Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools often as a result of bacteria. There are two main types of diarrhea: acute and chronic. Acute diarrhea lasts for a few days as a response to an infection, whereas chronic diarrhea lasts for several weeks and is often associated with an intestinal disorder or disease, like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Diarrhea can strike suddenly, and it’s often hard to pinpoint what caused the attack.
Worse yet, it can leave you feeling groggy, sick, and fearful of not being close to a bathroom. You may be too embarrassed to talk about it, but it’s important to understand and get to the bottom of your problem – and know how to fix it!
An unpleasant experience, diarrhea is basically loose, watery stool that occurs more frequently than a regular bowel movement. You need to get it under control because it can leave you dehydrated, which is hard on your body. Generally speaking, within a few days it will stop, but depending on what you have, it can last for weeks and lead to more serious health issues.
Oftentimes, we may associate diarrhea with having the flu or eating some food that didn’t agree with us. Both scenarios are correct, but there is more to it.
To begin with, certain medications can cause diarrhea. In particular, antibiotics, as they remove not only the bad, but good bacteria as well. This can lead to a disruption of bacteria in your intestines. An infection forms, causing the change in your bowels and a dash to the toilet.
Another culprit is fructose – a type of sugar – as well as artificial sweeteners. If your body has difficulty breaking down these sugars, it can upset your stomach and cause your stools to soften as well.
Viruses and bacteria are also causes of diarrhea. E. coli, salmonella, viral hepatitis, and Norwalk virus can all lead to a disruption in digestion. And you may have heard of “traveler’s diarrhea,” which happens when you’re out of the country and you pick up some bacteria unfamiliar to your system. This can ruin your vacation and leave your body in distress. Not fun at all!
As I mentioned, though, it’s the cause of your diarrhea that will determine how long it lasts and the form of treatment you need. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant and eat cheese, the aftermath bears a direct correlation to your food sensitivity. But if you’re away overseas, you may not know exactly what bacteria or virus you picked up and may find the symptoms last far longer.
Aside from the sudden urge to go and loose, watery stool, other symptoms can accompany diarrhea as well, including the following:
When diarrhea becomes serious, seek medical attention. Be aware of the symptoms. If you’ve been experiencing it for more than two days, you have a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, you start to notice blood in your stool, your stool is black and tarry, or you experience severe rectal pain… see your doctor. You also don’t want to reach a point of severe dehydration.
Every time you have a bowel movement, your body loses some fluid. With diarrhea, your body loses much more fluid than usual, putting you at risk for dehydration. So your first course of action when you wind up with diarrhea is to keep yourself hydrated as much as possible with water and herbal tea preferably, since caffeinated drinks can be a diuretic. You’ll know you’re dehydrated if you have excessive thirst, dry mouth or skin, weakness, dizziness, and darker or scarce urine.
When it comes to treatment, if you have a virus, antibiotics will not work. But antibiotics or other medications could be the cause of your softened stool – talk to your doctor about a change in medications.
If your diarrhea is a symptom of an alternative issue – inflammatory bowel disease, for example – targeting the underlining cause can help.
But instead of turning to drugs, there are natural remedies to take charge of your diarrhea.
Start with drinking plenty of water. Your body needs it to flush out your system properly! It is also recommended avoiding too much dairy and fatty foods, as well as foods high in fiber or seasoning. Your body needs fiber, of course, but low-fiber options like unsalted crackers, toast, rice, and chicken are better options.
Also, taking a daily probiotic can help promote good bacteria in the gut and intestinal tract to avoid future attacks.
Although diarrhea can hit suddenly, there are some preventative measures you can take. Aside from taking a probiotic or eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, do things to prevent contact with bacteria.
So make sure to wash your hands frequently to clean them of any harmful bacteria, and thoroughly wash the food you eat. You can’t be too cautious.
In particular, when you’re away on vacation, check for any travel warnings and watch what you’re consuming. If meat is undercooked, or you’re drinking water from the tap, your body may not be able to handle it.
Lastly, when it comes to food within your own home, preventing bacteria like salmonella and E. coli means keeping a clean kitchen and proper refrigeration.
Diarrhea isn’t pleasant, so prevention is your best option to avoid the unsettling gas, abdominal cramping and the frequent trips to the bathroom. Any time you get it diarrhea can really ruin your day and leave you feeling tired and unwell. My best advice is to know the signs, take preventative measures, and see a doctor if it continues for too long.