Diarrhea is a condition that is characterized by loose or watery stools for at least 3 days. It usually lasts for 3 to 5 days and can lead to dehydration because of the loss of fluid from the body. This is the reason why many doctors advise those suffering from diarrhea to drink enough fluids and keep themselves hydrated.
Signs of dehydration are decreased urination, weakness, and dizziness. Diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal bloating, cramps, and flatulence.
Diarrhea can be classified into three types:
Short-term diarrhea: is generally caused by cholera or due to the intake of unhygienic water, or food. This is the least dangerous or chronic kind of diarrhea and is usually treated in the span of 3 to 4 days.
In short-term bloody diarrhea, there is the presence of blood in the stool. In these cases, a stool culture is required to find out the exact cause of the condition.
Long-term or persistent diarrhea is the one that needs medical attention and can lead to severe weakness and dehydration. In this, there may be blood present in the stool and the person may experience more than 10 loose stools in the span of a few hours. The most common virus that causes long-term or persistent diarrhea is called the rotavirus. When one is infected with rotavirus, they tend to have more than 10 loose motions every day until the virus is brought under control. Other kinds of virus that can lead to the condition of severe diarrhea are norovirus and campylobacter.
Causes of Diarrhoea
(I) Infectious causes of diarrhea
(a). Diarrhea is usually caused due to bowel infection, which happens because of:
- lack of sanitation (living in areas with no maintenance of cleanliness, unhygienic surroundings)
- less access to clean water (consumption of unfiltered water or tap water)
- lack of nutrition (zinc deficiency)
- lack of clean food (intake of food infected by fleas)
(b). It can also be caused due to an infection in the intestines due to virus, bacteria, or pests. This condition is known as gastroenteritis. In this condition, there is an inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (which involves the stomach and the small intestine) and leads to diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, and abdominal pain. There are chances that one may catch a fever, may experience the lack of energy, and dehydration during this period. This condition usually lasts for two weeks. If it exceeds two weeks, then one must consult a gastroenterologist as the condition may be serious. This condition is sometimes referred to as “stomach flu”.
(II) Non-infectious causes of diarrhea
These also exist such as; irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, celiac disease, and chronic pancreatitis. Sometimes diarrhea is the side effect of a medicine or antibiotic that one is taking. This kind of diarrhea usually stops after the discontinuation of the medicinal course.
How to Get Rid of Diarrhea – Home Remedies
Diarrhea can be painful especially if accompanied with flatulence, abdominal cramps, inflammation or dehydration. Even though most cases of diarrhea are not medically serious, it can interfere with one’s stress levels if it lasts for more than 2 days. There are various home remedies one can use for diarrhea to attain relief. However, if diarrhea is a common problem for you, you must consider seeing the doctor. Here are some ways to get rid of diarrhea:
- Ginger – Ginger can help in reducing abdominal cramps and treating food poisoning. One can either put a small piece of ginger in their mouth directly or add a tablespoon of ginger juice in water along with honey and drink it. Ginger releases gastric juices to ease digestion and fights cramps. Avoid drinking water immediately after eating the piece of ginger. One can also drink ginger tea twice a day during diarrhea to improve their digestion. If fresh ginger is not available, the ginger powder can also be used.
- Fenugreek Seeds – Fenugreek seeds have a high mucilage content and are thus recommended for the treatment of diarrhea. Mucilage has high antidiarrheal effects and provides relief from it. It is better to chew a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds for instant relief from diarrhea. One can also add a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in yogurt and have it. Remember to have this mixture three times a day for better relief from diarrhea.
- Bananas – Ripe bananas have high pectin content. This pectin is a water-soluble substance that helps in fighting diarrhea. Bananas also contain potassium which functions vitally in the body and helps during dehydration. Eating two bananas every day during diarrhea can help in providing relief.
- Yogurt – Yogurt has probiotic content in it which helps in improving digestion. If one is not lactose intolerant, they can have yogurt during diarrhea that is caused by taking antibiotics. It is recommended to have yogurt two times a day with a banana to increase its effect.
- Chamomile Tea – Chamomile has antispasmodic properties that provide relief from abdominal pain that is accompanied by diarrhea. It is helpful in combating intestinal inflammation. One can have chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey/lemon juice twice a day when suffering from diarrhea.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This is yet another simple way of fighting the infection that has caused diarrhea. Add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water (accompanied by honey as it can be too sour) and drink this solution twice a day until diarrhea has come under control.
- Carrot Soup – It is advisable to stay on liquids when suffering from diarrhea as one is vulnerable to dehydration. Carrot soup is light and has anti-dyspeptic effects. It is essentially beneficial for children recovering from diarrhea as it provides all the vital nutrients that are most likely lost during diarrhea.
- Peppermint – Peppermint helps in reducing abdominal cramps caused due to diarrhea. One can take strings of mint and place it in hot water for a few minutes. Drink this solution once it is warm enough to drink.
- Clear Liquids – As one is very prone to become dehydrated due to diarrhea, it is best to intake as many liquids as one can. This includes water and other fruit juices. The minerals in fruits help one to maintain the nutrients that are lost during the loose motions.
- Avoid Dairy Products – Except for yogurt, one must avoid dairy products when facing diarrhea as these products sometimes aggravate the irritation in the intestines. Thus, one must avoid milk, butter, and cheese till the diarrhea has settled.
