Diarrhea

Many people experience diarrhea a few times a year, making it widespread. You will notice diarrhea when your stools are loose and watery. Mostly, the cause of the diarrhea is unspecified, and it goes away on its own after several days. Mainly bacteria can cause diarrhea, and deficiency of water is one of the complications of diarrhea.

What is diarrhea?

Using the bathroom frequently, having a bloating, or even pooping – doesn’t matter what you call it, the stool is essential in your daily routine. However, eliminating waste from your body can change from time to time. For example, when you have loose or watery stools, this is called diarrhea. Diarrhea is a prevailing situation that is commonly settled without medical treatment. Additionally, you may sense bloated, experience lower abdominal cramps, and sometimes feel nausea. 

Even though many diarrhea cases are self-limited (occurring for a limited time and with a steady, serious level), occasionally, it can result in severe issues. The adverse effects of diarrhea include;

  • Deficiency of water (lack of water in the body).
  • Electrolyte imbalancement (lack of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which are essential for bodily functions).
  • Renal failure (your kidneys do not receive adequate blood or fluid). 

To replace this fluid loss, you should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Water deficiency can become more severe if it doesn’t settle (gets better), worsens, and isn’t treated appropriately. 

Kinds of diarrhea: There are various types of diarrhea; some of these kinds include:

  • Acute diarrhea: The most common kind of diarrhea is acute diarrhea, in which loose and watery stool remain one-two day. The symptoms of acute diarrhea are usually not severe, and it will disappear on its own after several days.
  • Persistent diarrhea: Diarrhea typically persists for several weeks (two to four weeks).
  • Chronic diarrhea: It refers to diarrhea that remains for more than four weeks or happens over a long period; it comes and goes frequently.

Causes of diarrhea: Several medical issues and situations can become the reason for diarrhea, including:

  • Viruses: Some viruses can result in diarrhea, such as; the Norwalk virus (norovirus), enteric adenoviruses, astroviruses, cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis. The rotavirus is one of the most common reasons for acute diarrhea in children. There has also been a link between the virus that results in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Bacteria & parasites: It is thought that diarrhea may occur when someone comes into contact with pathogenic bacteria, like E. coli, or parasites, through polluted food or water. Traveler’s diarrhea results from bacteria and parasites in progressing countries. Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff) is another kind of bacterium that causes diarrhea. It can also develop after taking an antibiotic course or even during hospitalization.
  • Medicines: Certain medicines, like antibiotics, can result in diarrhea. Antibiotics reduce contamination by killing harmful bacteria, but they also reduce good bacteria. This agitates bacteria’s natural stability in your intestinal tract, causing diarrhea or superimposed contamination, e.g., c-diff. Other substances such as anti-cancer drugs and magnesium-based antacids can also cause diarrhea.
  • Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a kind of sugar found in milk and dairy substances. Some people have a problem digesting lactose, which results in diarrhea. As we age, our ability to digest lactose decreases due to low levels of the enzyme that aids in the digestion of lactose.

Fructose: Fruits and honey contain fructose, sometimes added to beverages as a sweetener. An individual who has a problem digesting fructose can suffer from diarrhea. Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, erythritol, and mannitol (non-absorbable sugars) found in chewing gum and different sugar-free products, can also result in diarrhea in many individuals.

  • Surgical procedure: A sectional intestine or gallbladder removal can sometimes result in diarrhea. 
  • Other Medical Conditions: There are a variety of causes of chronic diarrhea, including IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, microscopic colitis, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Symptoms of diarrhea: The main symptoms of diarrhea are frequent, loose, watery stools and an urge to have a bowel movement. There are many different symptoms associated with diarrhea. The symptoms may vary from one person to another or combine to form a unique sign such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Deficiency of water
  • Constant urges to evacuate your bowels
  • Stools in large quantities

Diarrhea and dehydration: Diarrhea can rapidly lose fluids and put you in danger of water deficiency. If you do not get treatment for diarrhea, it can have severe consequences. Following are the signs of lack of water:

  • Tiredness
  • Having a dry mucous membrane
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • An increase in thirst
  • Less need for urine
  • Dry mouth

You should consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you believe your diarrhea is resulting in dehydration.

Diarrhea in babies: Diarrhea and dehydration are hazardous conditions for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diarrhea and its complications account for 1 in 9 children’s deaths worldwide each year, making it the second leading cause of death for children under five years of age. You should consult your child’s healthcare provider to seek emergency care if you notice any of the following symptoms of dehydration:

  • Reduced frequency of urination
  • The mouth feels dry and itchy
  • Headache
  • Exhausted
  • There are no tears shed when you cry
  • Itchy skin (a sign of dryness)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Angry behavior/irritation

Treatment for diarrhea:

Acute diarrhea in mild cases may resolve on its own without any treatment. In the case of persistent or chronic diarrhea, a physician will address any hidden causes of diarrhea and treat the symptoms. Several possible healing options are discussed in detail in the sections below.

  • Rehydration: In particular, children and the elderly are vulnerable to dehydration. The easiest way to replace fluids in the body is to drink more water or fluid. However, there is a possibility that an individual may require to receive injected fluids in severe cases. ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) is a water solution containing salt and glucose. 
  • Zinc supplementation: The supplementation of zinc may also minimize the seriousness and timing of diarrhea in children.
  • Medicines: There are also unprescribed antidiarrhea medicines like loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) that minimize the passage of stool. In adults and children, Pepto-Bismol reduces the output of diarrheal stools, and this is also an effective treatment against traveler’s diarrhea. Some medical experts are concerned that antidiarrheal medicines could prolong bacterial contaminations by minimizing the removal of pathogens from the body through the stool.
  • Antibiotics: The use of antibiotics can only be utilized to cure diarrhea caused by bacterial infections. Switching to another medication might be helpful if the cause of the problem is a specific medication. If you consider switching medications, you should always consult your doctor first.
  • Diet: Here are some diet precautions that may aid with diarrhea:
  • It is recommended to drink clear liquids, such as electrolyte drinks, water, or fruit juices that don’t contain added sugar.
  • Whenever you experience a loose stool, you should restore lost fluids with liquid.
  • Take enough fluid before meals, not during meals.
  • Ensure you get enough potassium, such as diluted fruit juices, potatoes without the skin, and bananas.
  • It is advised to consume foods rich in soluble fiber, like bananas, oatmeal, and rice.

Some foods and beverages that can aggravate diarrhea include:

  • Sweet cherries, mints, gum, and prunes.
  • Drinks and medications contain caffeine.
  • Foods contain fructose, such as fruit juices, grapes, honey, dates, nuts, figs, soft drinks, and prunes.
  • Milk and dairy products contain lactose.
  • A fat alternate called Olestra (Olean).
  • Anything containing artificial sweeteners in it.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics may play a role in diarrhea, but mixed evidence supports the claim. The evidence suggests that they might be able to reduce diarrheal illness in children and prevent travelers’ diarrhea.

Preventions: The following are some of the measures to prevent diarrhea:

  • Drinking water that is safe for consumption.
  • Access to improved sanitary facilities.
  • Washing of hands with good hand wash.
  • Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life.
  • Ensuring clean food and personal hygiene.
  • Education on health that explains how germs spread.
  • Rotavirus vaccination.

 

References: 

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc20352241#:~:text=Diarrhea%20%E2%80%94%20loose%2C%20watery%20and%20possibly,more%20than%20a%20few%20days retrieved on April 23, 2022.
  • https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-diarrhea retrieved on April 23, 2022.
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4108-diarrhea retrieved on April 23, 2022.
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/diarrhea retrieved on April 23, 2022.
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