Diarrhea is a disorder that manifests itself through loose, watery stools. Having diarrhea involves evacuating three or more times a day.
- 1 Types of diarrhea
- 2 What are the causes of diarrhea?
- 3 Color of diarrhea
- 4 Contagion
- 5 Traveler’s diarrhea
- 6 What are the most common symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea?
- 7 When should we worry? Complications of diarrhea
- 8 Diagnosis of diarrhea
- 9 Pharmacological therapy for diarrhea
- 10 What to eat? Diet and nutrition
- 11 Nutrition and supplements
- 12 Herbs
- 13 Natural anti-inflammatory remedies.
- 14 How long is diarrhea? Forecast
- 15 How to prevent traveler’s diarrhea?
Classification based on frequency
- The acute diarrhea is a common problem that usually lasts 1 or 2 days and goes away by itself. Diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days may be a sign of a more serious problem.
- The chronic diarrhea (or persistent) occurs every day for at least four weeks, it may be a symptom of a chronic disease. The symptoms of chronic diarrhea may be persistent, but also intermittent.
- The recurrent diarrhea is cyclical (occurs occasionally) and may be caused by food intolerance.
Types of diarrhea
- The osmotic diarrhea originates osmotically active solutes, ie substances that absorb liquids in the intestine.
- The oily diarrhea is caused by the poor digestion of fats. The stools are smelly and have drops of fat on the surface. This type of diarrhea can have several causes: problems in the pancreas and liver, gallstones, Crohn’s disease , giardiasis, etc.
- The secretory diarrhea occurs when the intestinal mucosa secretes too much water and electrolytes in the intestine. It often has its origin in infections, tumors and medications.
- The motor diarrhea is caused by the increased peristalsis (contraction of intestinal muscles). The consequence is the decrease in the time in which the stool moves through the intestine, so that the colon does not have enough time to absorb the liquid component of the stool. Frequently, this type of diarrhea manifests itself in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome .
- The diarrhea reduction in surface absorption originates reduced intestinal surface that absorbs water and nutrients. Among the causes are celiac diseaseand the surgical removal of a part of the colon.
- The diarrhea by altering the active absorption occurs when changes occur on active pumps electrolyte absorption.
What are the causes of diarrhea?
Acute diarrhea usually has its origin in a bacterium, virus or parasite , so it is related to gastroenteritis .
Usually, chronic diarrhea is due to a functional disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome, or intestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease .
The most common causes of diarrhea are:
Bacterial infections . There are several types of bacteria ingested through water or contaminated food that can cause diarrhea. In general, the culprits are: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and Escherichia coli.
Viral infections . Many viruses cause diarrhea, including: rotavirus, norovirus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus and hepatitis.
The infection by rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children and usually resolves in 3-7 days, but can lead to problems digesting lactose for more than a month.
Functional disorders of the intestine. Diarrhea can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome, in which case it manifests in the morning and disappears after a few hours. Itis also possible to observe mucus in the stool .
Intestinal diseases . The ulcerative colitis , the Crohn ‘s disease and celiac diseaseoften cause persistent diarrhea.
Food intolerances. Some people have difficulty digesting ingredients such as lactose , sugar present in milk and dairy products.
The same symptom can manifest itself in people with fructose intolerance.
Some people may experience episodes of diarrhea by ingesting certain types of sweeteners in excessive amounts.
Premenstrual syndrome . One week before menstruation, some women suffer from diarrhea, a symptom that also manifests itself before delivery.
Supplements Many supplements of mineral vitamins, amino acids, creatine, carnitine, etc., can cause diarrhea.
Anxiety and stress can cause diarrhea. Fortunately, when the intestinal situation calms down, it improves.
In this case, the therapy aims to relax the patient through natural remedies and exercises. If it is not enough, the doctor can prescribe anxiolytic drugs.
Some people experience diarrhea after stomach surgery that can accelerate the movement of food through the digestive system.
People visiting in some foreign countries can get traveler’s diarrhea, caused by food or drinking water contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
In many cases, it is not possible to determine the cause of the diarrhea. Since the diarrhea disappears on its own after 1 or 2 days, it is not necessary to know the cause.
Color of diarrhea
The color of the stool depends on the bilirubin and the products of the metabolism of this substance. In the absence of bilirubin or its inability to transform into the intestine, the stool may show an abnormal color.
green color of the stool may be due to two reasons: Food and drugs. It may be a side effect of antibiotics or iron-based supplements; Also, by eating lots of “green” vegetables, such as spinach, parsley or salad, the stool may turn green.
Digestion occurs very quickly and the biliverdin contained in the bile does not have enough time to become bilirubin.
diarrhea White diarrhea may be due to a lack of bile in the intestine.
