Dealing with the sudden arrival of a nasty case of diarrhea is never fun. It's almost always unexpected, and it is usually a shock to you as well as to your digestive system. The first thing you are wondering when it happens is what caused it, and what can I do about it? The onslaught of diarrhea demands instant relief from symptoms that include loose/watery stools, abdominal cramps and/or pain, dehydration, fever, bloating and nausea. Then, of course, there is the urgent need to pass a bowel movement, at which time your goal immediately becomes a dash to the bathroom and a quick seat on the toilet – for what is about to emerge is coming like a freight train and there isn't any stopping it.
What's Behind a Case of Diarrhea?OK, no pun intended. Here are some of the more common causes:
- Food poisoning: This typically involves the ingestion of bacteria from food that has been improperly cooked (if cooked at all) or stored.
- Viral infections: These are the cause of most cases of diarrhea, per emedicinehealth.com. Infectious diarrhea is common in your children, typically caused by a virus, per healthline.com, such as norovirus like Norwalk virus.
- Medications: This includes antibiotics, which destroy both good and bad bacteria, possibly disrupting the natural balance of bacteria in your intestines. Cancer drugs and antacids containing magnesium could also be contributing factors, per mayoclinic.org.
- Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a form of sugar typically found in dairy products such as milk, per mayoclinic.org. Such intolerance can often get worse as you age because enzyme levels supporting the digestive system gradually drop after childhood.
- Fructose: Fruits and honey are natural sources of a sugar known as fructose, which is occasionally added as a sweetener for drinks and can cause diarrhea in people who have problems digesting it.
- Artificial sweeteners: These include sorbitol and mannitol, found in chewing gum and other sugar-free products, per mayoclinic.org.
- Surgery: More specifically, abdominal or gallbladder removal operations.
- Digestive disorders: These include Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Dealing with and Treating DiarrheaFirst, it's encouraging to know that most cases of diarrhea can go away on their own within a couple of days without the need for intervention from prescription medications, Until you feel better, though, per webmd.com, once you get diarrhea, resolve to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of clear fluids (such as water or broth) as diarrhea can quickly dehydrate you, and watch what you eat (hint: nothing spicy, such as pizza or hot chili – c'mon, are you a glutton for punishment?). Oh, yeah, stay close to a bathroom, too. As far as what foods to eat while you are healing and recuperating from a bout of diarrhea, try the ‘BRAT' diet recommended by many doctors. No, not bratwurst. The recommended BRAT choices are Bananas, Rice (white), Applesauce, and Toast. Other good food choices, per webmd.com, include potatoes, peanut butter, yogurt, and skinless chicken or turkey. On the other hand, steer clear of fatty foods, fried edibles, raw fruits and vegetables, caffeine, beans, and cabbage. If you want to ward off symptoms (to include that nasty abdominal pain and those yucky watery stools) as you patiently recover, some over-the-counter medicines can help. These include Imodium, also known as Loperamide, which slows the movement of food through your digestive tract, allowing your body to replenish its supply of fluids; per webmd.com, and Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol (both are forms of bismuth subsalicylate), which balance out the flow of fluids through your digestive tract. Just don't give either of these to children as they could cause health complications.
Preventing DiarrheaBefore trying to heal yourself from a bout of diarrhea all on your own, if you are having a severe case, it's time to see your doctor. Symptoms that merit a doctor's attention include several pain in your belly or bottom area, having black or bloody stools, getting dehydrated to the point of extreme thirst and overall weakness, a fever of 102 or above, and no improvement within 48 hours. For prevention of diarrhea, here are some other home remedies to try:
- Wash hands frequently. Start with washing after using the bathroom, when handling uncooked meat, and after changing a diaper. Hand sanitizer makes a good substitute when you don't have access to a sink. Carry it with you, at least in the car. Use soap at the sink.
- Vaccination. For your infant, as a guard against rotavirus. Discuss with your pediatrician.
- Watch what you eat – especially when traveling to underdeveloped countries. For starters, eat hot, well-cooked foods.
- Watch what you drink – especially in those other countries. Go for bottled water and other drinks served in their original container, like beers and wine. Close your mouth when showering.
- Probiotics. Supplements and certain foods make probiotics very accessible, and they are good sources of good bacteria to maintain a healthy environment in your digestive tract. These include cottage cheese, dark chocolate (easy now), green olives, yogurt, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread.