If you need to know how to stop diarrhea, it is important to know why it started in the first place. Diarrhea has many causes, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Your body can give you a lot of good clues about what is causing you to feel ill. Here is everything you need to know about what diarrhea is, what causes diarrhea, and how to treat it quickly.
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a common medical condition that results in loose and watery stool. Reasons for diarrhea can include: viral infection, food allergies, changes in your diet, medications, digestive diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Typically, diarrhea only lasts a few days, and usually resolves within 2-3 days from onset. However, long-lasting, frequent, or severe diarrhea, can be a sign that you have a deeper problem.
While diarrhea is usually a mild symptom caused by something else going on in the body, it can have very serious consequences. One of the most dangerous complications of diarrhea is dehydration. Because we lose a lot of fluid when we have diarrhea, our bodies can very quickly become depleted of water. This is common in children and the elderly.
Narrowing Down the Cause
It can be very difficult to determine exactly why you are experiencing diarrhea. The most common cause of diarrhea lasting multiple days, is a viral infection. Usually referred to as “food poisoning” or the “stomach flu,” a gastrointestinal infection is usually suspected when you become ill after eating contaminated foods. This can happen 1 to 10 days after eating something unsanitary.
While most bacteria in food is eliminated during the cooking process, it is not uncommon for foods that cause diarrhea to include: raw shellfish, undercooked meats, unwashed produce, raw eggs, and even deli lunch meat. Always store your food at the appropriate temperature, and make sure your meal is fully cooked before eating. This is usually the best defense against viral or parasitic causes.
When it comes to diarrhea that does not resolve within a few days, or diarrhea that returns often, you will want to visit your doctor. You may be suffering from an allergy or intolerance to a particular food in your diet. You may even need to be treated for a chronic condition such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. These diseases may be to blame if you suffer from recurrent periods of gas and diarrhea, or have regular episodes of diarrhea after eating.
Your doctor can also help you identify if any medications you are taking might be the cause of your persistent diarrhea. Common prescriptions like antibiotics, antidepressants, and antacids, list diarrhea as a possible side effect. Your doctor will help you determine if your reaction to a new medication is normal.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Before you can know how to stop diarrhea, you need to make sure your symptoms do not indicate something more serious. Common symptoms that accompany diarrhea include: cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, and fever.
Diarrhea itself will be loose and very watery. It can also be a variety of colors. It is possible to have diarrhea with mucus, which you can identify as a thick, jelly-like substance that accompanies the stool. While clear mucus is normal, white or yellow mucus should be reported to your doctor.
You may see undigested food in your stool. Normally, this is not a cause for concern as foods like corn and grapes are hard for our stomachs to digest. But in the case of diarrhea, you will want to bring it up to your doctor to make sure there is not a specific cause for your illness. Symptoms of diarrhea can change quickly, so always monitor your condition carefully.
As you can see, your stool can tell you a lot about your illness. Again, this will help you learn how to stop diarrhea. Keep these color changes in mind when deciding what steps you should take in your care.
What does the color of my poop means?
Your stool may have different meaning to your health according to its color and texture. Let’s check out some common cases:
While diarrhea itself produces very loose stools, those that are especially clear and watery are often associated with viral or bacterial infections. Medications and food allergies or intolerances can also cause very watery diarrhea.
Clear diarrhea should always be monitored for any changes. If the condition does not go away on its own, your doctor can help you determine what you may be eating or ingesting that is causing this symptom.
While alarming, green diarrhea is usually not serious. The green color may be present due to certain foods like leafy greens or artificially colored sweets or beverages in your diet. Many medications can cause green stool too including iron supplements, vitamins, and laxatives.
Green diarrhea may also result from inadequately processed bile. Bile is a fluid that plays a role in our digestion. If digestion is happening normally, our stool will be brown because bile changes from green, to yellow, to brown, as our food moves through our small intestine. When we are experiencing diarrhea, bile may not have time to undergo this color change.
If you have not ingested any food or medications which may cause green diarrhea, it is important to speak with your physician. While green stools are usually not a cause for concern, they have been known to indicate an underlying condition when they occur with frequent diarrhea.
Yellow diarrhea often goes hand in hand with a bacterial or parasitic infection. If yellow diarrhea starts quickly, or is seen with blood, it is time to get yourself to a hospital.
Yellow diarrhea may also be caused by problems in the digestive system. If you are experiencing yellow diarrhea, your physician will want to perform tests to eliminate digestive disorders like Chron’s Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
The liver and the gallbladder are both associated with many health conditions that can cause yellow diarrhea too. In rare cases cancer may even be the cause, so always alert your doctor of this particular color change.
While black diarrhea is not uncommon if you have been taking iron supplements or a medication that uses bismuth as a main ingredient (like Pepto Bismol), it should be taken seriously.
Black colored stool is most often associated with internal bleeding. Ulcers are a common cause of digestive bleeding and can occur in the stomach and small intestines. Get immediate medical attention if your black stool cannot be attributed to medication or artificially colored foods.
