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Learn How to Help Diarrhea Sufferers

It’s a good chance, if you haven’t experienced the misery yet, you will, so you should know how to help diarrhea sufferers.

These are the loose, watery, and frequent bowel movements; commonly only lasts for a couple of days at most, but might go as long as to last a couple of weeks as well.

When it lasts more than a couple of days, it's an indication that something more serious is happening inside the body – a problem which you must discuss with your doctor. The usual symptoms and signs are – loose, watery, and more frequent bowel movements, abdominal pain, stomach cramps, nausea, fever, the presence of blood in the stool, and bloating. Other symptoms might also be present, depending on the problem.

Here are the 10 Most Common Causes of Diarrhea

Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning happens when you eat food that has been contaminated with bacteria.
Bacterial infections often cause the more serious cases. Typically, infection with bacteria occurs after eating contaminated food or drinks (food poisoning). Bacterial infections also cause severe symptoms, often with vomiting, fever, and severe abdominal cramps or abdominal pain. Bowel movements occur frequently and may be watery and individuals may experience “explosive diarrhea” which is a very forceful, almost violent, expulsion of loose, watery stool along with gas.
If symptoms are violent and sustained, seek immediate medical intervention.

Food Allergies

The most common food allergies are milk, egg, peanut and soy allergies. All of these and many other food allergies usually cause it to occur whenever the person who is allergic to these foods’ intakes them intentionally or non-intentionally
When caused by a food allergy, the first symptoms will develop within minutes or hours after eating that certain food. It will take around 24 hours for the symptoms to pass, but in between these 24 hours, you may also experience vomiting, hives, and swelling of the face, tongue or throat.

Food Intolerance

It is not uncommon for some people’s digestive systems being unable to properly digest certain foods. This is marked as food intolerance and usually results in the presence of gas, diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps. Usually, dairy products and artificial sweeteners that cause food intolerance with lactose intolerance affecting around 50 million Americans right now – a number that is expected to grow in the years to come.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions are chronic diseases of the digestive tract, both of which happen to cause chronic diarrhea as one of the most common symptoms.
It usually lasts for over four weeks, and the stool often contains blood or mucus. Other symptoms that might also develop are nausea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, and fever.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation are the three most common symptoms of irritable bowel disease. In the case of irritable bowel disease, it may last for six months or even more. In this case it is not triggered by any specific foods, certain foods may increase the symptoms more than other foods. 
Keeping a daily log of what you eat and which symptoms you experience and when, may aid you and your doctor in identifying foods that should be eliminated from your diet. 

Cause #6: Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a serious, autoimmune disease which is triggered by consuming gluten. Whenever a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system damages the specific cells within their small intestine, resulting in permanent gut damage. If left untreated, celiac disease poses a serious threat to the life of a patient.  Approximately 1 in 133 Americans suffer from celiac disease. 
Chronic diarrhea is often an early indicator of celiac disease. Unexplained weight loss and fatigue are also common symptoms of celiac disease. These symptoms are very damaging to the body; seek treatment as soon as possible. A gluten free diet will be a major part of the treatment plan. 

Cause #7: Certain Medications

Whenever you fill a prescription for drugs, ask your pharmacist for a printed copy of the product information and possible side effects. Some medications alter the bacterial balance in the gut, by killing off some bacteria and promoting the growth of others. 
The balance of helpful and harmful bacteria is sometimes tipped in favor of the harmful bacteria. Antibiotics, antacids, blood pressure medications and chemotherapy are among the most frequent causes of bacterial imbalances in the gut. If you experience this side effect, drink 6 - 8 glasses of fluids daily and see your doctor immediately to discuss a change in your medication. 

Stomach Flu

The odd bout of stomach flu is commonly treated with lots of rest and plenty of fluids. There is a danger that children and older adults may suffer serious dehydration. Flu sufferers must be kept well hydrated. The stomach flu can go on anywhere from three to eight days and develops around two days after exposure to the virus that causes the stomach flu.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

Foreign travel is a common way for a person to contract this affliction, often caused by unfamiliar viruses or parasites. Campylobacter, salmonellae and shigella organisms are among the most common causes. Less common causes are Escherichia coli (commonly called E. coli) Yersinia and Listeria. Parasites cause infection of the digestive system by the use of contaminated water. Common parasitic causes include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium. 

