Be done with diarrhea
It can come as a surprise, never seems to happen at a good time and certainly doesn’t feel good.
It’s definitely not the most pleasant thing to talk about (or smell!) But learning more about diarrhea just might keep it from ruining your day in the future.
“Diarrhea is the passage of loose or watery stools at least three times in a 24-hour period,” says Dr. Carl Atallah, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The most common causes are due to infections such as viruses, bacteria or parasites. Too much caffeine or alcohol may also lead to diarrhea, and some medications can cause diarrhea as a side effect.”
Unfortunately, those are just a few of many potential causes. According to Dr. Atallah, other causes include digestive problems like celiac disease, lactose intolerance and pancreatic disorders, an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis or the removal of the gallbladder or small intestine.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another common cause that occurs in more than 20 percent of the population with symptoms of chronic or persistent diarrhea.
Despite a daunting list of instigators, there are some things you can do to prevent it.
“Make sure you wash your hands,” says Dr. Atallah. “This is one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of infectious causes of diarrhea. Avoid eating undercooked meats and spoiled foods, and drink bottled water instead of tap when on vacation. Don’t forget to avoid using ice made from tap water, as well.”
Too late for prevention? Getting enough rest and watching your diet may help relieve it.
“Start with clear liquids for the first 24 hours to adequately hydrate, followed by a bland diet such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast,” says Dr. Atallah. “These foods will help firm up the stool and will not aggravate the digestive system. Avoid dairy products and fried, fatty, greasy, spicy or processed foods. Some over-the-counter medications, such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium, can also help alleviate diarrhea.”
Dr. Atallah adds it’s important to seek medical attention if you have a fever, symptoms lasting more than two days without improvement or symptoms of dehydration such as thirst, loss of appetite, decreased urine volume or confusion.
“Some of these symptoms commonly require stool tests and treatments with antibiotics or IV fluids,” says Dr. Atallah. “Other alarming symptoms for which to seek immediate medical attention include bloody or black, tarry stools and severe abdominal pain.”
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