Diarrhea is a loose, watery bowel movements that occur more frequently than usual. While diarrhea does not typically cause serious complications for most patients, it can be a fatal ailment for young children.
Types of diarrhea
A bout of diarrhea that lasts no more than two weeks is referred to as acute diarrhea and is most often caused by a viral infection. Here are the most often diarrhea causing agents:
- Norovirus is the most common diarrhea-causing virus for adults. It is often referred as “cruise ship diarrhea” due to its unfortunate tendency to infect sea-faring vacationers.
- Rotavirus, another diarrhea-inducing virus, is very common in young children.
- “Traveler’s diarrhea,” or, in some parts of the world, “Montezuma’s revenge”. Usually caused by the bacteria enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC).
- A final common cause of acute diarrhea is parasites, which can be ingested when a person consumes contaminated food or water.
Diarrhea that lasts longer than four weeks is known as chronic diarrhea. Like acute diarrhea, chronic diarrhea has many causes.These causes include:
- Infectious causes (most commonly parasites)
- Osmotic and malabsorption causes (which result in too much water being absorbed into the bowel), such as Celiac disease and lactose intolerance
- Inflammatory causes, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Intestinal ischemia, or lessened blood flow to the intestine
- Certain cancer therapies, like radiation
- Certain medications, such as antibiotics.
Dehydration happens as a result of prolonged loss of liquid and it can lead to other serious conditions such as low blood pressure, seizures or even kidney failure. Those with ongoing diarrhea should seek medical attention if they experience:
- Dark urine or small amounts of urine
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry, flushed skin
- Headaches or light-headedness
- Irritability or confusion
- Severe abdominal or rectal pain
- Blood in the stool or black, tar-like stools
Hot weather induced diarrhea
Extremely hot weather can worsen some gastrointestinal (GI) problems.During a heat wave (increase in temperature daily, by 9 degrees Fahrenheit), there’s an increased risk for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) flare-ups, and a greater risk of infectious gastroenteritis (IG).
Scientist have found out that high temperature increases the risk of people needing to be hospitalized with a relapse of inflammatory bowel disease for every additional day that a heat wave lasted. When heat waves occur, they have an immediate impact on the risk for IBD flare-ups. But the highest risk for developing infectious gastroenteritis occurred on the seventh day of a heat wave. As a reason they pointed the change in bacterial composition in gastrointestinal tract which takes time (seven day period).
Treatment & medication
If you have diarrhea all that is needed is preventing dehydration by replacing lost fluids. It is recommended drinking two to three quarts or liters of liquids daily while recovering from diarrhea. But pure water does not replace lost salt or nutrients, so better choices are broth, tea with honey, sports drinks and pulp-free juices.
You should be taking probiotic, to invade the stomach with good bacteria. Consult your pharmacist about over-the-counter medications that may help firm the stool and decrease the urgency for bowel movements. If it last longer than 3 days, you should see a doctor.
Avoid milk products, caffeine, alcohol, and apple and pear juices, because they may worsen diarrhea.
Soft, bland foods are recommended as well, including bananas, plain rice, toast, crackers, boiled potatoes, smooth peanut butter, cottage cheese, noodles and applesauce. Because yogurt, cheese and miso contain probiotics, which contain strains of bacteria similar to those in a healthy intestine, they are also good choices. Avoid fatty, high-fiber or heavily seasoned foods for several days.
Preventing travelers diarrhea
When you are on trip drink only bottled or boiled water, frequently wash your hands (especially before eating) and eat only freshly cooked foods.