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Diarrhea

Diarrhea – loose, watery and possible more frequent bowel movements – is a very common problem.  It may be present alone or be associated with other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or weight loss.

 

Luckily, diarrhea is usually short-lived, typically lasting no more than a few days.  But when diarrhea lasts beyond a few days into weeks, it usually indicates that there’s another problem – such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a more serious disorder, including persistent infection, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

 

 

 

Going to the bathroom, having a bowel movement, pooping – no matter what you call it, stool is a regular part of your life. However, sometimes this process of getting waste out of your body changes. When you have loose or watery stool, it’s called diarrhea. This is a very common condition and usually resolves without intervention.

 

Diarrhea can happen for a wide variety of reasons and it usually goes away on its own in one to three days. When you have diarrhea, you may need to quickly run to the bathroom with urgency and this may happen more frequently than normal. You may also feel bloated, have lower abdominal cramping and sometimes experience nausea.

 

Although most cases of diarrhea are self-limited (happening for a fixed amount of time and steady level of severity), sometimes diarrhea can lead to serious complications. Diarrhea can cause dehydration (when your body loses large amounts of water), electrolyte imbalance, and kidney failure.  When you have diarrhea, you lose water and electrolytes along with stool. You need to drink plenty of fluids to replace what’s lost. Dehydration can become serious if it fails to get better, worsens and is not addressed adequately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are actually several different ways to classify diarrhea.  These types of diarrhea include:

 

  • Acute diarrhea: The most common, acute diarrhea is loose watery diarrhea that lasts one to two days.  This type doesn’t need treatment and it usually goes away on its’ own after a few days.

  • Persistent diarrhea:  This type of diarrhea generally lasts for several weeks- typically two to four weeks.

 

  • Chronic diarrhea: Diarrhea that lasts for more than four weeks or comes and goes regularly over a long period of time is called chronic diarrhea.

 

 

 

There are many causes of diarrhea but the most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects your bowel known as “viral gastroenteritis” or more commonly known as the “intestinal flu”.  This infection usually lasts a couple of days.  Other possible causes of diarrhea can include:

 

  • Infection by bacteria

  • Viruses

  • Infections by other organisms (parasites) and pre-formed toxins

  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system

  • Allergies and intolerances to certain foods (Celiac disease or lactose intolerance)

  • Medications

  • Radiation therapy

  • Malabsorption of food (poor absorption)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The symptoms you can experience when you have diarrhea can vary depending on if it’s severity and what the cause of the diarrhea happens to be. There’s a link between severe cases of diarrhea and a medical condition that needs to be treated.

 

When you have diarrhea, you may experience all of these symptoms or only a few. The main symptom of diarrhea is loose or watery stool. 

 

Other symptoms of mild diarrhea can include:

  • Bloating or abdominal cramps

  • A strong and urgent need to have a bowel movement

  • Nausea or upset stomach

 

If you have severe diarrhea, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Fever

  • Weight loss

  • Dehydration

  • Severe pain

  • Vomiting

  • Blood

 

Severe diarrhea can lead to significant complications.  If you have these symptoms, call your healthcare provider and seek medical attention.

 

 

The color of your poop (stool) can vary. Stool color can be influenced by the color of the food you eat. Usually, this isn’t something you need to worry about. But if you ever see red (blood) in your stool or have a bowel movement that is black, that could be something more serious. Keep a record of any bowel movements that:

  • Are black and tarry.

  • Have blood or pus in them.

  • Are consistently greasy or oily despite non-fatty meals.

  • Are very foul-smelling.

For the majority of mild diarrhea cases, you won’t need medical attention. These cases are last for a fixed amount of time and get better without medical intervention. The key to mild diarrhea is supportive therapy – staying hydrated and eating a bland diet.

More serious cases of diarrhea may require medical attention. In these situations, there are a few diagnostic tests that your provider may order. These tests can include:

  • Discussing a detailed family history, as well as physical and medical conditions, your travel history, and any sick contacts you may have.

