Diarrhea 101


By: Nikki Nies

Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of instigators (i.e. parasites or poor water).  It can also be indicative of an underlying disease.  Either way you look at it, when diarrhea is present, it’s worth looking into.

The definition of diarrhea is relative and is individualized to situations.  Although, the determination of diarrhea often includes the talk of frequency and consistency of one’s stools.  Absolute diarrhea is defined as having more bowel movements than normal.  Among healthy individuals, the maximum number of bowel movements is three.

Why are you having more than 3 bowel movements you ask?

Potential Causes:diarrhea

  • Stomach Flu–viral gastroenteritis: will go away in a matter of days
  • eating or drinking products that have bacteria or parasites
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Laxatives containing magnesium
  • Celiac Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Nerve Disorders that supply the intestines
  • Radiation
  • Gastrectomy

Without proper treatment of diarrhea, it can lead to dehydration, which can then lead to orthostatic hypotension. Electrolytes, such as potassium or sodium, may become lost with water, leading to electrolyte or mineral deficiencies.

Treatment: Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) are a mixture of carbohydrate (glucose) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, citrate or bicarbonate). The glucose forces the small intestine to quickly absorb the fluid and electrolytes.  Name brands of ORS includes Rehydralyte, Pedialyte or Resol.  Infants with diarrhea should not be given antibiotics, but be seen by their pediatrician to identify underlying cause.  For older children and adults, should drink diluted fruit juices, sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) and water.

Caffeine and lactose containing products should be limited with diarrhea as it can exacerbate the situation.  If there is no nausea or vomiting, solid foods can be continued to consumed.  It’s suggested to consume rice, bananas, toast, tea, cereal and/or lactose free products to calm one’s stomach.

It’s important to gauge diarrhea’s appearance.  If you’re finding black, blood or pus in stool, stomach pain that isn’t relieved after a bowel movement, diarrhea worsens or does not get better after 2 days, moderate or severe dehydration, diarrhea with a fever greater than 101F and/or you’ve developed diarrhea after visiting a foreign country,  contact your primary care physician (PCP).

Prevention of bacteria can include the regular consumption of probiotic rich foods, such as yogurt.  Also, frequent hand washing and hand gels, before eating and after using the restrooms can be a great way to limit germs.  When traveling outside of the country, especially those underdeveloped, only drink bottled water, do NOT consume dairy products, raw shellfish or raw meat and/or fruits and vegetables without peels.

Diarrhea is inevitable at least in once in a lifetime, yet hopefully you’re confident in the passing of stool.  Pun intended.

Photo Credit: Gena Livings

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-diarrhea

http://www.medicinenet.com/diarrhea/article.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/basics/definition/con-20014025

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diarrhea-basics

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/pubs/diarrhea/index.aspx

http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/diarrhea/overview.html

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