Diarrhea is characterized by an increase in the frequency, consistency and volume of stool. More specifically, diarrhea refers to at least 3 liquid or soft stools in a 24-hour period.
Normally, only a very small amount of the fluids that we ingest every day is eliminated in the stool after passing through the intestines. Our body recovers almost all of this liquid and excretes most of it through the kidneys and bladder. When the intestines have trouble recovering this liquid, more is eliminated in the stool, which can cause diarrhea.
Diarrhea has many causes. It can be a symptom of a health problem or food intolerance or allergy (e.g., lactose intolerance), or it can be a side effect of medication. Diarrhea can also occur from stress or anxiety . Although unpleasant, diarrhea can be very useful and even beneficial. For example, diarrhea is a mechanism that quickly eliminates viruses, bacteria or parasites in the intestines following an infection or food poisoning.
A few simple rules will help you prevent infections and food poisoning that can cause diarrhea.
If you’re travelling to a region where food and water safety standards aren't the same as at home, you need to take precautions to prevent traveller's diarrhea.
You should consult a doctor when:
Below are some foods you can eat and foods to avoid when you get diarrhea. It is very important that you keep from getting dehydrated.
Ever wonder what you can eat when you have diarrhea? You can try rehydration solutions, diluted juices, dry crackers, white toast, white rice, soup or broth. Instead of having 3 large meals during the day, you should also eat smaller amounts more often. Once you feel better, you should go back to eating a varied and balanced diet.
These solutions compensate for lost water and mineral salts caused by diarrhea and prevent dehydration. Examples of commercial preparations include Gastrolyte™ and Pedialyte™. A homemade solution can also do in a pinch if you can't get out to buy one.
Rehydration solutions are recommended for everyone, especially people most at risk of dehydration, such as children and seniors.
Drink small quantities of these solutions at a time and at regular and frequent intervals. For adults, the recommended amount is 30 ml to 90 ml (2 to 6 tablespoons) every 30 to 60 minutes up to a maximum of 2 to 3 litres in a 24-hour period. For children, the amount is determined by weight: 1 ml/kg every 5 minutes over a 4-hour period. If the diarrhea persists after this period, keep giving your child the same dose for another 4-hour period.
Homemade rehydration solution recipe
Measure each ingredient precisely and mix together. Store unused portions in the fridge and make a fresh solution each day.
Over-the-counter medications can help treat diarrhea by keeping water out of the stool and slowing down intestinal contractions. These medications are not always recommended, particularly if you have a fever, which can be a sign of food poisoning or a microbe that needs to be flushed out of your system. Talk to your pharmacist, who can help you choose the best medication for your health condition.
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our intestinal flora and play a role in the health of our digestive system. Probiotic supplements, which are available over the counter, can help prevent and treat some types of diarrhea, such as diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics kill a particular bacteria causing an infection, but they also destroy good bacteria in the intestinal flora, which causes diarrhea. Ask your pharmacist which type of probiotics are best for you.