  • Doing a stool test on a collected stool sample to check for blood, bacterial infections, parasite and inflammatory markers.

  • Doing a breath test to check for lactose or fructose intolerance, and bacterial overgrowth.

  • Undergoing a colonoscopy to evaluate your lower digestive tract to rule out abnormalities.

In most cases, you can treat mild and uncomplicated diarrhea at home. By using an over-the-counter product like Pepto-Bismol, you’ll usually feel better very quickly.

 

However, over-the-counter medications aren’t always the solution. If your diarrhea is caused by an infection or parasite, you’ll need to see a healthcare provider for treatment. A general rule is not to use over-the-counter medications for diarrhea if you also have a fever or blood in your stool. In those cases, call your healthcare provider.

 

When diarrhea lasts for a long period of time (several weeks), your healthcare provider will base your treatment on the cause. This could involve a few different treatment options, including:

 

  • Antibiotics: Your healthcare provider might prescribe an antibiotic or other medication to treat an infection or parasite that’s causing the diarrhea.

  • Medication for a specific condition: Diarrhea can be a sign of several other medical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, or bacterial overgrowth. Once the cause of the diarrhea is identified, diarrhea can usually be managed.

  • Probiotics: Groupings of good bacteria, probiotics are sometimes used to re-establish a healthy biome to combat diarrhea. Introducing probiotics can be helpful in some cases and some healthcare providers feel that it’s worth a try. Always talk to your provider before starting a probiotic or any kind of supplement.

 

 

When you have an acute case of diarrhea, you can often take care of it without needing any medication. Several things you can do to care for diarrhea include:

 

  • Drinking plenty of water and other electrolyte balanced fluids, such as diluted and pulp-free fruit juices, broths, sports drinks (Gatorade) and caffeine-free sodas. Make sure to hydrate throughout day. Your body loses water each time you have diarrhea. By drinking plenty of extra fluids, you are protecting your body from dehydration.

  • Changing your diet. Instead of picking greasy, fatty or fried foods, go for the BRAT diet:

    • B: Bananas.

    • R: Rice (white rice).

    • A: Applesauce.

    • T: Toast (white bread).

  • Cutting back on caffeine. Foods and drinks that have caffeine can have a mild laxative effect, which can make your diarrhea worse. Foods and drinks with caffeine include coffee, diet sodas, strong tea/green tea, and even chocolate.

  • Avoiding foods and drinks that give you gas. If you experience cramping in your stomach with diarrhea, it could help to cut back on things that cause gas. These can include beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beer and carbonated beverages.

Sometimes, diarrhea can also make you lactose intolerant. This is usually temporary and it means that you need to avoid items with lactose (dairy products) until your diarrhea is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You actually can help your diarrhea by changing your diet. Certain low-fiber foods can help make your stool more solid.

 

If you have diarrhea, try adding these foods into your diet:

 

  • Potatoes.

  • White rice

  • Noodles.

  • Bananas.

  • Applesauce.

  • White bread.

  • Chicken or turkey without the skin.

  • Lean ground beef.

  • Fish.

 

If you have diarrhea that fails to improve or resolve completely, you should call your healthcare provider. Keep track of any other symptoms you may be experiencing – this includes fever, vomiting, rash, weakness, numbness, lightheadedness, dizziness, weight loss and blood in your stool. If you have any concerns, it’s always best to call your healthcare provider.

 

If you are suffering from diarrhea, give our office a call at (860) 826-3880 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.  If appropriate and availability allows, a consultation appointment will be scheduled for you to be seen by one of our experienced physicians, generally, within a two-week timeframe of contacting the office.  Procedures are generally scheduled shortly thereafter.

What is Diarrhea?

Types of Diarrhea

What causes Diarrhea?

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

Is There a Color of Diarrhea That I Should be Worried About?

How do you Diagnose Diarrhea?

How is Diarrhea Treated?

Can I Manage Diarrhea Without Taking Any Medications?

Are There any Foods that can Help My Diarrhea Go Away?

When Should I Call My Doctor About Diarrhea?

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