You may blame it on a 24-hour bug or something you ate, but if you’re like the normal health guy, you’ll suffer once or twice this year from diarrhea: frequent, watery bowel movements that may be accompanied by painful cramps or nausea and vomiting.
Diarrhea is uncomfortable and unpleasant, but generally no big deal in otherwise healthy adults. However, if diarrhea becomes a chronic condition, the situation changes. Or if it affects the very young, the elderly, or the chronically ill, it can be dangerous. And if you’re not careful to drink enough fluids, you could find yourself complicating what should have been a simple enough situation.
There are essentially two types of diarrhea: acute and chronic. Thankfully, the vast majority of diarrhea is acute, or short term. This type of diarrhea keeps you on the toilet for a couple of days but doesn’t stick around long. Acute diarrhea is also known as non-inflammatory diarrhea. Its symptoms are what most people associate with the condition: watery, frequent stools accompanied by stomach cramps, gas and nausea.
Acute diarrhea usually has a bacterial or viral culprit. Gastroenteritis, mistakenly called the “stomach flu,” is one of the most common infections that cause diarrhea. Gastroenteritis can be caused by many different viruses. Eating or drinking foods contaminated with bacteria can also cause diarrhea. Other causes of acute diarrhea are lactose intolerance, sweeteners such as sorbitol, over-the-counter antacids that contain magnesium, too much vitamin C, and some antibiotics.
Treatment & Remedies
Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids. Consume two quarts (eight cups) of fluids a day, three quarts (12 cups) if you’re running a fever. It’s important to keep replacing your body’s supply of water and electrolytes, which include sodium, potassium and chloride. Mix up the perfect electrolyte drink by stirring a half-teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar into a litre of water. Add a little bit of orange juice, lemon juice or salt substitute for potassium
Eat Yogurt – Eat yogurt containing “live cultures” like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. These help to restore healthy levels of the helpful bacteria in your intestine.
Get Rest – Try resting in bed and sipping any broth, but have it lukewarm instead of hot, and add a little salt to it if it’s not already salty. A heating pad on your belly may also help relieve abdominal cramps.
Take Medicine – Stopping the diarrhea with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication may not be the best thing for your body, since the diarrhea probably reflects your body’s attempt to get rid of a troublesome bug. If you do feel it’s necessary, however, Pepto-Bismol is probably the safest OTC antidiarrheal medicine. It also appears to have a mild antibacterial effect, useful against traveler’s diarrhea, which is usually bacteria-related.
Avoid Certain Foods – Avoid milk, cheese, and other dairy products (except yogurt, unless you don’t usually tolerate it well). Avoid fruit juices. Large amounts of fructose can be hard to digest.Avoid foods that are rich in roughage, which can be hard to digest. That means no beans, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. Avoid apple juice, however, which can make diarrhea worse. Lastly, steer clear of greasy or high-fiber foods. These are harder for your gut to handle right now. It needs foods that are kinder and gentler such as soup, gelatin, rice, noodles, bananas, potatoes, toast, cooked carrots, soda crackers, and skinless white-meat chicken.
Drink Black Tea – Drink black tea sweetened with sugar. The hot water helps with rehydration and tea contains astringent tannins that help reduce intestinal inflammation
Try Blackberries – Tannin-rich blackberries have long been used as folk treatments. Make blackberry tea by boiling one or two tablespoons of blackberries or dried blackberry leaves in 1 1⁄2 cups water for 10 minutes, then strain. Drink a cup several times a day. Raspberry tea is also said to be effective.