How Much Diarrhea is Too Much?
Because the symptoms of diarrhea are usually persistent, it can be hard to know if you are suffering from a mild, moderate or severe case. The severity of diarrhea is usually determined by how often you are experiencing it, and the amount of stool you are producing.
If you are only having diarrhea a few times during your day, medical experts would consider this to be a “mild” case. Episodes occurring frequently throughout the day, but not more than ten times, would be considered “moderate” in nature.
“Severe diarrhea” will be your diagnosis if you are having more than 10 episodes of diarrhea within a 24-hour period. Severe diarrhea must be addressed by your doctor. Untreated severe diarrhea can result in dehydration or hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition which can affect your kidneys.
If you are in a situation where you have had constant diarrhea for 3 days or more, you should contact your doctor. Most food related illness resolve within this time. Long lasting episodes could suggest infectious diarrhea or a chronic problem with your health.
Diarrhea in Children and Newborns
It is important to know how to stop diarrhea in children because they can experience complications like dehydration, much faster than adults. Children get diarrhea more often than adults but the causes are usually the same.
Always ask your doctor how to treat your child’s diarrhea. Children require specific treatment plans which can include oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte), or specific food and beverage requirements.
Newborn diarrhea can be especially alarming and signs of dehydration can present even faster than in children. It is normal for a newborns stool to be soft, but baby diarrhea may be the case if stools are very frequent and watery.
Diarrhea is dangerous in newborns and children. If a child is not urinating as usual, acting abnormally upset or irritable, is producing no tears, or has less elasticity to their skin, they are considered dehydrated. In infants, the soft spot on head may appear sunken. If this occurs the child must be seen by a medical professional immediately.
6 Steps Treatment For Diarrhea
There are many home remedies for diarrhea that you can try when symptoms first begin. These treatments will not address underlying causes, but they can improve the frequency and severity of your diarrhea. Consider the following when you need to know how to treat diarrhea:
Step 1. Drink
Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do when you have diarrhea. We lose a lot of water when we are experiencing this condition, but we also loose many electrolytes too. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium and potassium. They are needed to help our bodies function normally.
Because we need these electrolytes, especially when we have diarrhea, we cannot rely on plain water alone to keep us properly hydrated. You can ask your doctor how to make a rehydration solution at home, or consume sports beverages or juice instead of plain water. Pedialyte or Rehydralyte are good over-the-counter options for replenishing fluids, especially in children.
Never guzzle your liquids. When you are experiencing diarrhea, you should always sip your beverages slowly to reduce your chances of vomiting any liquid you take in.
Step 2 Eat The Right Food
Diarrhea remedies can be more than medications; they can come from our food too. Although it might not seem wise to eat when you’re suffering from diarrhea, many nutritious foods like can help in improving your health.
Many experts used to recommend a bland diet when recovering from digestive upset, however new research shows they do not always offer the right nutritional balance your body needs. Do not try to eat greasy or heavy meals like pizza or fast food, but definitely stick to heartier meals like soups, veggies, and white meats while ill.
The following is a brief guideline of bland foods you can eat to treat diarrhea:
- Rice Congee Soup (Jook)
- Boiled potato
- White rice
- Skinless Baked chicken
- Plain cracker
Step 3. Tea
Natural remedies like tea should be considered when you need to know how to cure diarrhea.
- Chamomile tea for example, has been used for hundreds of years to treat many digestive ailments.
- Black tea, blackberry and raspberry tea, are also recommended for their astringent properties. Astringents may help reduce water in the intestines.
Step 4. Foods To Avoid If You Are Having Diarrhea
Try avoiding this foods for a quicker diarrhea relief:
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Raw food(sushi, raw meat, raw fish)
- Ice Cream
- Caffeine Drinks
- Fried foods
- Food from yesterday( try eating freshly cooked food all the time)
- Energy Drinks
Step 5. Medications
There is no shortage of over the counter medicine for diarrhea. Popular brands include Imodium A-D. Keep in mind these drugs are not always safe for children or newborns, so always check with your child’s doctor before beginning treatment. When in doubt ask your physician, they will help you know what to take for diarrhea based on your age, symptoms, and other health conditions.
Step 6. See Your Doctor
If the tips above have not helped, or you do not know what to do when you have diarrhea, you should always make a trip to your doctor. Because diarrhea has so many different causes, it is important to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
It will be helpful for your doctor to know a lot about your symptoms including when they began, how often your diarrhea is occurring, and if you have had any changes to your diet or medications. If you suspect your diarrhea might be related to food intolerances, try keeping a food journal to help your doctor identify any triggers in your diet.
Keep track of those things that seem to make your symptoms worse or better. Consider whether you have been around anyone who has been sick, or if you have traveled out of your country. Remember, you can only know how to stop diarrhea, if you can identify the cause.