Among the causes are: gallstones, cancer of the pancreas or liver , hepatitis , cirrhosis , as well as ingestion of certain medications.
Causes Yellow stools are the celiac disease or infection.
In general, infections that cause diarrhea are very contagious. In most cases the infection can spread to other people until the patient experiences diarrhea.
Diarrheal infections can be transmitted through:
- Dirty hands
- Contaminated water or food
- Some pets
- Direct contact with fecal matter (dirty diapers or toilet)
Everything that comes in contact with infectious germs can be contaminated.
This includes toys, changing tables, bathroom surfaces and the hands of the person preparing the food. Children can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toilet or toy, and then putting their fingers in their mouths.
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness of people traveling abroad.
Every year, 20% – 30% of international travelers, about 10 million people, suffer from diarrhea. This symptom usually occurs in the first week of travel, but may occur at any time during the trip, as well as in the two weeks after the return.
The risk depends on the destination of the traveler.
The most risky destinations are the developing countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
What are the causes of traveler’s diarrhea?
The main cause is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Bacteria cause approximately 80% of cases of traveler’s diarrhea.
The main culprit is usually Escherichia coli, which causes diarrhea and cramps , although it does not cause much fever .
What are the most common symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea?
In most cases the symptoms manifest quickly.
The disease usually causes an increase in stool frequency, volume and weight.
The consistency of the stool is altered.
In general, the traveler produces loose or liquid stools four or five times a day.
Other symptoms related to diarrhea can be nausea , vomiting , abdominal cramps, abdominal distension ( swollen belly ), fever, evacuatory urgency and discomfort.
The infection may start with mild symptoms that get worse in the next two weeks. In some cases, it also affects the stomach and the initial symptoms are loss of appetite and fatigue .
Most cases are benign and the symptoms disappear after 1-2 days without treatment. On very rare occasions, traveler’s diarrhea is lethal.
As for the prognosis, 90% of the cases are solved in a week, while 98% is solved in a month.
When typical symptoms disappear (fever, vomiting and diarrhea), you may experience a feeling of heaviness in your stomach, especially after a heavy meal.
When should we worry? Complications of diarrhea
The main complication of diarrhea is dehydration caused by the loss of large amounts of water, salt and nutrients. Dehydration can lead to other serious diseases, such as hypotension, seizures, kidney failure and even death.
A doctor should be consulted if:
- Dark urine or small amounts of urine
- Dry skin and redness
- Headache or dizziness
- Irritability or confusion
- Severe abdominal pain or pain in the rectum
- Blood in the stool (red diarrhea) or black tarry stools
Diagnosis of diarrhea
The doctor performs a physical examination and takes into account the medical history to diagnose the cause of the diarrhea. Blood and urine tests may be needed.
The doctor may require additional tests to determine the cause of the diarrhea and other related diseases, based on the patient’s conditions:
- Fasting test to determine if the cause is a food intolerance or an allergy ,
- Diagnostic imaging tests ( MRI , CT, etc.) to check structural abnormalities and inflammation of the intestine,
- Stool culture to detect bacteria, parasites or signs of disease,
- Colonoscopy for chronic diarrhea that causes diurnal and nocturnal outbreaks,
- Sigmoidoscopy to control the rectum and the lower colon to detect signs of intestinal disease.
Pharmacological therapy for diarrhea
In many cases, diarrhea goes away on its own. However, in severe cases the doctor may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil). The doctor may also prescribe antibioticsif the diarrhea is due to a bacterial infection.
During pregnancy you can not take medications, so it is advised to follow the diet indicated for this disorder.
What to eat? Diet and nutrition
While diarrhea lasts, symptoms can be alleviated by avoiding caffeine and fatty foods, rich in fiber or sweets.
These foods can aggravate diarrhea.
Some people also have problems digesting lactose during or after a diarrhea attack. Yogurt contains less lactose than milk and is often better tolerated.
Yogurt with live cultures of bacteria can help the recovery of people with diarrhea faster.
To reduce the symptoms, it is necessary to modify the diet. Among the recommended foods are bananas, rice, boiled potatoes, toast, crackers, cooked carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, ginger and farro. The banana has certain properties that favor the health of the colon and intestine in case of diarrhea.
For children, the doctor may also recommend a special diet.
Once the diarrhea disappears, the doctor allows the children to return to a normal and healthy diet if they do not have problems of intolerance.
Babies with diarrhea should take breast milk, or the type they usually drink, along with an oral rehydration solution.
After recovering from viral diarrhea, some children have trouble digesting lactose until at least a month passes.
Nutrition and supplements
Rice, horchata, fresh vegetable juice (especially carrots and celery) and a clear broth help restore the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes.
Prepare the rice and the horchata with a cup of raw grains for each liter of boiling water.
