According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5, globally. Characterised by frequent bowel movement, loose stool, nausea abdominal cramps and dehydration, diarrhoea is caused by mainly by viruses and bacteria. The most common culprit behind this gut issue is rotavirus. It can also be caused by bacteria like salmonella or E. coli, among others. Apart from these, there can be other underlying health conditions like hormonal disorders and inflammatory bowel disease that contribute to diarrhoea. Some medicines can also be the cause. To a large extent, diarrhoea caused by viruses and bacteria can be prevented if you maintain proper hygiene, avoid street food and drink purified water.
TYPES OF DIARRHOEA
Diarrhoea can be classified under three broad categories. They include:
Acute diarrhoea: This is the most common form of diarrhoea, characterised by loose, watery bowels. Typically, it subsides on its own with sufficient fluid replenishment.
Persistent diarrhoea: This type of diarrhoea lasts for two to four weeks.
Chronic diarrhoea: This form of diarrhoea can trouble you for a long period of time, more than four weeks.
CAUSES OF DIARRHOEA
As already mentioned, the most common cause of diarrhoea is a viral or bacterial infection. However, there are several other factors than can be the culprit behind diarrhoea:
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This is another gut issue that can cause diarrhoea symptoms like blood in the stool. This condition leads to ulcers in the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum.
Malabsorption: When your digestive tracts fail to absorb nutrients from your food, you are likely experience diarrhoea symptoms.
Medicines: Laxatives and other drugs like antibiotics, can lead to diarrhoea.
Hormonal disorders: Hormonal issues can lead to irregular bowel movement and other diarrhoea symptoms. For example, people living with Addison’s disease have insufficient levels of the hormone steroid. They are likely to experience diarrhoea symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF DIARRHOEA
This condition comes with a combination of symptoms. You may go through one or more of these manifestations depending on the cause. Here are the common signs and symptoms of diarrhoea.
- Abdominal cramps
- Loose motions
- Blood in the stool
In infants, diarrhoea may take a severe form. Call your doctor if you notice the following signs and symptoms accompanying frequent bowel movement, nausea and abdominal cramp.
- Infrequent urination
- Dryness in mouth
- Fever (temperature of more than 102°F)
- Blood or pus in stool
- Black or tarry stool
- Sunken eyes
DIAGNOSIS OF DIARRHOEA
Usually, this condition doesn’t need medical tests for diagnosis. The symptoms are unmistakable. However, some tests may be suggested to figure out the underlying cause or in case the manifestations persist. These tests include:
- Fasting blood tests to detect if food intolerance or allergy is the culprit
- Imaging tests to look for inflammation and structural abnormalities in your intestine, especially if your condition is severe or chronic
- A stool or urine test to check for bacteria, parasites, or other pathogens.
TREATMENT FOR DIARRHOEA
The treatment for diarrhoea depends on the severity of your condition, your dehydration status, age, medical history and other factors. Typically, this condition necessitates fluid replacement and you need to drink a lot of liquids in the form of water and juices. In severe cases, it needs to be done through intravenous injections. The intention of the medicines is to control your bowel movement. If your diarrhoea has been caused by bacteria, your doctor may recommend antibiotics. In case it is the manifestation of any underlying digestive issue, the treatment modality will be decided based on that.
What you eat plays a crucial role in the way your diarrhoea symptoms manifest. Since this condition depletes you of water, make sure that you keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water and other fluids like juices to ensure that your electrolyte balance isn’t lost. Also, avoid dairy products when suffering from diarrhoea because you may find it difficult to digest. Apart from these, fibrous veggies like cabbage and beans will also be hard on your stomach, leading to flatulence. Cut back on caffeinated drinks like soda, tea and coffee while experiencing diarrhoea symptoms. A low-fibre diet is particularly good for people suffering from this condition. Adding potatoes, white rice, fish and chicken to your meals will help.
There are various factors that can lead to diarrhoea. However, a few precautionary measures can help you prevent this infection.
Maintain good hygiene: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after using the loo. Also, it’s essential clean your hands before and after eating, cooking and handling utensils to keep the infection at bay.
Get vaccinated: The most common culprit behind diarrhoea is rotavirus. It can be prevented by the Rotavirus vaccine, which is administered to children (1 year) in various doses.
Store your food the right way: Make sure that your leftover foods are properly refrigerated. Wash raw fruits and vegetables well before eating and cooking them and do not eat anything that has gone bad. All these food safety measures are essential steps against diarrhoea infections.
Be careful about what you drink and eat: Street foods and tap water are the hotspots of germs that lead to diarrhoea. While eating out, choose trusted food joints and make sure that you drink bottled water when you are travelling. Using a water purifier at home will also protect you from this condition. Also, unpasteurised milk and juices could be the culprit behind this infection. Avoid them.