Don’t Flush Away Your Day

By Cheryl L Bascom, M.D. and Michael D. Canty, M.D.
Tri-State Digestive Disease Associates, P.S.C.

Don't Flush Away Your DayDiarrhea is loose, watery, and frequent stool. It is an uncomfortable condition that can have many causes, but diarrhea is most commonly caused by viral infections or bacterial toxins, viruses or parasites, certain medicines, food intolerances and diseases that affect the stomach, small intestine or colon. Acute diarrhea, due to viral gastroenteritis, is an unpleasant digestive disorder. It estimated that most Americans will experience diarrhea at least once.

Gastroenteritis virus (viral infection of the stomach and small intestine) is the most common cause of acute diarrhea. Acute diarrhea accompanied by fever and blood or mucus in the stool may indicate bacterial or parasital infection.

Chronic or recurrent diarrhea may be an indication that the digestive system is unable to absorb nutrients, salt and water from food, which are subsequently lost from the body through the watery bowels.

There are at least four types of diarrhea: secretory diarrhea, osmotic diarrhea, motility-related diarrhea, diarrhea and inflammation. Secretory diarrhea means that there is an increase in active secretion, or there is an inhibition of absorption. Osmotic diarrhea occurs when there is a loss of water due to heavy osmotic. Motility related to diarrhea occurs when the motility of the gastrointestinal tract is abnormal. Inflammatory diarrhea occurs when there is damage to the lining or the brush border, which leads to a loss of liabilities protein-rich fluid, and less capacity to absorb fluids lost.

Symptoms of diarrhea include abdominal bloating or cramps, thin or loose stools. Diarrhea depletes the body of electrolytes, which are important minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and calcium. A lack of these minerals can cause fatigue, tiredness and dehydration. Dehydration may cause dryness in mouth, light-headedness, dry skin and hair, and feeling thirsty. Other symptoms of diarrhea include blood, mucus or undigested food in the stool, weight loss and fever.

Most diarrhea lasts up to three or four days, even if left untreated. Consult a physician if diarrhea persists for more than four days.

The following are some tips to consider  when you do experience diarrhea:
• Drink plenty of fluid to avoid becoming dehydrated.
• Don’t wash pet cages or bowls in the same sink you use to wash your dishes.
• A diet high in FIBER may help relieve your symptoms.
• Active cultures of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) make diarrhea less severe.
• Foods like rice, dry toast, and bananas can  sometimes help with diarrhea.
• Wash your hands often , especially after going  to the bathroom and before eating.
• Do not eat uncooked vegetables or fruits that  do not have peels.

Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own without treatment. However, diarrhea may cause a loss of significant amounts of water and salts. See your doctor if you experience any of the following.

Seek immediate medical attention
In children, particularly young children, diarrhea — especially if combined with either fever or vomiting or both — can sometimes lead to dehydration. Call your doctor if your child’s diarrhea doesn’t improve after 24 hours or if your baby:
• Hasn’t had a wet diaper in three or more hours
• Has a fever of more than 102 F (39 C)
• Has bloody or black stools
• Has a dry mouth or cries without tears
• Is unusually sleepy, drowsy, unresponsive or irritable
• Has a sunken appearance to the abdomen, eyes or cheeks
• Has skin that doesn’t flatten if pinched and released

Schedule a doctor’s visit
In adults, diarrhea usually resolves on its own without any complications. See your doctor if:
• Your diarrhea persists beyond two days without any sign of improvement
• You become dehydrated — as evidenced by excessive thirst, dry mouth or skin, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, or dark-colored urine
• You have severe abdominal or rectal pain
• You have bloody or black stools
• You have a fever of more than 102 F (39 C)

Diarrhea is a preventable and treatable issue that everyone, at some point in their life experiences. If you are suffering with recurring diarrhea the underlying cause may be curable. Don’t waste any more time flushing your day down the toilette, speak to a gastroenterologist today and be diarrhea free tomorrow.

Tri-State Digestive Disease Associates, P.S.C.
(606) 324-3188
617 23rd Street, Suite 11
Ashland, KY 41101

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