Diarrhea is primarily characterized by the increased frequency of passing watery and loose stools (typically more than 3 times a day), accompanied by occasional abdominal pain. There are acute and chronic forms of diarrhea: Acute forms of diarrhea are typically based on underlying bacterial, viral or parasitical infections and for the most time subside on their own. Chronic diarrhea may stem from different illnesses or disorders (e.g. Celiac disease, IBS or food intolerances) and if lasting longer than 1 month require elaborated medical attention. 

Symptoms of Diarrhea

If the following symptoms are present in association with diarrhea, immediate medical care is needed:

 

  • Dehydration
  • Watery stool
  • Bloody or black colored stools

 

  • Fever
  • Abdominal or rectal pain
  • Sudden mental confusion and extreme physical weakness

Complications of Diarrhea

One of the most dangerous consequence of diarrhea is dehydration.
 
Dehydration happens when the body lost too much water without replacing it. This then prevents adequate body function performance. If untreated, dehydration can become a life-threatening matter, especially for infants and children.

Causes of Diarrhea

1. Systemic infections 

The most common cause of diarrheal distress is a (systemic) infection that can be caused by: viruses, bacteria and parasites. 
Usually, if the underlying infection clears up, diarrheal episodes should pass as well.

 

2. Medication

Antibiotics, cardiovascular medications, blood pressure altering drugs, diuretics and antacids can
disrupt the normal stool passage and can have diarrhea as a side effect.

 

3. Food intolerances

Lactose intolerance: 

Lactose is a type of sugar, characteristically found in milk and dairy products. People with lactose intolerance cannot properly digest this type of sugar. As a result, the undigested lactose
accumulates in the colon, causing osmotic imbalances that results in diarrhea.


Fructose intolerance:

Fructose is a kind of sugar that is naturally present in higher amounts in fruits (e.g. apples, watermelons, pears, mangos as well as dried fruits), honey and agave syrup. Vegetables like asparagus, sugar snap peas and artichokes can also contain significant fructose concentrations. Just like lactose, fructose can be hard to digest for some people, thus resulting in unpleasant episodes of diarrhea. Fructose malabsorption can vary from individual to individual. Thus, some find it easier to tolerate low- fructose fruits such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi and citrus fruits.

 

4.Diet

Excessive consumption of fiber can sometimes initiate diarrhea. In this case it is best to lower your intake. Fiber is good for your digestive health, yet one should not overdo it. In general, 25-30 g of fiber are the recommended amount per day.
People who want to increase their fiber intake should gradually add them to their diet, so that the digestive tract can slowly get used to it.
The same is true for the excessive consumption of fruits. Not only do they contain lots of fiber, but also high amounts of fructose. In some people fructose can lead to an oversensitive gut reaction that results in diarrhea.

Artificial sweeteners often found in fat and sugar-reduced products can be hard to digest and cause osmotic changes in your colon. In some people this results in diarrhea.

 

5.Chronic disorders 
 
Other health issues often go hand in hand with diarrheal complaints:
 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis
If diarrheal problems are a persistent issue, it is vital to speak to a doctor in order to detect the underlying causes of your symptoms to initiate adequate treating measures. 

"Nature does not hurry. Yet everything is accomplished."

- Lao Tzu -

 

 

Natural ways to treat diarrhea

Diet

Most of the time diarrhea eases off within few days. While coping with the symptoms there are some things you can do to avoid further complications and to support your body’s curative process.

Fluid and electrolyte replacement
 

The number one thing to do when suffering from diarrhea is to keep yourself hydrated and to prevent yourself from getting dehydrated.
Diarrhea can cause severe loss of water, electrolytes and important minerals like sodium and potassium.
 
The following liquids are recommended:

 

Clear broths

Light Soups

Clear juices

Suitable food choices during reoccurring diarrheal episode

It is best to eat foods that are not heavily spiced or fried to avoid aggravating the intestinal tract. 
Gently prepared, bland and mostly soft foods should be eaten until your symptoms subside.
 

 

It is recommended to eat:

  • Bananas
  • Cooked or steamed vegetables (e.g. carrots, potatoes)
  • Rice porridge
  • Chicken broth
  • Semi-solid foods with low-fiber content can be added gradually as your bowel movements level off.
    Try soda crackers, eggs or plain chicken breast and/or cooked rice.

It is recommended to avoid:

  • Dairy products
  • Greasy and heavily spiced foods
  • Carbonated and caffeinated drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fiber-rich foods
With diarrhea it is important to actually give your body and your immune system enough time to rest.
Don’t force yourself into returning to your daily routine if your body is not participating.
 
 
Side note: It is strongly advised to see a doctor before starting any kind of therapeutic approach.

Traveller's Diarrhea.

How it occurs and how to prevent it

When visiting a foreign country, travelers are often exposed to a higher risk of contracting a bacterial infection due to unhygienic surroundings, contaminated foods and insufficiently purified water.

The best way to treat is to prevent

 Here is a Dos and Don’ts list that if kept in mind can help to make travelling safe and enjoyable for you and your bowel.


 

 

Food
 

Dos

  • Eat food that has been freshly cooked
  • Only eat fruits that you have washed and peeled by yourself 
  • Make sure the plates and silverware you use are clean 
  • Use prepackaged condiments  
     

Don’ts 

  • Do not eat raw meats if you cannot guarantee its freshness 
  • Avoid eating foods from a street vendor
  • Do not eat raw vegetables or fruits if you cannot guarantee
    it has been  safely prepared
  • Do not eat unpasteurized dairy products
  • Do not eat foods that have been left out for too long (e.g. buffets)
  • Do not consume foods if the seal of the packaging is damaged
     

Beverages
 

Dos

  • Drink pre-bottled and pre-canned beverages 
  • Drink beverages that are served hot (coffee & tea)
  • Water should be always boiled for safety before being consumed 


Don’ts

  • Do not drink tap water or use tap water to brush your teeth 
  • Do not add ice cubes to your drinks, unless you made them from purified or boiled water
  • Do not consume the beverage if the seal of the packaging has been broken

Others
 

 

  • Make sure to stay in a hygienic environment  
  • Wash your hands several times throughout the day 
  • Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you 
  • Avoid touching your mouth or nose at all times

Inform yourself about potential infectious risks and disease warnings for the country you are traveling to. Depending on where you are going you should ask your doctor about other precautionary measures that you can take.