Most people have experienced the discomfort of diarrhea at some point in their lives. It’s often nothing to be worried about, but when is diarrhea a sign of a bigger health problem? Can diarrhea ever be dangerous? Here are some facts about this sometimes common irritation.
Diarrhea has many ordinary causes. If you get diarrhea seemingly out of nowhere, you probably have a virus commonly called intestinal flu or stomach flu. Other causes of diarrhea include:
· Alcohol abuse
· Food allergies, especially lactose intolerance and Celiac disease
· Intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
· Eating foods that upset the digestive system
· Food poisoning or other infections caused by bacteria
· Laxative use or abuse
· Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
· Radiation therapy
· Some cancers
· Surgery on your digestive system
· Trouble absorbing certain nutrients, also called “malabsorption”
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome often get diarrhea, usually after being constipated for a while. You may also get “traveler’s diarrhea” when visiting a different country or soon after returning. Contact your doctor if this becomes severe.
Diarrhea can involve many symptoms, not just watery bowel movements. These include:
· Stomach bloating
· Thin or loose stools
· Watery stools
· An urgent feeling that you need to go to the bathroom
· Nausea and throwing up
· Blood or mucus in your stool
· Weight loss
Some of these symptoms are normal, while others may be cause for concern. Talk to your doctor if you have diarrhea for more than two days, severe pain, a very high fever, blood in your diarrhea, or throwing up to the point you are becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration is the most serious risk associated with diarrhea. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids while you are suffering from this sickness. Visit a doctor if you fear you aren’t able to retain a healthy amount of fluid due to diarrhea and/ or vomiting.
Some types of diarrhea are not preventable. For example, if you have food allergies or other medical conditions that cause diarrhea, it will probably continue. Infectious diarrhea from intestinal flu can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene. This includes washing your hands well and often.
If you are traveling to a developing country, WebMD recommends taking the following precautions to prevent traveler’s diarrhea:
· Drink only bottled water, even for tooth brushing.
· Avoid eating food from street vendors.
· Avoid ice made with tap water.
· Eat only those fruits or vegetables that are cooked or can be peeled.
· Be sure that all the foods you eat are thoroughly cooked and served steaming hot.
· Never eat raw or under-cooked meat or seafood.
· Obtain hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations prior to travel, if indicated for that region.
If you already have diarrhea, it should go away on its own after one to two days. Go to the doctor if this is not the case. Over the counter medications such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol can help stop diarrhea. The drug loperamide, commonly referred to as Imodium, makes food move through your intestines slower. This allows your body to have more time to absorb liquid. Bismuth subsalicylate medications such as Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol are also beneficial. These help even out the way liquid moves through the digestive system. Don’t take both of these medicines at the same time.
If you are suffering from diarrhea or another health issue that you think needs professional medical help, look no further than Bass Advanced Urgent Care. The walk in clinic provides fast, accurate diagnoses that get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Call (925) 329-3718 to schedule an appointment, or just come in any weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.