diarrhoea head pic

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea, it happens to all of us and often at the worst possible time, like during an exam on or holiday with your mates. As polite English folk we get embarrassed to talk about it and many of cringe just at the thought of having to say the word out loud. Let’s face it, who wants to have to tell anyone that they don’t want to go to the beach today as they are having to poo every 5 minutes. However, this is a safe space in which we can discuss such unpleasant and “improper” topics like diarrhoea. Serious diarrhoea can be pretty scary so check out the facts, know when it’s time to worry, and when it’s time to just take a chill day at home somewhere close to the toilet!

+   Symptoms

I probably don’t have to tell you the symptoms of diarrhoea but let’s run through them and I’ll let you know when they get serious enough to head towards a doctor or A&E. Remember 3-4 days of diarrhoea and you should go see your doctor even if some of the following symptoms are missing, you need to find the underlying cause and make sure you are getting enough fluids and nutrients.

  • Loose, watery stool (if you don’t know stool is the fancy medical word for poo, as I will be talking about poo at lot today, I’m going to use the word stool. I doubt you want to read the word poo a hundred times over anyway)
  • Stool that occurs more frequently than normal
  • Abdominal pain/cramps
  • Bloating
  • Fever – anything over 39°C and you should go to A&E
  • Blood in stool – you should see a doctor
  • Dehydration – severe dehydration can be very serious and may need immediate emergency attention.  Diarrhoea can cause dehydration as your body is losing fluid every time you go to the toilet.  If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you are dehydrated and need to take in more fluid, the last three symptoms are pretty serious and you should definitely go get checked out by a doctor ASAP:
    • Headaches
    • Decrease in the amount you pee or really dark pee (check your pee (it’s not weird) it should be a pale straw colour if you are well hydrated)
    • Thirst and dry mouth
    • You may start to notice dizziness due to a drop in blood pressure
    • Lack of appetite
    • Tiredness and fatigue
    • Decrease in reaction time and concentration
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Rapid heart rate or breathing

+   Causes

There are a number of causes that lead to diarrhoea but what they are causing to happen is for food passing through your digestive system to move too fast or in too large a quantity. Usually your colon removes some water/fluid out of your stool making it more solid and compact. In cases of diarrhoea it hasn’t had time to do this, this may be due to:

  • Virus or Bacteria
    • What we often refer to as a tummy bug
    • Common when travelling
      • Contaminated food or water
      • Unhygienic conditions
      • Watch what you eat and drink abroad; make sure to ask if tap water is safe. If not or you are unsure avoid it, and ice cubes in drinks, and go with bottled water instead. Raw fruit and veg can also be risky.
    • Frequently associated with a fever
  • Medicine
    • Some medicines can cause diarrhoea
    • Antibiotics are a common culprit as the kill both good and bad bacteria and this can upset the balance in your digestive tract
    • If you think it’s being caused by medicine you are taking go and see your doctor to see if there is an alterative
  • Lactose Intolerance
    • Some people find it hard to process a certain sugar in dairy products called lactose
    • It means that eating dairy can cause them to have an upset stomach
    • Lactose intolerance is not uncommon and may increase with age
  • Fructose and Artificial sweeteners (like sorbitol)
    • Found in a bunch of things but stuff like gum can be a problem
  • Surgery
  • Other digestive conditions/problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease

+   Treatment

Most cases of diarrhoea will clear up on their own after a couple of days. There are a couple of things you can do to help improve matters and to avoid things getting worse

Do

  • Stay hydrated - this is the most important and easiest thing you can do
    • When you lose fluid through your stool you aren’t just losing water but important salts also
    • Make sure you replace both the salts and water, sports drinks like lucozade will help with this or make your own and add some fruit juice with a pinch of salt to your water
    • Be careful as fruit juice can make diarrhea worse,
    • There are special diarrhoea medications which have salts and sugars to help with rehydration
  • Gradually reintroduce food into your diet starting with simple foods that are easy to digest
    • Rice
    • Toast
    • Plain chicken

Don’t

It will just make things worse, trust me!

  • Eat foods that
    • Are high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, certain cereals)
    • Greasy or fatty foods (lay off the Macky D’s for a couple of days)
    • Dairy products
  • Drink anything with
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Fruit Juice

Time to see the doctor?

 If you are still having problems 3-4 days in pay a visit to the doctor. He will likely:

  • Ask you some questions and look for underlying causes. Depending what he finds he may:
    • Prescribe some medicine such as an antibiotic if they think there is a bacterial infection causing the issues
    • Adjust medicines that may be causing the problem
    • Run more tests to see if it is something more serious like:
      • Crohn’s
      • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Send you to hospital as you may need  IV fluids if he thinks you are too dehydrated

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