Diarrhea refers to an increased frequency of bowel movements (more than three a day or a greater number than normal for a person), accompanied by a lower consistency of the depositions (more loose or liquid). It is often associated with symptoms such as abdominal pain, urgent need to defecate, and sometimes elements such as mucus, blood, pus and excess fat appear in your stool.
It is one of the most common digestive disorders, and virtually everyone has suffered over their lifetime an episode of more or less acute diarrhea.
What types of diarrhea are there?
There are three types of diarrhea:
- Acute diarrhea: when its duration is less than three weeks. Symptoms such as general discomfort, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever also appear along with increased bowel movements. In some cases, blood may be seen in the stool.
- Chronic diarrhea: when it lasts more than three weeks.
- Traveler’s diarrhea– This is the health problem that most commonly occurs when traveling to countries with lower hygienic conditions, and is caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite that infects the traveler. It’s not serious because most of the time the body ends up getting used to new environmental conditions.
What causes diarrhea?
There can be many causes for diarrhea, although this disorder is mainly caused by an infectious process that is acquired by food poisoning. Occasionally, this process can be viral, so viruses can also cause diarrhea. It is also a common symptom of some inflammatory bowel diseases.
In addition, some people may develop diarrhea as a result of experiencing stress and anxiety. And certain drugs, such as antibiotics, can cause diarrhea as one of their side effects.
Symptoms of diarrhea?
The main symptom that indicates that someone is facing a case of diarrhea is the fact that bowel movements become more frequent and less consistent and even liquid. In addition, it is not uncommon for diarrhea to also cause the patient some food intolerance, discomfort, abdominal pain or fever.
On the other hand, one of the biggest dangers of diarrhea is dehydration, which can be especially serious in children and the elderly. General signs of dehydration include: feeling thirsty, not urinating as frequent as usual, dry skin, fatigue, yellowish urine. In children, signs of dehydration also include dry mouth and tongue, crying without apparent tears, high fever, irritability, skin that when pinched does not return to its initial position and lack of urination.
Such dehydration is caused by reduced absorption of fluids and nutrients at the intestinal level and therefore excessive loss of fluids through feces.
Tips to prevent or stop diarrhea
Food is the most important aspect to take care of when it comes to preventing and treating diarrhea, so consider what foods we consume, along with other nutritional dietary recommendations will help us not to fall so easily into this problem and, then recover as soon as possible.
- Reduces fiber consumption, present in fruits, vegetables, nuts and cereals.
- Eat ripe fruits without skin
- Limit your fat intake by choosing culinary techniques that provide little fat to you food (boiled, steamed, poached, etc.). Also reduce your consumption of butter, margarine, cream, milk cream, fat sauces, avocado or olives.
- Milk and its derivatives should be avoided. Choose natural yogurt, fresh cheese or dairy products that contain lower amounts of lactose. If the tolerance is good, you can reinstate them in small amounts.
- Try to eat your food at room temperature or temperate and avoid extreme temperatures, because they stimulate the intestinal rhythm.
- Drink between 1.5 and 2 liters of liquid a day, either water, herbal teas or vegetable broths. And if you’re already having diarrhea, take serums, lemon water or isotonic drinks to retrieve salts and be hydrated.
- Keep the spices mild. Gradually, and as long as the body can tolerate them, you can re-introduce them if that’s your thing.
- Beware of self-medication. If the diarrhea intensifies, it is best to go to the doctor and not turn to drugs on your own. The specialist will recommend the most appropriate treatment.
- Maximum caution if you are traveling abroad. In developing countries, try not to consume unpeeled fruits, salads, vegetables, raw or undercoated meats or fish; avoids seafood, mayonnaise, creams and milk or derivatives that do not provide sufficient health guarantees; restricts the consumption of pastry products and ice cream, because their preservation may not be appropriate; and don’t eat food from street stalls, as they don’t usually meet enough health standards. As for liquids, it is important that drinking water is adequately water-cooled, or bottled and opened in front of the final consumer, same for commercial soft drinks, which are recommended drinks in these places, as well as coffee, because they have been made with previously boiled water. Instead, ice drinks should be avoided because they may contain bacteria or viruses.
- Certain cases require a doctor visit. Regardless of the cause of diarrhea, people over 65 and under 3 should go to a doctor if the tips above have not worked within 24-48 hours. Also, if there is blood or mucus in the stool; strong vomiting; high fever; diarrhea lasting two or more weeks; when the patient already suffers from another disease (diabetes, liver disease…); when the patient had traveled to some area of special risk or when diarrhea can be directly linked to the taking of any food or drink.
An fitness addict passionate of all things nature and animals, Angie often volunteers her time to NGOs and governmental organizations alike working with animals in general and endangered species in particular. She covers stories on wildlife and the environment for the Scientific Origin.