Diarrhea is a condition that affects millions of people every year. This condition involves the frequent passing of loose, watery and unformed feces. It generally lasts for less than 14 days. This troublesome disease could be caused by an infection of the small intestines, generally bacteria or viruses. Almost everyone suffers from this infectious diarrhea at some point in their life, including a vacation to a foreign land. An estimated, 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea were reported in the year 2004, resulting in 1.5 million deaths among children under the age of five. Further, about 1.7 to 5 billion cases of diarrhea occur every year and this condition is most common in developing countries.
What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a condition in which foods and fluids pass too quickly or in large amounts through the colon at least three or more times a day. This condition often lasts for days and may result in dehydration due to excessive fluid loss.
Causes of Diarrhea
- Viruses invade the body and cause mild to severe problems. These are often acquired from contaminated food or water (regarded as food poisoning), or directly from another person who is already infected.
- Bacteria and parasites: This medical condition is very common while traveling to developing countries. It is often regarded as traveler’s diarrhea.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the major causes of diarrhea, which affects the large intestine (colon). Its symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain and constipation. Moreover, IBS is a chronic condition that the infected person will need to manage long term.
- Medications like antibiotics, radiation therapy, diseases of the intestines (ulcerative colitis), cancers, alcohol abuse, digestive tract surgery and diabetes are other causes of diarrhea.
- Anxiety, increased consumption of alcohol or coffee may cause diarrhea.
- Removal of the gallbladder may cause an increase in bile in the colon which results in watery stools.Also Read: 7 Foods That Fight Inflammation and Belly Fat
Signs and symptoms of diarrhea:
Symptoms of diarrhea can be divided into uncomplicated (or non-serious) and complicated diarrhea.
Symptoms of uncomplicated diarrhea include:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Loose watery stools
- Sense of urgency to have a bowel movement
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bloating of the stomach
The symptoms of complicated diarrhea include:
- Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
- Weight loss
Most cases of non-serious diarrhea resolve themselves within a week. But, diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days is a major concern and then you should head to the doctor. He will advice you or perform several tests to diagnose the condition. Below are some of the diagnostic tests of diarrhea are:
- Physical exam- The doctor or medical professional will check the body temperature to understand if is there any fever or not. Blood pressure and pulse may also be measured to check for signs of dehydration. Moreover, the doctor will also examine your abdomen for abdominal pain or cramps.
- Review of your medications- Diarrhea can also be caused by taking medicines and supplements, including over-the-counter drugs.
- Blood test- Blood tests help determine any signs of inflammation, which may suggest inflammatory bowel disease.
- Stool test- Stool test is performed to determine whether a bacterium or parasite is causing diarrhea.Also Read: 10 Foods That Will Boost Your Immune System
Treatment and prevention of diarrhea:
After diagnosing diarrhea, the most important aspect is treatment. There are different ways to treat diarrhea by avoiding dehydration and replacing lost fluid. Initially, to avoid dehydration, it has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide oral Rehydration salts (ORS) to the infected person because it contains sugar, sodium, or potassium, which are lost in diarrhea. Basically, medications, and changes in lifestyle, diet and fluid intake can only help in curing diarrhea, these are as follows:
- Medicines like Loperamide, slow down the bowel movements and may also increase the gut’s water absorption. Furthermore, do not give anti-diarrheal medications to children without the recommendation of a doctor.
- Diarrhea affects the balance of salts and electrolytes in the body. So, the attacked person should drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid per day. The infected person can choose fruit juice without pulp, or soda (without caffeine), chicken or beef soup, tea with honey, and sports drinks.
- Doctors recommend patients to eat foods such as pasta, bread, rice or potatoes because of their rich carbohydrate content. People suffering from diarrhea can add a bit of salt to the food to replace salt loss.
- People with diarrhea may prefer pro-biotic medicines because they contain strains of living bacteria that are similar to the healthy bacteria normally found in your digestive system. Probiotics have the capability to boost the number of healthy bacteria to fight against germs in your digestive tract. Probiotic supplements like yogurt and cheese can be added to your diet.
- You can try semisolid and low-fiber foods like soda crackers, toast, eggs, rice or chicken as your bowel movements return to normal.
Preventing viral diarrhea:
- Wash your hands at regular intervals, especially before and after preparing food. Wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, using the toilet, sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers to remove all traces of germs from your hands.
- Consume less quantity of spicy and fatty foods.
- Increase consumption of yogurt in your diet.
Preventing diarrhea from contaminated food:
Try to serve food right away or refrigerate it after being cooked because leaving the food at normal room temperature can encourage the growth of bacteria.
Wash your work surface frequently to avoid spreading germs from one food item to another.
Preventing traveler’s diarrhea:
Diarrhea affects the people who generally travel to countries and different cities where inadequate sanitation and contaminated food and water are encountered. Moreover, to reduce the risk, below are some key points:
- Always eat fresh, hot and well-cooked foods
- Avoid raw or under-cooked meats and dairy products
- Drink bottled water or soda in its original container and avoid tap water and ice cubes.
- Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine in large quantities because they aggravate diarrhea and dehydration.
- If you’re planning to travel to a developing country, ask your doctor about using antibiotics. It will reduce the risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea.
Diarrhea is a condition that hits the global world about million times in a year. It causes a rapid depletion of salt and water from the body, and you should increase consumption of foods like banana, yogurt, and lemon juice. Care must be taken to maintain proper hygiene while handing food, as diarrhea can even involve long term hospitalization in more severe cases.
Also Read: How to Increase Your Metabolism?
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