- Consume foods that are see through – This includes the consumption of soups, chicken broth, and Jell-O. These foods provide one with water as well as electrolytes which help in combating diarrhea.
- Rest – This is the most important remedy. When one rests, the body has the chance to rejuvenate itself and cure itself.
Diarrhea can be prevented by maintaining good food hygiene, and sanitation. You are most prone to diarrhea when you’re traveling, thus, it is important to take the below mentioned preventive measure for diarrhea;
- One way to prevent diarrhea or stomach infections is by washing one’s hands before eating, and after visiting the washroom. Spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands with an anti-bacterial soap. Avoid using alcohol-based antibacterial hand sanitizers as most hand sanitizers as this alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream. This then leads to the breakdown of the protective outer layer of the skin which may lead to more serious infections. Thus, washing one’s hand with soap and water is the best choice for preventing bacterial infections.
- One should avoid tap water when traveling and use only bottled water even when brushing one’s teeth. One should also only drink boiled and purified water even while at home. Infected water is the most common cause of diarrhea and for this reason, one should make sure to consume only pure water. Purchase bottled water from highly reputed stores and not street vendors.
- One can also take a Hepatitis A vaccine prior traveling when traveling to less developed areas (villages) or unhygienic places. This vaccine helps in fighting cholera and other bacterial infections which can lead to diarrhea if handled carelessly.
- One must avoid street food irrespective of whether traveling or not. Eat the food that is cooked thoroughly and eat it when it is hot. Be careful to never eat raw or uncooked meat or seafood as they can be infected with many viruses or bacteria. It is better to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and use them for cooking. It is advisable to soak freshly bought vegetables and fruits in the water for 30 minutes and then rinsing them thoroughly so that they are completely clean.
- One should also avoid over-consuming foods that can trigger diarrhea or loose stools. These foods include; coffee, caffeinated soda drinks, artificial sugar. Diarrhea can also be caused by mixing different food courses in one meal as different foods take the different amount of time to digest. For instance, fruits are digested relatively easily than meats. This can cause one’s stomach to push forward under-digested food or over-digested food over to the intestines. This, in turn, can lead to abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
- If one is lactose intolerant, they must completely avoid any intake of dairy products as that may lead to conditions of diarrhea.
Since rotavirus is the most common virus for causing diarrhea, one can take rotavirus vaccination to prevent it.
Myths & Facts
Diarrhea is a common health condition, however, it is surrounded by a few myths, such as:
|Dehydration isn’t a serious issue.||Dehydration is a serious issue, especially for children. One must stay hydrated when suffering from diarrhea.|
|Diarrhea can be caused by influenza.||Influenza doesn’t cause diarrhea. Sometimes diarrhea is referred to as stomach flu. However, the bug that causes influenza is different from the one that leads to stomach flu|
|Sugary drinks can help in reducing weakness caused because of diarrhea.||Sugary drinks do not help to reduce the effects of dehydration caused by diarrhea. Instead, they make the symptoms of diarrhea worse. Thus, one should avoid sugary drinks and food and stick to water or natural fruit juices.|
|All fiber foods must be consumed during diarrhea.||It is true that soluble fiber which is found in ripe bananas, peas, beans, and oats are good for digestion. However, not all fiber foods are good for diarrhea. For instance, insoluble fiber found in the skin of raw fruits and vegetables may speed up stools that pass through the intestines leading to liquid motions.|
|Caffeine should be consumed to reduce abdominal cramps during diarrhea.||Caffeine can make diarrhea worse by speeding up stools and thus should be minimized at best.|
|It has been a long-followed myth about how the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast – is good for diarrhea.||This diet doesn’t have enough nutrients like proteins and fiber that one needs in a healthy diet. During diarrhea, the body loses its minerals and fluids because of watery stools and thus, this diet is not adequate to make up for it. One should maintain a bland diet for the first few days of diarrhea and then resume back to their normal diet.|
Why is diarrhea considered to be dangerous?
Diarrhea is not a life-threatening condition if it occurs because of the consumption of unhygienic food or unclean surroundings and one only has 3 to 4 loose bowel movements a day. However, if one experiences more than 10 loose motions in a day, it can lead to fatality as the body loses its water and salt and becomes dehydrated. This severe dehydration can lead to fatal weakness which can be harmful to the body. One must consume as much water and ORS solutions in order to replace the lost water and salt due to diarrhea.
What are the symptoms of being dehydrated?
One can have mild or severe dehydration when suffering from diarrhea. Symptoms of mild dehydration are; dry mouth, dry tongue, thick saliva, feeling sleepy or irritable, feeling dizzy, weakness, and flushed face. Symptoms of severe dehydration are; low blood pressure, fainting, bloating in the abdomen, experiencing severe muscle contraction, fast and weak pulse rate, dry eyes and the skin looks wrinkled.
Are children more prone to dehydration through diarrhea?
Yes, children are more prone to dehydration. Older adults, pregnant women and people who live in hot climates are also more likely to be dehydrated when suffering from diarrhea.
How can one prevent dehydration when suffering from diarrhea?
Firstly, watch for the above-mentioned symptoms of dehydration. If some of them are present, one must increase their intake of liquids and eat small amounts of food six to seven times a day.
How does zinc work in reducing diarrhea?
Zinc supplements help in reducing the duration and the severity that is caused by diarrhea and helps in preventing frequent watery stools. Zinc is found in oats, wheat, beans, and legumes, as well as tofu and must be consumed when suffering from diarrhea.
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