Diarrhea – what it is, prevention, causes

Diarrhea - what it is, prevention, causes

There are a number of diseases that many people who suffer from them do not like to spread and are even ashamed of them. And diarrhea is one of them. Meanwhile, this condition is often a sign of very serious disorders in the body. Not to mention the fact that diarrhea is dangerous in itself, and may even be fatal. However, practice shows that not all people know how to treat diarrhea properly.

What is diarrhea?

First of all, let’s define this concept. Diarrhea in medicine is called the condition when a person performs an act of defecation, or emptying the intestines too often. Of course, frequent bowel movements is an inaccurate criterion, so it should be clarified. A person who normally eats and consumes a normal amount of water should empty the intestines from 1 time in 2 days to 2 times per day. If defecation occurs more often than twice a day, then this condition can be considered one of the most characteristic signs of diarrhea.
The second determining factor is the consistency of the stool. Normally, human excreta is cylindrical and sufficiently hard. In diarrhea, the type of stool is always different from the usual – it is a semi-liquid, liquid or mushy mass, or even just water. If these symptoms of diarrhea – frequent urge to stool and loose stools last more than two weeks without a break, then diarrhea is considered acute. Otherwise, it should be classified as chronic.

Generally speaking, diarrhea can be a symptom of many diseases. However, by the mere fact of the onset of diarrhea, this disease cannot be determined. Other symptoms play a huge role. It is extremely rare to find a case where diarrhea occurs against the background of complete health and is not accompanied by other characteristic signs.

The main symptoms that often accompany diarrhea:

  • fever;
  • weakness;
  • nausea;
  • intestinal gas formation, meteorism ;
  • pain in the lower or upper abdomen.

You should also pay attention to this characteristic of diarrhea, as the consistency of the chair. Mushy, liquid, watery diarrhea can indicate various gastrointestinal diseases. Also, with diarrhea, there may be some additional discharge – blood, mucus, pieces of undigested food. What matters is the color of the discharge, its volume is abundant or scanty, the smell is offensive or not.

Causes of Diarrhea

What causes diarrhea? The causes of this condition can be varied. It is important to know the cause of the diarrhea, as otherwise the treatment may be ineffective.

A condition like diarrhea can be caused by the following:

  • poisoning,
  • diet errors, overeating,
  • chronic or acute intestinal infections
  • parasitic diseases,
  • lack of digestive enzymes,
  • bowel motility impairment
  • inflammatory processes of the gastrointestinal organs,
  • intestinal bacterial imbalance,
  • tumors of the gastrointestinal tract.

Additional factors contributing to the occurrence of diarrhea are:

  • inadequate personal hygiene;
  • insufficient chewing of food, wrong eating habits;
  • stress and neurosis;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • use of certain types of drugs;
  • reduced immunity;
  • pregnancy;
  • Children’s age.

However, for whatever reason, diarrhea requires a serious attitude and adequate treatment.

Infectious and parasitic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract

Our digestive organs are very convenient gates for the penetration into the body of various disease agents. It doesn’t matter that it is specific – viruses, bacteria, protozoa or multicellular parasites. Many microorganisms are able to settle in the intestines and cause infectious diseases leading to diarrhea.

Major viral and bacterial infections that can cause diarrhea:

  • salmonellosis,
  • dysentery,
  • rotavirus infection,
  • enterovirus infection.

Typically, the main symptom indicating that diarrhea is caused by an infection is fever. Also, infections of the gastrointestinal tract are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and general weakness. Patients often complain that they have a stomach ache or cramps are present in the lower abdomen. Stool with infectious diarrhea frequent. For diseases such as dysentery, it is characterized by very liquid feces, usually it has a fetid odor, impurities of mucus or blood.

Lack of digestive enzymes

Digestion is a complex chemical process. Many substances are involved in it, whose task is the splitting of the organic substance entering the digestive tract into simple compounds that can be absorbed by the tissues of the body. Many of the substances necessary for digestion are produced by various organs – the liver, the stomach, the pancreas. Such compounds include pepsins, bile, pancreatic enzymes – protease, lipase, amylase. If one of the enzymes is lacking, this means that undigested food remains will accumulate in the intestine. It causes irritation and intestinal upset, which causes diarrhea.