Viral Infections

Characterized by mild to moderate symptoms with frequent watery bowel movements, abdominal cramps and a low-grade fever, this tends to last three (3) to seven (7) days. This is also known as viral gastroenteritis. 
Norovirus (for example), Norwalk virus, caliciviruses is the most common cause of epidemics among and adults and school-age children. Viral infections can spread rapidly on cruise ships and in nursing homes, day-care facilities and restaurants. 
Rotavirus is a common cause in infants.
Adenovirus infections are common in all age groups.
Other factors that may upset the gut include:

  • Alcohol Abuse: Both binge drinking and chronic alcoholism may lead to loose stools. 
  • Laxative abuse: Laxatives are for occasional use only.
  • Diabetes: this can be a complication.
  • Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may cause loose stools for up to three weeks after treatment ends. 
  • Some cancers, including carcinoid syndrome, colon cancer, lymphoma, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid, pancreatic cancer, and pheochromocytoma.
  • Digestive surgery including stomach or intestinal surgery.
  • Running: sometimes referred to as “Runner Trots,” this usually happens over longer distances over 10K or particularly hard runs. 

What symptoms and signs often accompany diarrhea?

Overuse and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics worldwide is leading to the global healthcare issue of antibiotic resistance. However, the issue of antibiotic resistance can be confusing for many patients. You may be told you cannot use an antibiotic for a viral infection because they are ineffective and may lead to “antibiotic resistance”.

Why don’t antibiotics kill viral infections, and how can overuse of an antibiotic lead to “antibiotic resistance”?

  • Antibiotics cannot kill viruses because viruses have different structures and replicate in a different way than bacteria.
  • Antibiotics work by targeting the growth machinery in bacteria (not viruses) to kill or inhibit those particular bacteria.
  • When you think about it structurally, it makes sense that an antibiotic could not work to kill a virus with a completely different set of replicating “machinery”.
 

Illnesses caused by viruses

  • Most sore throats
  • Most coughs, colds and runny noses
  • acute sinusitis
  • acute bronchitis
  • Some eye or ear infections
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • flu (influenza)

Most viral illnesses do not need special medication and are “self-limiting”, meaning your own immune system will kick in and fight off the illness. However, this can take time; a cough and cold can last from 7 to 10 days and the flu might keep you down for 2 weeks or more.
If you come down with a viral illness, you should rest, drink plenty of fluids and treat symptoms – like fever or aches and pains – with proper doses of pain and fever relievers, like over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or as directed by your doctor. If you are diagnosed with a viral illness such as a cough, cold or sore throat, and your symptoms worsen or do not clear up within 10 days, be sure to contact your doctor.

  • In some viral infections, such as the flu, shingles (herpes zoster), or chicken pox (varicella) your doctor may decide to prescribe an antiviral drug to shorten your infection and to work to prevent complications. Antivirals need to be taken early in the infection – usually in the first 24 to 48 hours – to be most effective.
  • In complicated or prolonged viral infections, bacteria may invade as well, and cause what is known as a “secondary bacterial infection”. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, if one is needed, to kill the specific invading bacteria. The antibiotic is not being prescribed to treat the virus.

Viruses are structurally different from bacteria. Viruses live and replicate inside of a human cell, they cannot live outside of this environment. Viruses insert their genetic material into a human cell’s DNA in order to reproduce.
Antibiotics cannot kill viruses because bacteria and viruses have different mechanisms and machinery to survive and replicate. The antibiotic has no “target” to attack in a virus. However, antiviral medications and vaccines are specific for viruses. Vaccines stimulate your own immune system to produce antibodies, which then can “recognize” the virus to inactivate it before it can cause disease. The best way to prevent the flu, shingles and chickenpox is with a vaccine.

When should you seek Medical Care?

