Diarrhea or diarrhea refers to the gastrointestinal condition wherein at least three loose or liquid bowel movement per day. Also called loose bowel movement, the condition only lasts for a few days, but if not managed, severe cases can lead to dehydration secondary to fluid loss. While it is considered pathologic in other stage across the lifespan, it is normal to see loose and non-watery stools in breastfed infants.
Causes and Epidemiology
Diarrhea is associated with a number of causes. According to Mayo Clinic, they include viruses like cytomegalovirus, hepatitis virus, and Norwalk virus; bacteria and some parasites found in contaminated food or water; some medications like antibiotics, magnesium-containing antacids, and cancer drugs; lactose intolerance; fructose and artificial sweeteners; surgical procedures like abdominal surgery and cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder); and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, microscopic colitis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
According to the World Health Organization or WHO, diarrheal disease stands as the second lead cause or mortality or death in children below five years old, although it can be treated and prevented. As per the publication, the disease has about 1.7 billion cases annually and it takes away lives of around 760,000 children below five years old every year. A lead root of malnutrition in children below five years old, diarrhea can also be prevented through drinking clean water, as well as adequate sanitation and hygiene.
Signs and Symptoms
Diarrhea presents a number of signs and symptoms. According to UCSF Medical Center, these include frequent loose, water stools, abdominal cramps and pain, fever, and bleeding. In terms of dehydration, the person may experience lightheadedness or dizziness. In children, signs and symptoms of dehydration secondary to diarrhea include dry, cracked lips or dry mouth, a decrease in urine output or dark-colored urine, drowsiness or irritability, cold or dry skin, low energy levels, no tears when crying, and sunken eyes or sunken fontanelle.
Anti-diarrhea medications designed to counter diarrhea are available in the market; however, some people may also do the following home remedies.
According to Web MD, the person may take small, frequent sips of water or a rehydration drink, plus small bites of salty crackers. As per the publication, the person should try increasing his fluid intake to a least one quarter or one liter per hour for one hour or longer if he has large amounts of diarrhea. However, fluid excess may happen, so one should talk with his doctor first before increasing the mount of fluids he consumes per day.
A bland diet is one cornerstone in diarrhea management. According to Everyday Health, the person should eat bland foods after consuming clear liquids for the first 24 hours. These foods include bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast, which comprise the BRAT diet. Also, the person may add crackers and mashed potatoes to his diet. An interesting note is to apply an elimination diet if the diarrhea is suspected to be caused by a certain food. This is done by removing the suspected food from the diet until the person determines whether or not it is the culprit.
Yogurt and ginger are two other remedies for diarrhea. According to Top 10 Home Remedies, yogurt contains live bacteria cultures like bifidobacterium and lactobacillua acidophilus, which bring back the good bacteria in the intestine. They also fight the bad bacteria that cause diarrhea. For maximum benefits, two bowls of yogurt, along with a banana, is recommended. Conversely, the person grates a small piece of ginger and adds a teaspoon of honey. The resulting mixture is consumed to promote the release of gastric juices and digestion.
Diarrhea may not have similar level of seriousness and severity as tuberculosis and cancer. However, one should seek medical consult from a health professional if the symptoms persist and the condition worsens.