You might not believe me when I tell you this, but it’s worth a try. Did you know that a run in with diarrhea might just be good for you? The reason you may have diarrhea is because you probably just ate something that your body is trying to get rid of such as a [...]
Diarrhea, an increase in the frequency and fluidity (looseness) of the stools, is caused by too much water in the intestine. Normally, the intestine processes an estimated 10 quarts (9.5 liters) of water daily, allowing only 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 milliliters) to reach the rectum. When the water fails to be absorbed from the intestine or is drawn into the intestine, diarrhea results. Several causes of diarrhea exist.
- Failure of digestion. An example consists of a lack of lactase, which inhibits the digestion of lactose (milk sugar), draws water into the intestine, and causes diarrhea. Diseases of the pancreas and malnutrition are the underlying causes.
- Food sensitivities. As an example, the gliadin found in the gluten of certain grains (wheat, rye) has a toxic action on the villi of the intestinal mucosa, leading to among other problems, diarrhea.
- Infections of the digestive tract. So-called stomach flu or gastroenteritis may be due to viruses and bacteria (enteritis) in children, and usually to bacteria or parasites in adults. In enteritis the inflamed mucosa pours out fluid, and intestinal contractions increase, propelling the fluid mass downward for evacuation. Diarrhea results from the body’s attempt to rid itself of the infection. Salmonella and shigella frequently cause food poisoning, and Giardia and ameba may be involved. Pathogenic colon bacilli and other organisms bring on traveler’s diarrhea. In some parts of the world, cholera and typhoid fever cause diarrhea.
- Toxic substances. The ingestion of poisonous mushrooms or other toxic substances may cause severe gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
- Medications. A number of medications act on the bowel wall. Antibiotics are among the most common. They frequently kill off susceptible microorganisms in the intestine, thus upsetting the balance of organisms and causing diarrhea.
- Emotional diarrhea. Anxiety and emotional stress excite the muscles and mucous glands in the lower colon, causing increased mucus and strong contractions that result in severe diarrhea.
- Diseases of the digestive tract. Numerous diseases cause diarrhea, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, sprue, irritable colon, pancreatitis, and cancer of the large intestine.
Symptoms of diarrhea may vary from mildly loose stools to violent purges, accompanied with cramping and abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, and blood-tinged stools.
Things that you can do to treat diarrhea naturally
Usually one should not treat a mild diarrhea because the diarrhea is the body’s attempt to rid itself of the infection or irritation. If the diarrhea is accompanied with vomiting, abdominal pain, blood in the stools, and fever, see your physician. If these symptoms are not present, preparations of kaolin with pectin or bismuth often bring prompt relief.
Things that your physician can do for diarrhea
Your physician may order a culture of the stool and do a rectal examination should he or she suspect some serious disorder.
Depending on the severity of the problem, he may advise intravenous fluids, an antibiotic, or medication which will prevent the diarrhea. If an antibiotic causes the diarrhea, your physician may change or discontinue it, and he may recommend that you take yogurt, cultured milk, or a powder of lactobacillus acidophilus to restore balance among the bowel microflora.