Often, liquid stool is a reaction of the body to toxic substances. Any toxins may well be in the food we absorb. This may concern mainly stale or expired products, products treated with some chemicals or containing poisons (mushrooms, fruits and vegetables). It is also possible the ingestion of drugs in large doses, chemicals. This circumstance may well cause poisoning of the body, accompanied by diarrhea. As a rule, in case of poisoning, not only liquid stool, but also other symptoms are observed. Usually, poisoning is initially accompanied by stomach cramps and spasms. As the pathological process develops, the poisoning begins to manifest as cramping pain, vomiting, nausea, sometimes headaches, neurological symptoms, or symptoms of cardiovascular failure.

One of the varieties of this type of diarrhea can be attributed to the so-called “traveler’s diarrhea.” Although in reality this disease has a whole complex of reasons. It occurs in individuals who try unusual and unfamiliar food in large quantities. Most often, this behavior is typical for people who travel to distant and exotic countries and want to get new sensations. However, the problem is that our gastrointestinal tract and the body as a whole are conservative in nature and are to a certain extent tuned to the diet to which they are accustomed from childhood. And when confronted with something new, their work is disorganized, resulting in loose stools and indigestion.

Inflammatory processes of the digestive organs

Often, diarrhea accompanies inflammatory diseases of the digestive system, not directly caused by infectious agents. When these diseases are observed inflammation or ulcers of the surface of the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines, which, in turn, leads to gastrointestinal disorders. In addition to stool disorders, inflammatory diseases of the stomach and duodenum are often accompanied by heartburn, characteristic belching, unpleasant taste in the mouth (bitter or metallic). These diseases include:

  • gastritis ,
  • enteritis,
  • cholecystitis,
  • colitis
  • autoimmune diseases (for example, Crohn’s disease )

Intestinal motility impairment

For diseases of this type, undigested food residues due to malfunctions of the autonomic nervous system of the intestine move too fast along it and do not have time to form solid fecal masses. Most often, this type of diarrhea is characteristic of a disease called the “irritable large bowel syndrome”. The urge to defecate in this syndrome may appear more often than usual, and be associated with moments of nervous tension. However, the total amount of feces usually does not exceed the norm, and dehydration characteristic of other types of diarrhea, as a rule, is not observed.


A lot of bacteria that live in our intestines are not pathogenic, but take part in the process of digestion. In the event that the number of intestinal bacteria drops catastrophically, for example, in the case of taking antibiotics, reproduction of other microorganisms can be observed, as well as failures in the digestive process, which often leads to diarrhea. After restoring the microflora balance, the stool usually returns to normal.


What if diarrhea is chronic? To identify the causes of pathology, you must consult a doctor. Although not all patients do this. But this is not always prudent, because it is completely unknown what pathology manifests itself due to diarrhea. This may be an occasional mild food poisoning, and a relatively harmless irritable bowel syndrome, which, in principle, can not pay special attention, and require prolonged treatment of ulcerative colitis, and salmonellosis, in which the patient is subject to immediate hospitalization, and extremely dangerous tumors.

As for acute diarrhea, especially severe, then here, of course, any doubts about the advisability of going to a doctor should be discarded. If diarrhea is acute, the acute dehydration associated with the disease can often be fatal. Statistics show that every year in the world diarrhea kills more than a million children. It must be remembered that most of the infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are dangerous not by themselves, but complications associated with diarrhea.

In some cases, if it is a relatively mild diarrhea, the patient can determine the causes of diarrhea himself – for example, overeating or food poisoning, and draw appropriate conclusions about how to treat it.


How to treat diarrhea? It must be remembered that this is not an independent disease, but only a symptom, although it is rather dangerous in itself. Therefore, to eliminate diarrhea, it is necessary, first of all, to eliminate the pathology that caused it. However, symptomatic treatment of diarrhea is also very important in many cases.

Let us examine the main methods that can successfully treat the diarrhea that has arisen. They can be both medical and non-drug. Non-drug methods of dealing with diarrhea include diet, methods for cleansing the stomach, etc.

