Diarrhea

Diarrhoea toilet

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of diarrhea

Gastrointestinal disorders are very common in low and middle-income countries which lack hygiene for maintaining a healthy life. Gastrointestinal disorders of viral or bacterial origin are also common in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of the world that have ideal climatic conditions for the growth and propagation of these pathogens. One of the very common diseases belonging to this category is “diarrhea” that affects millions of children and adult throughout the world. As per the global estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 2.5 billion individuals lack sanitation. Nearly 499,000 deaths of children less than 5 years of age were reported due to diarrheal diseases. Clearly, the current global burden due to diarrhea is alarming and demands attention from health organizations worldwide.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhoea pillsA diarrhea is a medical condition in which a person passes loose, liquid or semi-liquid stools more than 2-3 times a day. This condition mainly arises due to electrolyte imbalance within the body that causes reduced consistency and abnormally increased volume of stools that can take the shape of a container it fills. In this condition, an excess quantity of watery stools gets accumulated within the rectum. It, therefore, becomes impossible for the rectum to store the excess fecal matters for a long time and necessitates urgent defecation. In extreme cases, the person involuntarily passes liquid stool due to the complete failure of the anorectal muscles to prevent the passage of stool. In many cases, diarrhea is self-limiting or may get cured with mild medications. But diarrhea persisting for more than 3 days needs urgent medical intervention.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is mainly caused by microbial agents. The commonly observed causes are listed below-

  • Bacteria: Bacteria invading the body via contaminated food or water may cause diarrhea. The most common bacterial agents causing diarrhea are Salmonella and Escherichia coli. They are usually found in certain food items like ground beef or sliced fruits (left exposed to open air for a long time).
  • Virus: The most common viral pathogen causing diarrhea is Rotavirus, which resolves on its own within 3-7 days but impedes lactose metabolism for a longer period of time. Other viral agents responsible for diarrhea are Norovirus, Herpes Simplex virus, and Cytomegalovirus.
  • Parasites: Parasites can also invade the human body through polluted food and fluids. Few viruses belonging to this category are- Giardia, Entamoeba, and Cryptosporidium.
  • Bowel disorders: Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome experience inflammation or tumor growth in bowels and may be predisposed to diarrhea.
  • Intestinal diseases: A few acute intestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease or ulcerative colitis can increase risks of diarrhea in the future.
  • Food sensitivity: Few people lack the metabolic capacity to digest certain food items such as lactose or sugar substitutes. Consumption of these foods may lead to diarrhea.
  • Medications: Certain medications such as antibiotics, antacids (containing magnesium) or cancer drugs can induce diarrhea.
  • Congenital: Suboptimal breastfeeding or presence of infection within the mother’s body can cause diarrhea in infants through placental connection or breast milk.
  • Deficiency: Acute malnutrition or deficiency caused due to a diet lacking Vitamin A or essential micronutrient (zinc) may increase possibilities of diarrhea.
  • Hygiene: Poor sanitation, consumption of impure food (may cause food poisoning) and water and other unhygienic conditions (Eg: eating without washing hands) can cause diarrhea. 

Symptoms of diarrhea

Diarrhoea bacteriaDiarrhea is manifested through a few obvious symptoms which are described below-

  • Passage of semi-liquid to watery stools more than 2-3 times per day
  • Blood tinged stools (in extreme cases)
  • Blackish or brownish discoloration of stools
  • The obnoxious odor of stools
  • Accidental leakage of stool and mucous
  • Slimy sensation in the anus even after wiping
  • Stains left in underwear due to the passage of liquid stool unknowingly
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Suppresses urination
  • Abdominal distension due to the accumulation of gas
  • Acute dehydration (after frequent bouts of diarrhea)
  • Brownish discoloration of urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry skin (due to loss of water and salts)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme fatigue and general body weakness
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Dryness of mouth and tongue
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks
  • Mild to high fever
  • Cramps and pain in legs

Types of diarrhea

Diarrhea is broadly classified into two categories according to the severity and duration of the disease. These are elaborated below-

