Diarrhoea: causes, symptoms and treatment

Overview 

Diarrhoea is one of the most common bacterial infections, characterized by loose, and watery discharge with an urge to frequent bowel movement. Though, it is not a severe disease condition but still can be chronic if stays for too long. Usually, this infection stays for 2-3 days and comes to normal.

It is very unpleasant to have such a condition as it drains the body fluids out of your body and makes you weak. It can go up from acute to chronic according to the severity of the infection. 

Diarrhoeas however are of two types: acute and chronic diarrhoea. 

Acute diarrhoea:- in this condition, a sudden onset of three to four stools is felt, which stays less than 14 days. It can be the result of food poisoning or some infection of the intestines. 

Chronic diarrhoea:- an urgent need to evacuate felt with intense abdominal discomfort, or increased frequency which lasts for about 4 weeks. 

What causes diarrhoea?

Rotavirus is a common virus for causing childhood diarrhoea. And bacterial infection due to Salmonella or E.coli, and many other bacteria are also common. 

You may experience diarrhoea due to some other conditions as well. Some of the common causes are as follows:

1. Food intolerance or indigestion

Food intolerance represents the difficulty in digestion of some foods. For instance food intolerance of lactose. In such conditions, people can’t digest the sugar in milk properly and often come up with gas and bloating of the stomach that leads to diarrhoea. 

2. Bacterias and parasites

Consuming contaminated food or water may result in acute diarrhoea. Usually, it happens when somebody travels to other cities or other countries. It’s also called traveller’s diarrhoea. Clostridium Difficile is another type of bacteria that can cause chronic gastrointestinal conditions. 

3. Viruses 

Rotavirus is a common virus for causing loose stools and the viruses included in this category are Norwalk virus, viral hepatitis, and cytomegalovirus. The coronavirus(covid-19) is also associated with the condition of diarrhoea, headache, nausea and vomiting. 

4. Medications

There are many medications such as antibiotics that can cause diarrhoea. As antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, causing an imbalance in the intestine. Which results in diarrhoea. The other drugs for causing so are cancer drugs and magnesium-containing antacids. 

5. Fructose  

Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruits and honey. Sometimes it is added as a sweetening agent to certain beverages. The people having trouble digesting those, suffer from diarrhoea. 

6. Artificial sweeteners

The artificial sweeteners- mannitol and sorbitol found in chewing gums and many other sugar-free products may cause diarrhoea. 

7. Surgery 

Abdominal or gall bladder surgery can sometimes result in diarrhoea

8. Other gastrointestinal disorders 

Any other pre-disease of gastro can be the reason for such bowel movements. 

Symptoms 

Here are some common symptoms of diarrhoea, which you can relate to

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Frequent bowel movement
  • Dehydration
  • The large volume of stools
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Urge to vomit 

We know the symptoms of common diarrhoea, but there are more conditions associated with diarrhoea. Have you ever heard about green diarrhoea? 

Our stools are brown in colour. Though bile is secreted in the first part of the small intestine is green. And as the stool passes through the large intestine, it becomes dark brown in colour. 

If the stool is still green at the time of excretion, it could mean that the stools went through the large intestine too fast, to get brown. Though, it is not a concerning topic if occasionally someone is excreting such stools. 

How to prevent diarrhoea?

  • Use clean water for cooking and brush 
  • Avoid outside foods and street foods
  • Be sure that your foods are thoroughly cooked and steamed
  • Don’t eat raw or uncooked seafood
  • Don’t drink tap water or cook in tap water 

How is the diarrhoea diagnosed?

There are some physical examinations and consider your medical history determining the cause of your condition. They may also for urine and blood samples. 

They may consider some additional tests to examine the cause.

  • Fasting test to determine whether it is caused by food intolerance or allergy
  • Imaging test to examine any abnormalities in the intestine
  • A stool culture to diagnose bacteria, parasites or other signs of disease
  • Colonoscopy to check the whole colon for signs of intestinal abnormality
  • Sigmoidoscopy to check the rectum and lower colon for the intestinal diseases 

Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are helpful tests in determining any intestinal disease. 

How to treat diarrhoea?

Numerous treatments are possible when it comes to diarrhoea. From home remedies to medical treatments are available according to the severity of the diarrhoea. 

Rehydrate yourself 

As you know that diarrhoea drains all your body fluids, hence a good recovery of fluids is necessary. Drink plenty of fluids. Add ORS( oral rehydration solution) to your water bottle. Drink the solution throughout the day. It will compensate for the loss of necessary electrolytes and salts in your body. 

Dehydration in children is very harmful, as they may have weight loss due to this. Loss of essential liquids often comes with weakness and headache. So, better to increase your fluids level. 

Avoid things after diarrhoea:-

  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Cold drinks
  • Very hot drinks

Recovery diet 

Eat a small portion of foods while recovering from diarrhoea. Don’t force your digestive system. A good diet for a diarrhoea patient includes a diet rich in good levels of potassium and electrolytes. 

  • Foods rich in potassium such as potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Foods rich in electrolytes such as miso soup and sports drinks
  • Soft and cooked vegetables
  • A good amount of protein 

Another option for the recovery from diarrhoea and hardening the stools includes the BRAT diet. Have you heard about it? 

  • Banana
  • Rice
  • Apple sauce
  • Toast 

These bland foods include high fiber and starch, which may help in hardening stools. Also, a good amount of essential nutrients such as pectin and potassium are also present. 

The BRAT diet is highly restrictive and not a balanced diet. You should only follow this diet until you feel better, and don’t use this diet for a long time. 

Probiotics 

These are good bacterias that benefit your digestive system. Probiotics such as yoghurt and some other fermented foods are good for your gut to fight against germs. 

Take yoghurt into your diet and you will recover soon. According to a systemic study it was found that probiotics promote early recovery with no side effects. 

Avoid certain foods

Avoid the listed foods:-

  • High-fat food
  • Greasy food
  • Spicy food
  • Foods prepared with artificial sweeteners
  • High fructose foods 

Take medicines

There are medications available for controlling motility bowel movements. Few over the counter drugs are loperamide, norfloxacin which helps in fighting harmful bacteria in the gut. 

However, self-medication is not always good. If you are dealing with bloody stools or any other major condition, do consult your doctor. 

When to see a doctor? 

Well, diarrhoea is a common issue and often recovers within 2-3 days. But in case you are feeling bloody stools, intense abdominal pain, weight loss, weakness, dry mouth or dehydration, then it’s a serious concern. In such conditions visit your doctor. 

Conclusion 

Diarrhoea is one of the common problems of everyday life. Though it can be harmful sometimes and may cause excessive discomfort. Diarrhoea is however of two types: acute and chronic. Rotavirus is the responsible virus for causing such conditions. Depending on the colour of stools, the gel is also categorized as yellow diarrhoea and green diarrhoea. There may be some possible causes of diarrhoea like side effects of medications and certain abdominal or gallbladder surgery. And eating outside foods or contaminated water maybe some common reasons. Symptoms of diarrhoea include abdominal pain, watery and lose discharge of stools. In some conditions, bloody stools come. Visit your doctor if you are feeling some major issues. Treatment of diarrhoea includes rehydration with ORS solution and taking over the counter medicines and avoiding high fatty and foods with artificial sweeteners.

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