Diarrhea refers to loose stools or an increase in the frequency of passing stools. There is a loss of bodily fluids when diarrhea occurs and this can result in dehydration and imbalance of electrolyte levels. In some cases symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, fever and vomiting may accompany diarrhea. It is a common condition and most individuals experience it at some point in their lives. Diarrhea mostly occurs due to viral or bacterial infection and may be acute or chronic. The infection usually occurs when you consume contaminated food or beverages. Disorders of the intestine and allergies may also lead to diarrhea.
Symptoms of Diarrhoea
The most common symptoms of diarrhea include:
- Loose stools
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Dehydration. The signs of dehydration include dry mouth, excessive thirst, listlessness, confusion, reduced urination, appetite loss and sleepiness
Acute diarrhea usually subsides within a couple of days. In case the symptoms persist or become aggravated, it is essential to seek medical care. Some of the more serious symptoms of diarrhea include:
- Blood in the stools. This may be indicative of intestinal bleeding and may be due to a severe infection.
- Pus in the stools
- Pain during bowel movements
- Repeated bouts of vomiting
- Reduced urination
- High fever
In case there is passage of black stools, it may be indicative of bleeding in the stomach or upper intestine. Individuals, who suffer from kidney or heart disease, should seek quick medical attention when diarrhea occurs.
Causes of Diarrhoea
The most common causes of diarrhea are as follows:
- Bacteria: Various types of bacteria may be responsible for causing diarrhea. These bacteria are usually present in contaminated food and water. Some examples of bacteria that cause diarrhea are salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli.
- Viruses: Herpes simplex virus, rotavirus and Norwalk virus are some of the viruses that cause diarrhea.
- Parasites: These can cause infection in the digestive system when they enter the body through food and water.
- Intolerance to Certain Foods: Some individuals cannot digest the components present in certain foods. Lactose allergy is one of the most common food allergies.
- Medications: The intake of certain medications can result in adverse reactions in the body. Many individuals react in this manner to antibiotics or medications used to treat hypertension.
- Diseases: Conditions that affect the intestine such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease usually trigger diarrhea.
- Bowel Disorders: Irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions that hamper the functioning of the intestine commonly cause bouts of diarrhea.
- Hormone Disorders: Conditions that arise due to hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes can also lead to diarrhea.
- Cancer: One of the symptoms of bowel cancer is diarrhea.
Remedies for Diarrhoea
It is important to consult your doctor for diarrhea treatment in case the symptoms are severe. Quick medical attention is also necessary in case of diarrhea in infants and young children. The treatment for diarrhea will depend on the underlying cause and may include the intake of oral rehydration drinks, medications to relieve pain and anti-nausea medications. In severe cases, intravenous fluid replacement may become necessary. Anti-diarrhea drugs are helpful in alleviating the symptoms; however you should consult your doctor before taking them. Treatment of diarrhea may also involve treatment for the underlying disorder, such as Crohns disease, or Ulcerative Colitis or infections.
There are also some natural ways to treat diarrhea symptoms. Some common home remedies for diarrhea include:
- Herbs such as chamomile and thyme are known to help in relieving diarrhea. You may use them in the form of tinctures, pills or teas.
- Some studies have found that an arrowroot solution prepared with boiled water, or simply a glass of tender coconut juice could help alleviate the symptoms. In the same study, like arrowroot, a water based solution with African finger millet was also tested and the findings indicate that all of these solutions decreased water loss induced by a cholera infection, while instead increasing water absorption.
- Turmeric helps to destroy bacteria and thus helps in treating infection. Add one teaspoon of turmeric to warm water and drink.
- To treat dehydration caused by diarrhea, add a little salt to the juice of bitter gourd and drink.
- To reduce abdominal cramps arising from diarrhea, add half a teaspoon each of lemon juice and ginger juice to black pepper powder. Consume the mixture thrice daily.
- Indian gooseberry serves as an effective diarrhea treatment. Add a pinch of black salt to half a teaspoon of Indian gooseberry powder and consume after meals.
- Mashed apples are known to be a beneficial food for those with diarrhea.
- The herb goldenseal helps to kill the bacteria that cause diarrhea. It contains berberine which has antibiotic properties. It is available in the form of capsules and you can take a couple of goldenseal capsules a day until the condition is resolved.
- Black tea contains beneficial tannins which help to alleviate inflammation and infection in the intestines. You can add some sugar to the tea since it helps to enhance the absorption of water and sodium.
- Blackberries also contain tannins which help in naturally treating diarrhea. Add some dried leaves of blackberry to boiling water, steep for about ten minutes and then filter. Drink about three cups of this tea daily. You can also boil fresh blackberries in water and drink the solution after straining.
- Black seed oil is known to help in treating diarrhea. Add one teaspoon of black seed oil to a cup of yogurt and consume twice daily.
- To reduce pain and cramps, soak a small towel in warm water and place it over your abdomen. The heat will help to relieve cramping and muscle spasms.
Do keep in mind, that while many of these remedies can help reduce the discomfort of diarrhea and hasten recovery, not all of them will be equally effective in all situations and for everyone. Many of these home remedies have also not been researched adequately.
Diet for Diarrhoea
Your diet, quite naturally, has a direct influence on the outcome of the condition and it would be absolutely necessary for you to adhere strictly to the dietary recommendations given to you by your doctor. You can also incorporate some of these diet tips to help with the recovery:
- Diarrhea can be alleviated by following a diet comprising of foods such as ginger, garlic, cumin, fennel, carom seeds, buttermilk and bananas.
- Drink fruit juices such as orange and pomegranate juices.
- Doctors usually recommend eating bananas, rice, toast, yogurt, tea and applesauce during bouts of diarrhea. These foods help to regulate bowel movements by making the stools firmer. Stick to a diet comprising mainly of these foods until the symptoms subside. You can then slowly progress to eating foods such as rice cereal, crackers, baked fish and steamed vegetables.
- Probiotics contain good bacteria that help to alleviate diarrhea. Consume foods containing probiotics such as yogurt and cheese.
- Avoid eating foods that are high in sugar, spices and oil. Also avoid those foods which are difficult to digest.
- Avoid eating foods which are high in fiber as it is difficult for the stomach to digest them properly.
Suggestions for Diarrhoea
Some people find benefits in alternative therapies. The most common alternative treatments for diarrhea include:
- Acupuncture: Stimulating certain points in the body may help to reduce discomfort and improve functioning of the digestive system.
- Aromatherapy: The use of essential oils helps to relieve different ailments, including intestinal problems. The oils may be used in a diffuser or during massage therapy.
- Meditation: Relaxing the body through meditation helps to reduce anxiety and stress.
- Yoga: Certain yoga poses help to stimulate and strengthen the stomach and intestines.
D.D.K. Rolston, P. Mathew, V.I. Mathan, Food-based solutions are a viable alternative to glucose-electrolyte solutions for oral hydration in acute diarrhoeastudies in a rat model of secretory diarrhoea, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Volume 84, Issue 1, JanuaryFebruary 1990, Pages 156-159, ISSN 0035-9203, 10.1016/0035-9203(90)90417-D.
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