehydration Salts. It is a mixture of water, salt and sugar– its function is to fulfill the deficiency of water and electrolytes that you have lost due to passing frequent stools. ORS performs its function by getting absorbed into your small intestinal walls.
Tannin: The leaves of blueberry, raspberry and blackberry contain tannin. Drinking tea made with these leaves can help cure diarrhea.
Teas: Chamomile tea is also very effective in curing diarrhea. You can also drink tea made with green cardamom and aniseed. It has been used traditionally for ages and is very helpful in getting rid of loose motions.
BRAT diet: Take the BRAT diet only for a few days until you start feeling better. The BRAT diet is a combination of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. It helps in slowing down the passage of stool. This diet is used to treat diarrhea for decades. Toddlers should also be given a BRAT diet for a speedy recovery.
Caffeine and carbonated drinks: Cut down the consumption of caffeinated and carbonated drinks as they trigger the bowel movement hence making your condition worse.
Rest: Take rest as much as possible. Any kind of strenuous activity can deteriorate your condition. Moreover, avoid doing a brisk walk and running. Especially toddlers and young children should not be sent to school or taken to playgrounds as it will decelerate the recovery process.
Take Fluids: Every time you pass a stool, take water or any fluid rich in electrolytes, to make up for the water loss and avoid dehydration. Be sure that you take more fluid than you are losing due to diarrhea. If you can’t take enough liquids, then visit your doctor so that intravenous fluids could be given to avoid dehydration.
OTC medicines: If you don’t feel better after using home remedies then you can take over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications. But in case you have a fever and your stool is bloody or black in color, don’t take antidiarrheal medication. These are the symptoms of bacterial infection and taking antidiarrheal medication will only make your condition worse.
Food: Adults are recommended to eat low fat, non-spicy and non-greasy food. Once you start feeling better, you can gradually add low fiber food to your diet, but don’t go over-board.
Probiotics: Taking probiotics can be very helpful and effective. A probiotic is a “good bacteria” which helps to combat our body against the infections. Probiotics are found in several food products like, yogurt, cottage cheese, sourdough bread, pickles, tempeh, kombucha and so on. Probiotic supplements are also available but make sure that you consult your doctor before taking one.
Liquid Diet: Some people have tried taking liquid diet including broths, soda, sports drinks and bland soups. They say that taking liquid foods for 24 hours will slow down the bowel movement and help cure diarrhea. Well I believe it too, it does work.
When to Call a Doctor?
Under the following conditions you should immediately consult your doctor;
- If you have been trying natural and home remedies but still not feeling any better.
- If the subject is an infant or a toddler and he is vomiting and seems dehydrated.
- If you notice mucus or blood in your stool, or the color of the stool is black or darker than the usual color.
- If you are feeling a continuous pain in the stomach.
- If you are failing to take enough fluids.
- If you have a fever.