If high fever, moderate to severe abdominal pain or too frequent or violent and uncontrollable bouts are the patient’s experience, seek immediate medical attention at your closest Hospital Emergency.
Dehydration that cannot be managed by drinking fluids or bloody stools (bright red or black-like tar) are better treated by professionals. 
If a person is sleepy and/or not acting like their usual selves, seek immediate medical attention.

Call a doctor if you are experiencing any of these complications:

  • Vomiting or the inability to tolerate any food or too keep liquids down. 
  • High Fever
  • Significant abdominal pain
  • Frequent loose bowel movements
  • Bloody Stools

People who are elderly or have serious medical issues such as diabetes, heart, kidney, liver disease or HIV/AIDS need immediate medical care. These pre-existing conditions can create serious complications.

If you suffer while travelling at home or abroad, or if you are pregnant, seek medical attention. Your primary care provider may consult with a gastroenterologist (a specialist in disease of the digestive tract.) What procedures and tests can your doctor use to evaluate your causes?

In people who otherwise appear well, the health care professional may choose to do not tests at all. If there is a high fever, blood in the stool, recent travel or prolonged disease, stool samples may be sent to the Lab for testing to identify certain bacteria or parasites. Blood tests are sometimes necessary for patients with other medical problems or with severe disease.

A colonoscopy is an endoscope procedure that allows the physician to view the entire colon to evaluate for infections or structural abnormalities that could cause the condition. Imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans are performed to rule out structural abnormalities, particularly when pain is a prominent symptom. 

Treatments for Adults:

Adults should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Replenishing water loss is important. Avoid milk as it can make this worse. Sports beverages (for example, Gatorade or Powerade) can be beneficial because they replenish electrolytes in addition to providing hydration.
If the patient is able to eat, avoid greasy or fatty foods. Adults, infants, toddlers, and children should be encouraged to follow the “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). The BRAT diet is a combination of foods to eat to alleviate symptoms. If  accompanied by nausea, have the person suck on ice chips until the nausea stops. After the squirts subside, avoid alcoholic beverages and spicy foods for two additional days.
Individuals may be able to continue their usual activities if they are mildly ill at the same time; however, strenuous exercise should be avoided because exercise increases the risk of dehydration.
If you are pregnant, make sure to rehydrate to avoid dehydration and consult your doctor.

Treatments for Toddlers and Children

Dehydration in children and toddlers can be a great concern. Loose stools are more common in breastfed newborns than in formula-fed babies, so check with your doctor about to expect for your child. Infants and toddlers pose special problems because of their increased risk of dehydration. They should be offered a bottle frequently. Solutions such as Pedialyte may be more appealing than water. These fluids also contain necessary electrolytes lost. Never use salt tablets as they may make things worse. Children with frequent stools, fever, or vomiting should stay at home and avoid school and day-care until these symptoms go away. This allows the child to rest and recover and prevents other children from being exposed to possible infection. As mentioned previously, infants, toddlers, and children should be encouraged to follow the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). The BRAT diet is a combination of foods used for decades. Antibiotics Antibiotics will get not rid of viral symptoms. Even bacterial infections will usually go away in a few days without antibiotics. Antibiotics appear to make some symptoms worse, specifically those caused by the E. coli bacterium (often a source of food poisoning). In some cases, antibiotics may benefit some adults. If selected carefully, antibiotics may decrease the severity of illness and shorten the duration of symptoms. If a person has recently traveled to another country or has been camping (and may have been exposed to contaminated water in the wilderness), a health care professional may prescribe specific medication used to treat traveler’s diarrhea for certain intestinal parasites.

Is Prevention Possible?

Many cases are spread from person-to-person. The following precautions might aid in avoiding other viral or bacterial infections:
Individuals caring for sick children or adults in any setting should carefully wash their hands after changing diapers, helping an individual use the bathroom, or assisting an individual around the home.
Children should be instructed to wash their hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom.
Practice safe food handling. Always wash hands before and after handling food.
Use care when preparing raw poultry or meat. Food should be cooked to the recommended temperatures. Avoid raw or rare meat and poultry. Utensils coming in contact with raw food should be cleaned in soap and hot water.
Fruits and vegetables consumed raw should be thoroughly rinsed in clean water.
Unpasteurized (raw) milk may be contaminated with bacteria and should always be avoided. Unpasteurized fruit juice or cider should generally be avoided even if the source is not known because the fruit may have come in contact with contaminated animal feces in the orchard.
Use caution when traveling, especially to foreign countries. Do not eat foods from street vendors. Don’t drink water or drinks with ice cubes made from tap water if the country is deemed unsafe. Check the Travelers’ Health Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for travel information for your destination.