Let it rest for 20 minutes. Drink throughout the day.
Prebiotics – Lactobacillus, bifidobacteria or acidophilus can be taken in powder or capsules, they help keep the “good” bacteria in the intestine.
Prebiotics are part of lactic ferments, ie products that contain bacteria that metabolize lactose.
They can help alleviate diarrhea, although there is some controversy regarding the scientific evidence.
Active yogurts that contain these prebiotics can help prevent diarrhea. People severely immunocompromised or taking medications to suppress the immune system should consult their doctor before taking prebiotics.
There is a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii that is commonly used in Europe to prevent diarrhea associated with the intake of antibiotics. Take 1-3 capsules a day.
It can be taken with other prebiotics.
Rare but serious cases of infection have been reported in critically ill patients, so Saccharomyces boulardii can not be taken without the supervision of a doctor.
Glutamine (3,000 mg, 3 times a day). It can help treat diarrhea caused by irritation of the intestinal mucosa.
A high dose of glutamine can potentially cause mental disorders in susceptible individuals. Glutamine can interfere with certain medications, including some antiepileptic and chemotherapy drugs.
People who are lactose intolerant should take lactase supplements before consuming dairy products.
Zinc (10 to 20 mg per day) can help improve the functions of the immune system.
It is recommended to avoid the use of herbs to treat diarrhea without first consulting a doctor, especially to treat a child’s diarrhea.
If the diarrhea has its origin in certain types of infections, herbal therapies can make the situation worse.
The most common herbal remedies for diarrhea are described below.
They can be used in infusion if not specified otherwise.
Prepare an infusion with 1 teaspoon of grass for each cup of hot water.
Cover for 5-10 minutes if it is leaves or flowers and 10-20 minutes if they are roots.
Take 2-4 cups a day.
Ask your doctor what herbs you can take.
herbs Astringent herbs, such as blackberry leaf (rubus fruticosus) or raspberry leaves (rubus idaeus) help to “dry out” the lining of the intestine.
Prepare an infusion with 1 heaping teaspoon per cup. Take ½ cup every hour.
Carob tree powder (ceratonina siliqua), which is rich in fiber.
Bilberry extract (vaccinum myrtillus) has astringent properties. Do not take cranberry if you take anticoagulants (blood thinners). Bilberry can interact with diabetes medications.
Agrimony (agrimonia eupatoria) is a traditional remedy for diarrhea. The usual dose is 3 g (approximately ½ teaspoon) per day.
Agrimony can have side effects, such as thinning the blood and lowering blood pressure.
Natural anti-inflammatory remedies.
Quercetin (250-500 mg 2-4 times a day) – a flavonoid-based herb that can help reduce inflammation.
Chamomile (matricaria recutita) – is usually taken as an infusion.
Dissolve 3-4 g of powder (approximately 3 teaspoons) in a cup of hot water, stir and let cool. Take 3 times a day. This natural remedy can interfere with hormonal medications.
It is recommended to drink lemon juice with a teaspoon of baking soda in the morning.
Marshmallow root (althea officinalis) – can be taken as an infusion with cold water. Keep 2 tablespoons of root in 1 liter of water overnight. Mix then. Drink a little during the whole day. Marshmallow can interfere with some medications taken orally, including the lithium medication.
Slippery elm (ulmus fulva) – use 30 grams of powder per liter of water. Make a paste with the powder and a small amount of water. Add the rest of the water little by little and simmer. Take 1 teaspoon every 30-60 minutes.
Herbs that fight infection:
Plants that contain berberine can help treat infectious diarrhea. Among them, are the barberry (Barberis vulgarus) and the golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis). Pregnant women and nursing mothers can not take barberine.
Psyllium, a soluble fiber that is derived from the husks of the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata, can help cure diarrhea. It is a substance that absorbs water in the colon, contributing to the hardening of the stool. When ingesting psyllium you should drink a lot of water at the same time.
How long is diarrhea? Forecast
If the acute diarrhea depends on the ingested food it usually lasts a couple of days.
In other cases, it depends on the cause.
Chronic diarrhea persists while the patient suffers from the disease that causes the diarrhea.
How to prevent traveler’s diarrhea?
Travelers can minimize the risk of diarrhea if they follow the following general preventive measures:
Avoid the consumption of food or beverages for sale in stalls or other establishments where hygienic conditions are scarce. Avoid the consumption of fried, raw or undercooked foods, especially meat, eggs and fish.
Wash well and peel fruits and vegetables.
If properly preserved, well-cooked and packaged foods do not present any risk.
The risk of gastroenteritis and traveler’s diarrhea increases when ingesting tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk and dairy products. Safe beverages include canned soft drinks, hot tea or coffee, beer, wine and water boiled or suitably treated with iodine and chlorine.