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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Health Issues and Diet >>  Diarrhoea


Diarrhea is a condition in which the sufferer passes frequent watery, loose stools. It may be accompanied by bloating, cramps, urgency to empty bowels, and nausea. Diarrhea is a major health issue in poor and developing countries. The disorder causes severe dehydration in the body, which is a life threatening condition. Elderly and infants are more likely to suffer from acute dehydration caused by diarrhea.

Types of diarrhea

Diarrhea is classified as acute and chronic diarrhea.

Acute diarrhea is considered less serious and lasts for a couple of days, while chronic diarrhea can last for more than two weeks and needs serious medical care and in some cases hospitalization. 

Symptoms of diarrhea

Diarrhea is itself considered a symptom of some disorder in the body. However, symptoms that are associated with diarrhea are as follows:

  • Bloating
  • Urgency to empty bowels
  • Nausea
  • Cramps (stomach/abdominal pain)
  • Fever
  • Fecal incontinence (inability to control bowel movements)
  • Chills
  • Body ache or pain
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Low heart rate
  • Alternating constipation
  • Blood or mucus in stool
  • Severe pain in rectum

Causes of diarrhea

The general causes of diarrhea may include:

  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions (diabetes/Crohn’s disease)
  • Food allergy
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Viral gastroenteritis

Causes of acute diarrhea

Viral gastroenteritis: The most prevalent cause of  acute diarrhea, it is the viral infection in the small intestines and the stomach

Food poisoning: The complication that causes abdominal pain and cramps is caused by toxic bacteria.

Traveler’s diarrhea: This type of diarrhea is usually caused by the E. coli bacteria. The bacteria can be got by consumption of contaminated and unhygienic foods such as raw meat, water, seafood, ice cubes and vegetables.

Bacterial enterocolitis: The bacteria cause inflammation of the colon and small intestines and can cause diarrhea. The bacteria that bring about enterocolitis are salmonella, shigella and EPEC.

Parasites: The infection causes diarrhea brought about by the consumption of contaminated water and foods.

Causes of chronic diarrhea

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Infectious diseases (AIDS)
  • Severe constipation
  • Colon cancer
  • Fat/carbohydrates malabsorption
  • Laxative abuse
  • Endocrine diseases (hypothyroidism/Addison’s disease)

Some medications are also the cause of diarrhea. These are as follows:

  • Chemotherapy medication
  • Antacids
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Antibiotics
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Hypertension medication
  • Antiarrhythmics (irregular heart beat medicine)

Treatment of Dysentery

Some mild cases of diarrhea are easily treatable at home and do not need medical intervention. However, if the symptoms are chronic and persist for more than 48 hours, expert advice should be taken.

The doctor will first seek the detailed information about the symptoms and the recent behavioral history of the patient. After the initial analysis, some medical tests such as stool examination may be prescribed.

Some severe cases may require medical examination such as sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. The procedures entail detailed examination of the rectum and the colon with a thin, flexible tube. Further tests may be ordered to rule out any other complications.

The most crucial aspect of treatment of diarrhea is rehydration. Consumption of fluids that contain sodium, sugar, or potassium assists in the betterment of the condition.

Some of the medications that may be suggested by the doctor for treatment of diarrhea are given below.

  • Oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
  • Anti-diarrhea medicines
  • Antibiotics
  • Painkillers
  • Intravenous fluids (treatment in hospital)

Prevention of diarrhea

The most effective prevention method for infectious diarrhea is good hygiene habits. Some of the precautions that may help avoid infection are as follows.

  • Drink packaged bottled water
  • Eat cooked vegetables
  • Peel and wash the fruits thoroughly with bottled water
  • Avoid raw meat or seafood
  • Avoid ice
  • Avoid street food
  • Wash hands regularly
  • Get proper vaccination

However, some of the cases of diarrhea, especially those caused by medical complications, are unavoidable. Call for medical help if the condition persists.


Submitted on January 16, 2014