  • Acute diarrhea: Acute diarrhea is caused by bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter, Shigella or Salmonella. It may also be caused by a change of dietary habits or few over-the-counter medications. Acute diarrhea is usually not so persistent in nature and goes away before two weeks. It is characterized by a discharge of watery stools with a foul smell and associated symptoms such as abdominal swelling, pain and cramps. In a few cases, acute diarrhea also causes acute dehydration due to loss of body salts and fluids.
  • Chronic diarrhea: Chronic diarrhea is usually very persistent in nature (stays for several weeks) and is caused due to a few existing diseases such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It may gradually progress to ischemia of the gut, colon cancer or polyps.

A few other types of diarrhea are as follows-

  • Secretory diarrhea: It is caused due to an increased amount of fluid within the lumen of the bowel.
  • Osmotic diarrhea: It occurs due to loss of reabsorption capacity of the intestine.
  • Infectious diarrhea: It is caused due to the spread of viral and bacterial pathogens.
  • Non-infectious diarrhea: It is caused due to toxicity (by food or drugs) or due to existing diseases of the bowel.
  • Traveler’s diarrhea: It occurs due to frequent change of dietary and hygiene habits while traveling from one country to another within short intervals of time.

Diagnosis

The following diagnostic tests are performed for diarrhea-

  • Stool culture (to check for microbial pathogens)
  • Blood tests
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy (to study the colon)

Treatment and prevention

Diarrhoea toiletTreatment 

  • If diarrhea is caused due to bacterial or parasite infections, doctors will prescribe the patient with antibiotics. In case diarrhea is caused due to viral infections the doctor will prescribe medications that will help in treating the secondary symptoms such as fever and body ache.
  • Doctors generally recommend having a lot of fluids when a patient is diagnosed with diarrhea. For adults water, juices or sports drinks are the best options for fluids. In case, the patient is unable to retain fluids or if the fluids irritate their stomach, they may be given fluids intravenously.
  • For children who have been diagnosed with diarrhea, medications or supplements will be given to help increase the fluids in their body.
  • Medications to treat the underlying cause of diarrhea will be prescribed as well, to make sure that the patients’ condition does not get worse.
  • Supplements of potassium and sodium will be given as well, to ensure proper heart health.

Low FODMAP diet for diarrhea

Certain foods can cause the bowel to expand due to the absorption of water and the release of gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. This expansion of the bowel is caused due to foods that are fermentable, short chained carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are found in common and widespread foods and are collectively termed as FODMAP foods.

FODMAP stands for:

F – Fermentable.

O – Oligosaccharides.

D – Disaccharides.

M – Monosaccharides.

A – and

P – Polysaccharides.

Cauliflower, garlic, onions; dairy products such as cow milk, goat milk, buttermilk, cream and other dairy products are high in FODMAPs. Consuming these foods may lead to diarrhea. Foods such as bananas, white bread, chicken, and oatmeal are low FODMAPs. Consuming these foods may help in relieving the symptoms of diarrhea. Since high FODMAP foods are difficult to digest, they cause gastrointestinal disorders. Following a low FODMAP diet, not only helps in relieving the symptoms and but also in preventing diarrhea.

Prevention 

    • Do not consume contaminated food.
    • Wash your hands frequently- before every meal, and after using the washroom.
    • Apply soap and lather for at least 20 seconds, this will help in killing off the bacteria.
    • Do not consume contaminated water or water from an unknown source.

Diarrhea home remedies

The first and foremost step to be taken in case of diarrhea is to drink plenty of water and ORS (oral rehydration solution) since dehydration is the most lethal outcome of any diarrheal disease. As mentioned before, a low FODMAP diet is critical in treating the symptoms of several digestive disorders including diarrhea. Low FODMAP foods such as carrots, cucumber, spinach, and unripe bananas should be consumed. This will reduce the strain on the gastrointestinal tract and speed up the recovery process.