How to help diarrhea at home

While it often goes away on its own, several home remedies can ease symptoms and speed up recovery.

  1. Rehydrating

Diarrhea causes a deficit of fluids, making it vital to rehydrate. This causes the body to lose electrolytes such as sodium and chloride. Dehydration can be dangerous in children and older adults, so it is crucial to encourage them to drink water. Drinking water is the first step to rehydrating. A person can also to create an oral rehydration solution by mixing 1 liter of water with half a teaspoon of salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar. Consuming sugar and salt with water helps the intestines to absorb fluids more efficiently. This solution more effectively rehydrates the body after a bout than water alone. Other drinks can also be beneficial. For example, drinking sports drinks can rehydrate the body and restore potassium and sodium. Fruit juices can also restore potassium.
Avoid drinking anything that will further irritate the digestive tract, such as:

  • caffeinated drinks
  • alcohol
  • carbonated beverages
  • very hot drinks
  1. Eating a recovery diet

A diet of small, frequent meals can be better than eating three larger meals a day during recovery. Consider the following options:

  • foods rich in pectin, such as fruit
  • foods high in potassium, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • foods with electrolytes, such as miso soup and sports drinks
  • cooked, soft vegetables
  • foods with adequate amounts of protein

Some people find that having a liquid diet for the first 24 hours after incidence settles the digestive system. This may include salty broths, bland soups, and drinks. Adopting this diet for the first 24 hours may prevent the bowels from working too hard. This diet combines bland foods that are low in fiber and high in starch, which may produce more solid bowel movements. It also contains nutrients, such as potassium and pectin. It is essential to note that the BRAT diet is highly restrictive and does not provide balanced nutrition. People should only follow this diet until they are feeling better and not any longer than 2 days.

  1. Avoiding certain foods

Consider avoiding foods that could irritate or put pressure on the gastrointestinal tract, such as:

  • high-fat foods
  • greasy foods
  • spicy foods
  • foods containing artificial sweeteners
  • foods with high levels of fructose

Some doctors recommend avoiding dairy products, as they may worsen symptoms in some people. While general evidence for this claim is limited, people with lactose intolerance should avoid these products.

  1. Taking probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that can benefit the digestive system. They can support the workings of the gut and may fight off infection. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts in some yogurts and other fermented foods. People can also buy probiotic supplements in health stores or online. Researchers have conducted a large systematic review of 63 studies on probiotics, with over 8,000 participants. They found probiotics significantly shortened recovery duration. They also found probiotics to be safe, without any major side effects. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotic supplements, so be sure to purchase them from a reputable source and ask a doctor or pharmacist if in doubt.

  1. Trying medicines

Over-the-counter drugs, such as Imodium, may reduce symptoms and speed up recovery time. Several over-the-counter medications are available for treating it. Antimotility drugs may reduce symptoms and speed up recovery time. A common example of this type of drug is loperamide (Imodium). That being said, these medications are not always appropriate. People with bloody bowel movements or a fever should refrain from taking antimotility drugs and speak to a doctor instead. When to see a doctor
In most cases, it is possible to treat it at home without consulting a doctor. However, if symptoms lasts for more than 2 days, seek medical advice to avoid complications. Other reasons to see a doctor include:

  • blood or pus in bowel movements
  • a fever
  • signs of dehydration, such as extreme thirst and dry mouth
  • chronic diarrhea
  • during sleep
  • significant weight loss
  • severe abdominal pain

People at risk of complications, such as young children and older adults, should also see a doctor for treatment if it does not improve with time and home remedies.
It’s important to remember that Bacterial infections cause the more serious infectious cases. 
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