Diarrhea is something everyone dreads. At the same time it is something that everyone will be faced with at one point or another in their lives. It is classified by loose and watery stools that occur frequently. Diarrhea can range from mild to severe and the onset is usually rather sudden depending on the cause. Most healthy people have no trouble treating diarrhea successfully. However, there are some cases in which diarrhea can become a much more serious problem. The following information is designed to lend some insight on the most common causes of diarrhea as well as the most effective treatments. In addition, we will touch on some of the dangers of diarrhea as well as who is most likely to be the most adversely effected by it.
Most Common Causes of Diarrhea
Diarrhea can occur for a number of reasons and can come on with no warning at all. When the fluids or foods you eat pass through your intestines and colon at a pace that is faster than normal, this is when diarrhea is indicated. Typically, the colon will absorb the liquids from whatever foods you have ingested, leaving the solids to pass through your bowel. However, when this does not occur and the liquids are not absorbed properly, diarrhea is usually the result.
The most common causes of diarrhea are a variety of viruses and parasites. Parasites are usually caught through eating improperly cooked or contaminated foods. In addition, improper hygiene during food preparation can result in food poisoning or parasitic infection. People who are travelling in developing foreign countries are susceptible to what is known as “Traveler’s Diarrhea.”This typically comes as a result of drinking water that is contaminated with a number of different bacteria. The most typical bacteria are Shigella, which is often transmitted through animal feces, Salmonella, which can be transmitted through raw eggs, reptiles and undercooked meats, and E-Coli, which is also often caught after contaminated foods are eaten.
The viruses that most commonly cause diarrhea are Cytomegalovirus, Norwalk Virus and Viral Hepatitis. These viruses can cause severe or even bloody diarrhea in adults and children. Because there is no known cure for viruses, this type of infection is one of the most dangerous and difficult to treat. Usually the symptoms of diarrhea are treated while the patient is kept hydrated. This is often done through intravenous fluids.
Other Causes of Diarrhea
While the above mentioned are the most typical causes of severe diarrhea, there are other things that can result in mild to moderate diarrhea. Antibiotics are widely known to cause diarrhea in many cases. This is because antibiotics destroy bacteria and do not differentiate between the helpful and the harmful. This means that good bacteria will be destroyed along with the bad. Usually diarrhea that is caused by antibiotics will subside once the medication has been discontinued. However, in some situations diarrhea treatment will be necessary for a short time after the individual has stopped taking the drug. This usually happens when a secondary infection known as Clostridium Difficile develops.
People who suffer from lactose intolerance will almost always develop diarrhea as a result of eating or drinking dairy products. These people can sometimes take medications or enzymes that will allow them to consume dairy without any ill effects but often a diarrhea treatment diet that includes no dairy whatsoever is necessary in some individuals. Food allergies such as those associated with eating eggs can also cause diarrhea. This type of diarrhea is usually quite mild or short lived and typically clears up well in a matter of hours.
Certain artificial sweeteners like Mannitol, Sorbitol or Aspartame, as well as other food additives can also cause diarrhea for some people. Additionally, fructose, which is a natural sugar most commonly found in honey and fruits can be a cause of diarrhea. People who find that they are sensitive to any of these things should avoid any food or beverage that contains them.
Diarrhea in Infants, Toddlers and Children
Unfortunately, infants, toddlers and children are at the highest risk for serious complications as a result of diarrhea. There are a number of reasons for this but the main reason is that babies and children tend to have a much higher probability of contracting dangerous bacteria as a result of poor hygiene. They are not aware of the importance of hand washing and other good sanitary habits. Because of this, they are constantly placing their dirty hands into their nose, mouth and eyes with very little thought. While good parenting can help lessen the risks of this happening, it is not possible to stop this behavior completely.
Children also have a new immune system that is not quite strong enough to fend off some of the things adults can. The same diarrhea causes that are noted in adults such as parasites, viruses, food allergies and lactose intolerance are often responsible for diarrhea in babies and children as well. However, because their immune systems are underdeveloped the result can be a much more severe case of diarrhea. With babies and children the number one cause for alarm is dehydration. A baby or child can become dehydrated rather quickly. For this reason it is imperative to be sure that enough fluids are being administered, and that those fluids are not being passed as quickly as they are consumed.
There are several ways to tell if your young child or baby is dehydrated. For one, dehydration will affect the skins elasticity. Dehydration can be detected by simply pulling a small piece of skin on the child’s arm or leg and watching to see how quickly it springs back. If the skin seems to be sluggish in springing back then the child is dehydrated. Swollen lips are another sign of dehydration. Even in cases where no signs of dehydration seem present it is always best to err on the side of caution where children are concerned. If a baby or child has had diarrhea several times within a 12 to 24 hour period, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Treatments and Remedies for Diarrhea
Aside from taking over the counter medications such as Imodium, there are also a number of natural remedies that have been known to help alleviate diarrhea and treat the symptoms. Peppermint essence is said to be a wonderful relief for diarrhea. This is taken by simply adding a few small drops to about 4 ounces of drinking water, several times a day. A mix of ginger juice, mint juice and honey is also a good remedy that will not only help stop the diarrhea but will also sooth the stomach and intestines.
A whole lemon ground, along with the rind and seeds that is turned into a paste and has a dash of salt added to it is also known to be quite effective in treating diarrhea for some people. This paste is taken a teaspoon at a time two or three times throughout the day. Buttermilk, while most people are not very fond of the flavor, can be used in conjunction with a bit of dry ginger several times a day to help relieve diarrhea. Yogurt also has wonderful enzymes for anyone experiencing any kind of digestive disorder, including nausea and diarrhea.
The above mentioned are great diarrhea treatments for adults but may not be recommended for babies and children. As stated earlier, diarrhea in children can be much more serious and should not be dismissed or ignored. Herbal or natural diarrhea treatments should be cleared through a pediatrician before given to a baby or a child. The most effective treatment for diarrhea is preventing the body from losing too many fluids too quickly. To do that clear fluids such as water, Gatorade or Pedialyte should be sipped as often as possible. If a treatment being administered does not seem to be relieving diarrhea then a trip to the doctor may be the best bet. It is always a good idea to be safe and be sure that the underlying cause of diarrhea is addressed.
The good news is that almost all conditions which cause diarrhea can be treated successfully. Unless there is some sort of chronic illness present such as Crohn’s disease, diarrhea is typically something that can be gotten under control in a short period of time. However, there are some occasions in which hospitalization may become necessary. People with compromised immune systems from illness such as HIV/AIDS will also need to monitor their situations much more carefully than a healthy individual with diarrhea will. For the most part, diarrhea does not cause any lasting damage and is almost always more of a nuisance than anything else. Nonetheless, it is still very important to treat diarrhea as soon as the symptoms are noted in any individual, young or old. It is never wise to presume to know the cause of diarrhea or to ignore the complications that can occur with it.