Drug treatment

First of all, medications will help get rid of diarrhea. They can be divided into several main groups:

  • sorbents,
  • antibiotics and intraintestinal antiseptics,
  • probiotics,
  • antidiarrheal drugs,
  • means to restore body fluid (rehydration).

Enterosorbents are agents that absorb the contents of the stomach and intestines, bind and neutralize it, and then take it out to the feces. Thus, if loose stools are caused by some foreign agents (microorganisms or toxins), they can be removed from the body with the help of enterosorbents.

What to do with diarrhea caused by pathogenic microorganisms – bacteria, protozoa or parasites? To get rid of them, apply antibiotics or antihelminthicides. It is worth noting that at the moment there are no effective tools that affect the viral pathogens of infectious diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, it must be borne in mind that antibiotics should be prescribed exclusively by a doctor. If used incorrectly or choosing an antibiotic, it will not only have no effect, that is, the money for its purchase will be thrown to the wind, but it can also harm the body.

Most often diarrhea is treated with antidiarrheal drugs such as loperamide, which affect intestinal motility and slow down the movement of fecal masses on it. This type of medicine, however, may not be effective with any diarrhea, and sometimes they can even cause harm. Therefore, before using this type of drugs, it is necessary to clarify the cause of diarrhea.

You can use antispasmodic medications, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pronounced pain syndrome. However, it should be firmly learned – they can be used only if the source of pain is well established, the disease is diagnosed and does not threaten the patient’s life. Therefore, before taking these drugs you should consult with your doctor. In some cases, painkillers may mask the development of life-threatening infectious and inflammatory processes in the gastrointestinal tract.

Means for restoring fluid in the body is a type of medication that is often not taken seriously. And it is in vain, because they help the body to fight dehydration. Salt solutions such as Regidron are most often used for this purpose.

Probiotics are usually used if diarrhea is caused by dysbiosis. In the case of a decrease in the number of normal intestinal microflora, probiotics will restore balance in the gastrointestinal tract and normalize digestion. However, in most cases, the use of these drugs alone will not be able to rectify the situation.

The choice of funds from any group depends on the etiology of the disease. Therefore, in order to learn how to treat diarrhea, you must first identify the source of the problem.

If frequent loose stools are caused by food or household poisoning, then the most effective treatment is gastric lavage and / or ingestion of enterosorbents. You must also take the means to restore fluid in the body.

If diarrhea is caused by an infection, it is necessary to use antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, anti-inflammatory drugs, as an auxiliary element of therapy, and rehydration agents.

In irritable bowel syndrome, non-infectious colitis, enteritis and gastritis, antidiarrheal and anti-inflammatory drugs will be most effective. The method of treatment of inflammatory processes of the gastrointestinal tract is quite complex and the treatment strategy must be determined by the doctor.

How to treat diarrhea caused by a lack of digestive enzymes? It is quite simple – first of all you should take enzyme preparations containing pancreatic enzymes and bile. Antidiarrheal drugs will also be useful.


Diet is an important part of therapy. First of all, it is necessary for those who do not know how to get rid of diarrhea. Acceptance of any drugs in most cases will be useless if the patient simultaneously consumes foods that irritate the digestive organs and contribute to delaying the disease.

Diet depends on the type of disease. However, there are a number of principles that must be followed when eating.

It is necessary to exclude from the diet too fatty and sweet food, products that provoke active fermentation and gas formation in the stomach, fizzy drinks, spicy foods, alcohol. Preference should be given to boiled food, and not raw, and the more so, not fried, and not smoked. Food should be easily digestible, that is, hardly digestible products such as mushrooms should be excluded from the diet. Equally important is drinking. With a strong dehydration it is useful to drink saline solutions, for intestinal infections – decoctions of chamomile, rosehip, strong tea.


Prevention includes, first of all, personal hygiene, washing and proper heat treatment of food. It is also important to follow the correct diet, not to eat expired or spoiled products, products of dubious origin, to ensure that hazardous chemicals are not eaten. It is also important to monitor eating habits, not to eat on the go or dry ration, avoid stress, overwork, monitor health status and treat chronic diseases in time.

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