One shouldn’t consume milk at all during diarrhea. However one should consume healthy probiotics such as yogurt. Other effective home remedies that can help reduce diarrheal symptoms are chamomile tea and honey mixed with warm water. Clear vegetable soups and broths are also helpful. These will help prevent dehydration and also help in  maintaining proper nutritional and electrolytic balance in the body.


TL;DR?

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Stay hydrated, as diarrhea tends to reduce the water levels in the body.
  • Consume bland and steamed food such as boiled vegetables, chicken etc. As spicy or flavourful food may irritate your stomach and increase the number of time that you will need to go to the washroom.
  • Take rest; this is because your body tends to lose fluids when you have diarrhea.
Don'ts
  • Consume any spice or flavourful foods; they tend to irritate your stomach.
  • Indulge in any strenuous activities as the body is already low on energy.
  • Consume roughage rich foods as they can increase the frequency of washroom visits.

 

 

 

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Labiaplasty Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to modify the labia minora and the labia majora. Learn about who can…
cytomegalovirus igm test
Cytomegalo Virus (CMV) – IgM Test The CMV antibodies include both IgM and IgG antibodies which are the immune system's response to a CMV…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
black seed oil benefits
Black Seed Oil: What secret benefits could it bestow on your health? Black seeds or nigella seeds are tiny packets of health brimming with amazing benefits. Find out why should…
Aphasia brain scans
Neuroendoscopy Neuroendoscopy is a minimally-invasive surgery used to treat disorders of brain, spine, head, etc.
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
Gynecomastia or male breast enlargement
Gynecomastia Gynecomastia is the enlargement of the male breasts. Learn about the treatment options, surgeries, and post-op care for…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the vagus nerve and…
breast-surgery-2
Breast Augmentation Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure done to alter the shape and size of the breast. It uses…
Low carb diet
8 appetizing and mouth-watering recipes that every low-carb dieter should try Looking for delicious recipes that will fix your hunger pang without adding those pesky carbs? Look no further…
Threatened abortion
A few facts about threatened abortion A threatened miscarriage indicates an early pregnancy loss. Look out for symptoms like bleeding, vaginal discharge, and pain.
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
Sputum test Sputum test is a commonly used diagnostic tool that is used to examine the presence of pathogens in…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
CBC blood test
CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test refers to the test that measures the number of RBCs, WBCs, etc…
stain blood
Blood in your stool Know the reason for blood in your stool, toilet bowl or tissue and the important steps to take…
post circumcision
Circumcision Check to know everything about open , laser, stapler circumcision, and about preparation, procedure, risks, benefits , and…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another person or you…
hYdroxycut pills
Hydroxycut: How safe are these so-called weight loss supplements? Hydroxycut is a blend of several different ingredients formulated to promote weight loss; powered by a key weight…
Grass-fed meat
Facts about grass-fed meat Grass-fed meat has a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and are low in fat and cholesterol. They are…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
gallbladder diet tomato
Gallbladder surgery :Tips on post-operative care and diet What to eat post a gallbladder surgery? What are the key things to avoid if you had a…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Gatorade: Top things you need to know about this staple energy drink Gatorade is a popular (in fact the most popular) energy drink worldwide. But this power-packed drinks comes with…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
complement c4 test
Complement 4 (C4) Test The Complement 4 or C4 test measures the level of the protein in the bloodstream, and is primarily…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Ca 19.9 test
CA19.9 Test CA 19.9 is a cancer antigen that exists on the surface of cancer-causing cells. The levels of CA…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
Paleo snack
Paleo snacks Paleo snacks are healthy diet options that emphasize fresh foods and eliminate processed foods, dairy products, and sugar.
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Sushi: health benefits and recipes Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish prepared with vinegared rice served with fish (often raw), vegetables, and other…
botox injection
Botox: Top things you should know before undergoing the procedure Botox is technically a toxic compound that is widely used in cosmetic procedure. But in addition to wrinkle-reduction,…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
free thyroxine ft4
Free thyroxine test (FT4) The FT4 or free thyroxine test is used to detect the level of free thyroxine of FT4 thyroid…

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