What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea describes loose, watery stool. It often means more frequent trips to the bathroom and a greater amount of stool. In most cases, diarrhea symptoms only last a few days and can be treated with over-the-counter medicine.
Symptoms of mild diarrhea include:
- Abdominal bloating or cramps
- Thin or loose stools
- Watery stool
- A sense of urgency to have a bowel movement
- In some cases, nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting
Sometimes diarrhea may last for weeks. In these situations, diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or a less serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of severe diarrhea include:
- Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
- Weight loss or dehydration
- Severe pain
What causes diarrhea?
The most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects the bowel, sometimes called “intestinal flu,” which usually lasts for two days. An unwanted visit from this troublemaker may also be caused by:
- Infection by bacteria
- Infections by other organisms
- Eating foods that upset the digestive system
- Allergies to certain foods
- Radiation therapy
Diarrhea is also known to arrive after constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.
Types of Diarrhea
You are probably thinking, ‘Really? There is more than one type of diarrhea?’ While all diarrhea is essentially the same (loose, watery stool), there are a few situational types.
The first situational type of diarrhea is traveler’s diarrhea. Traveler’s diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that is commonly caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Fortunately, traveler’s diarrhea is usually not serious — it’s just unpleasant.
When you visit a region where the climate, social conditions, or sanitary standards and practices are different from yours at home, you have an increased risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea.
Being aware of what you eat and drink while traveling can reduce your risk of traveler’s diarrhea. If you do develop traveler’s diarrhea, chances are it will resolve without treatment. However, it’s a good idea to have doctor-approved medications with you when you travel to high-risk areas in case diarrhea continues.
The second type of situational diarrhea is antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which occurs in response to medications used to treat bacterial infections (antibiotics).
Often, antibiotic-associated diarrhea is mild and ends shortly after you stop taking the medication. In some cases, antibiotic-associated diarrhea leads to colitis (inflammation of the colon). The inflammation can cause abdominal pain, fever and bloody diarrhea, which may require stopping or switching antibiotic medications.
If your diarrhea is mild and only a slight annoyance, you can treat it with an over-the-counter medicine. Common brand names include Pepto-Bismol®, Imodium A-D®, and Kaopectate®.
Other tips for managing diarrhea without medication include:
- Drinking liquids frequently. Good options include:
- diluted, pulpless fruit juices
- chicken broth (without the fat)
- tea with honey
- sports drinks
- Eating low-fiber foods such as:
- ripe bananas
- smooth peanut butter
- white bread
- chicken or turkey without the skin
- lean ground beef
- cottage cheese
- Avoiding foods that are:
- greasy, fatty, or fried
- strongly spiced
- Limiting food or beverages with caffeine
Diarrhea can be a real nuisance, but the good news is that it is often a temporary condition.
So there you have it! – the scoop on poop! We hope you enjoyed this series and gained a bit more knowledge on how to keep your digestive tract and intestines healthy!
At MDcare4you, we strive to give you the tools you need to be a better you!
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