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Diarrhea Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Diarrhea is one of the main causes of dehydration and a person should know when to consider it a serious condition and to obtain the proper treatment needed. Diarrhea is a normal process of eliminating the toxic wastes from the body and it is usually characterized by a loose, watery bowel movement. Diarrhea is harmful and may occasionally become an emergency condition when dehydration occurs.

Normally, a person experiences diarrhea 1 to 2 times a year and in most instances there are remedies available at home for its treatment.. A mild diarrhea can last after two to three trips to the bathroom while others last for three days. Long term diarrhea is dangerous because it may result in dehydration.

Common causes of diarrhea

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

This is usually characterized by colitis and Crohn's disease. Colitis and Crohn's disease  occur when the lining of the individual's digestive tract becomes inflamed. Serious symptoms of these diseases include weight loss, high fever, severe pain and sometimes rectal bleeding. Crohn's syndrome is usually treated by means of an oral medication that helps reduce the inflammation and brings the lining of the digestive tract back to its normal condition. The same type of medication is given to those who suffer with colitis.  Colitis in its severe form can be treated through the surgical process.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

This is similar to colitis, however, there is no inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract, just an abnormality on the digestive tract that causes the stool to soften and becomes watery.

  • Bacterial infection

Bacterial infection is another major cause of diarrhea where a person may have consumed contaminated food and water. The type of bacteria that is usually present in water and solid foods include E. Coli and salmonella. These kinds of bacteria are enough to cause diarrhea and becomes fatal if not treated immediately.

Warning signs of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be dangerous, especially to children when it is not treated immediately. The following warning signs should be observed if a person has diarrhea:

  • Signs of dehydration

Dehydration can be dangerous and it usually happens with long term diarrhea. The common symptoms include weak muscles, dizziness, headache, feeling of thirst and nausea. Prolonged exposure to dehydration can result in kidney failure and other internal organ diseases.

  • Blood in the stool

Blood in the stool that is bright red and looks like fresh blood may mean minor laceration on the anus area, however, dark blood that comes with the stool may indicate problems in the digestive tract. Doctor should perform a test in order to diagnose other underlying conditions that may be causing diarrhea symptoms.

  • Fever

Fever is usually caused by the toxins trapped in the digestive tract that slowly spreads in the body. A person who has diarrhea and at the same time experiencing a fever should see a doctor for possible infection. Doctors may perform stool tests in order to see what causes the increased temperature in the body.

  • Severe rectal or abdominal pain

Rectal pain or anal pain happens and is usually caused by anal fissures or an inflamed digestive tract. When this happens, diarrhea is not the only emergency illness that needs to be treated but also the digestive tract. Abdominal pain can also be severe because of the abnormal activity in the digestive system, usually caused by bacterial infection.

Diagnosing diarrhea

Diarrhea normally lasts between 24 to 72 hours. If the illness stays longer than this, an individual may be experiencing chronic diarrhea. A doctor may need to ask the following questions for proper diagnosis:

  • Duration of the illness
  • Current medication
  • Appearance of the stool (ex. watery, fatty or bloody)
  • History (if the patient experienced the same thing before)
  • Any food that triggers diarrhea or abdominal pain
  • Other symptoms felt, such as headache, dizziness, fever or nausea

Generally, diarrhea clears up even in the absence of any type of medication. It is the body's natural way of disposing toxins from inside the body. Some people also experience chronic diarrhea that lasts up to two weeks. People who have chronic diarrhea should seek the help of a doctor in order to get the proper treatment.

Some people may consider diarrhea as a minor illness, however, food poisoning and bacterial infection may be the cause of diarrhea that can pose a more serious condition that needs medical attention. In children, diarrhea also needs special care because of their sensitive immune system and their body is more susceptible to dehydration. Children who refuse to take more fluids are often taken to the hospital to receive intravenous treatment because of serious dehydration. Children are likewise prone to experiencing internal organ failure because of severe dehydration.

Treating diarrhea

Seeing your doctor for treatment is usually not indicated, especially when your diarrhea symptoms are mild and less serious. They can be treated at home using over-the-counter medicine that can produce relief of symptoms within a few minutes. However, If your diarrhea does not go away after taking anti-diarrhea drugs, make sure to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment for your condition.

Drinking lots of fluids will help counteract the adverse effect of dehydration in diarrhea. Taking sports drinks are also recommended because the high sugar content in them can absorb water to prevent dehydrating the body. Caffeinated and carbonated drinks should not be given as they increase the dehydration in the body. If an individual has a poor lactose tolerance, milk and dairy products should be avoided as this will also cause diarrhea.

Frequently drink clear fluids like water. Make sure that it is not contaminated and cold. Drinking fluids while you have diarrhea will keep your body hydrated. Dehydration can lead to severe cramps as well as weak muscles. Your kidneys can also suffer if your body is not receiving the right amount of fluids. Drink water at least twice the amount you need to drink on a daily basis. This will help flush out toxins faster and lets your body recover faster.

Eat small amount of food the moment you feel better to make sure you properly refill the nutrients that your body lost during the period. Make sure to eat in small amounts so that your body, especially your stomach, can properly digest the food. Avoid eating spicy foods that tend to irritate the stomach as well as the digestive tract.

Avoid junk foods that contain the ingredient Sorbitol. Sorbitol is often present in chewing gum and it is a form of laxative that is not helpful when you are suffering from diarrhea. Take over-the-counter medicine if symptoms persist. Most of these medicines take effect over an hour or two, however, some people prefer to make home remedies as a way of letting the toxins out and cleansing the digestive tract. Get some rest. The body tends to become weak and less active during diarrhea episodes. Taking a rest can help the body recuperate better and regain back the energy it lost during dehydration.