Everything You Need To Know About Diarrhea

Watery stool, also known as diarrhea, is the passage of non formed loose stool that can be triggered in a person at any time of the day. 

Diarrhea is usually associated with:

  • With bloating
  • Urgent need to use the toilet.
  • With abdomen pain
  • Passage of the watery stool that relieves pain. 
  • With a foul smell/bad smell.
  • Lack of control over bowel movements.

The mechanism of diarrhea is a result of fast bowel movements (peristalsis) caused by a lack of fiber, infections, or other non-infectious gastrointestinal diseases.

What are the symptoms of diarrhea?

  • Rapid loose, watery stools
  • Bloating
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dehydration (thirst and dry mouth)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Mucus in the feces
  • General weakness
  • An increase in the usual frequency of the stool  

What do different types of diarrhea mean?

  • Acute watery stool: It is the abrupt onset of 3 or more loose stools per day that last less than 14 days. Some acute watery stool tends to get better without medications, and others require immediate medical management, for instance, Cholera.
  • Acute bloody stool: This is a loose stool with bloody streaks.
  • Persistent stool:  It is the passage of loose stool that lasts longer than 14 days, and stool can be watery or bloody.
  • Fatty stool: also known as steatorrhea, is a semi/loose solid stool that floats due to the presence of fat. It is usually a significant symptom of malabsorption.

How is diarrhea caused?

 Diet poor in fiber

A diet that is poor in fiber is a significant factor in peristalsis. It aids bowel movements. Therefore a diet deficient in fiber will lead to diarrhea. 

Infectious Causes

Infectious Causes are usually gotten through the consumption of contaminated foods or drinking infected water.

  • Cholera 
  • Escherichia Coli (E. Coli)
  • Rotavirus
  • Shigella 
  • Salmonella 
  • Adenovirus
  • Norovirus (likewise known as the winter vomiting virus)
  • Astroviruses. 
  • Campylobacter. 
  • Clostridioides difficile
  • Cryptosporidium spp.
  • Giardia spp. 
  • Entamoeba histolytica
  • Blastocystis hominis
  • Cyclospora cayetanensis

Non Infectious Causes include

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Food poisoning
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: This is a group of symptoms that are made up of abdominal pain and change in the pattern of bowel movements (alternating between constipation and diarrhea) without any evidence of underlying damage to the intestine. It can be triggered by stress, anxiety, fear, or sadness. 
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Bile acid diarrhea: is also known as bile acid malabsorption
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Ischemic bowel disease: is caused by blocked arteries, and it mainly affects older adults
  • Microscopic colitis.
  • Environmental enteropathy: is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the intestines. 
  • Radiation enteropathy: diarrhea that occurs after pelvic or abdominal radiation therapy

Medications That Cause Diarrhea include:

  • penicillin
  • Laxatives
  • Antacids
  • chemotherapy

As pointed out by a report on Wikipedia, over 700 drugs are known to cause diarrhea.

Diagnosis Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is self-diagnosed. The exact cause can be confirmed with a stool test, history, and endoscopic examination of gastrointestinal structures.

What is the best treatment for diarrhea?

  • Medications to stop diarrhea: Loperamide, Metronidazole, Tetracycline, and Pepto bismuth (bismuth subsalicylate).
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Treatment depends on the cause of the stool, as well as on the overall health of the patient.
  • Stop intake of triggering food such as lactose or gluten
  • Bread made from refined white flour and no sugar or low sugar is good for diarrhea. 
  • Consume high fiber foods such as oatmeal. 
  • Make use of the BRAT diet (Banana, Rice, Apples/applesauce, Toast).
  • Plain white rice and white bread are good food options to combat diarrhea.

When should I worry about diarrhea?

Diarrhea often goes away without medical treatment. However, if your unpleasant symptom has lasted more than 3-4 days, it is vital to seek the help of a doctor for correct diagnosis.