Diarrhoea: Meaning, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Diarrhoea is a common ailment that has loose, watery bowel movements. It generally happens to everyone but depends on its magnitude and age group. It is an abnormal rise in the frequency, volume or liquidity of the stools.

Bowel movements, also called stools, are the body wastes that go through the rectum and anus. Stools include the remaining part after the digestive system intakes nutrients and fluids from what one eats and drinks. Loose stools comprise more water, salts, and minerals and weigh over solid stools.

Diarrhoea is caused due to impure food or water, viruses like flu, norovirus or rotavirus (especially among children), parasites (small organisms discovered in contaminated food or water), medicines, namely antibiotics, cancer drugs, and antacids that include magnesium, food intolerances and sensitivities (lactose intolerance).

“Things like antibiotics and anti-gout medications can cause diarrhea by altering movement in the gut and the bacterial population in our intestines but there are also 20 or 30 gut disorders that can cause loose bowel motion,” says Dr Norton Greenberger, a Harvard Medical School professor.

Diarrhoea that takes place within a short period is called acute diarrhoea. It usually occurs only for 1 or 2 days, but it could sustain longer, whereas Diarrhea that lasts for four weeks is known as chronic diarrhoea. Its symptoms may continue or show on a sporadical basis.

People of any age can get affected due to this. If children have diarrhoea, elders or guardians should call for medical help by contacting a professional as Diarrhea can be of serious risk in newborns and infants.

Its common symptoms consist of cramps or pain in the abdomen, immediate use of the bathroom and loss of bowel control. Sometimes, diarrhoea takes place with mild to moderate abdominal pain. Intense abdominal or stomach pain is not common and, if it exists, it could indicate a more severe disease that a medical professional can check as per his expertise. There are times when fever also occurs during such duration, including vomiting and the inability to intake any food substance or to keep liquids down.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Diarrhea that lasts for more than 2-4 weeks is considered persistent or chronic. In an otherwise healthy person, chronic diarrhea can be a nuisance at best or become a serious health issue. For someone who has a weakened immune system, chronic diarrhea may represent a life-threatening illness.”

How to treat Diarrhea?

People with diarrhoea should consume water, fruit juices, drinks, sodas with no caffeine and salty broths. One can eat soft, bland food when the symptoms show improvement. Children having diarrhoea should have oral rehydration solutions to replace lost fluids and electrolytes in the human body. One should focus on drinking plenty of fluids while following the “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and not drink water from streams, springs, or lakes unless local health authorities have verified that the water is safe for drinking.