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Diarrhea – causes, side effects and treatments at

Saturday, March 03, 2018 by

Diarrhea is a common intestinal disease characterized by the expulsion of loose, watery stools three or more times in a single day. This condition isn’t serious for most people, as it can be treated with over-the-counter medication and usually lasts no more than three days. This isn’t the same for young children, however, since diarrhea can be fatal for those who have compromised immune systems or are malnourished.

According to, there are two primary types of diarrhea:

  • Acute diarrhea — When a bout of diarrhea only lasts two weeks, it’s known as acute or short-term diarrhea. Acute diarrhea can be caused by viruses (norovirus for adults and rotavirus for children), bacteria (such as enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, which is known to cause traveler’s diarrhea), and parasites (which typically occurs when a person drinks contaminated water or consumes contaminated food).
  • Chronic diarrhea — An episode of diarrhea that lasts for more than four weeks is classified as chronic diarrhea. Unlike acute diarrhea, chronic diarrhea can lead to severe or life-threatening complications if left untreated. Several conditions or circumstances can lead to a person going through chronic diarrhea, and these include:
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Cancer therapies like radiation
    • Celiac disease
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Lactose intolerance
    • Laxative abuse
    • Medication like antibiotics and antacids
    • Ulcerative colitis

Known side effects of diarrhea

In addition to watery stools, diarrhea is marked by numerous other symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Bloody stools
  • Bowel movement urgency
  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of control of bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In some cases, a person can become dehydrated or suffer from malabsorption due to diarrhea. Dehydration will result in the affected person to display the following symptoms:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Exhaustion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Reduced skin elasticity
  • Sunken cheeks or eyes
  • Thirst

Malabsorption, on the other hand, is distinguished by:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Gas
  • Loose, greasy, and foul-smelling bowel movements
  • Weight loss or poor weight gain

Body systems harmed by diarrhea

Diarrhea mainly affects the digestive system, though if it has progressed to the point where the affected person becomes dehydrated, then other organs and organ systems may be affected.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent diarrhea

Because diarrhea can strike at any moment, there are no foods that can totally prevent it. There are, however, certain foods that are recommended for people who already have this condition. As per, people with diarrhea should increase their consumption of:

  • Bananas — These fruits are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps absorb liquid to slow down diarrhea. Bananas are also an excellent source of potassium, which becomes depleted over the span of several diarrhea bouts.
  • White rice — On top of being bland and easy to digest, white rice has a binding effect that can make it harder to pass stool. Choose white rice over brown rice or wild varieties, since the fiber present in these types of rice can further exacerbate diarrhea. This is also why white bread and white pasta are preferable during diarrhea.
  • Yogurt — This is best for diarrhea caused by antibiotics, since these kinds of medication can throw the diversity of gut flora off balance. Eating yogurt can help combat this side effect.

Treatments, management plans for diarrhea

Treating diarrhea will entail replacing fluids and electrolytes in order to minimize the risk of dehydration. This is usually done by drinking more fluids such as oral rehydration beverages and clear broth. Intravenous fluid replacement is usually reserved for the most severe cases. At the same time, caffeinated, sugary, and alcoholic drinks should be avoided since these can worsen dehydration.

Similarly, some foods can aggravate the symptoms of diarrhea, and should therefore be eaten only after the condition has run its course. These foods are:

  • Alcohol
  • All citrus fruits
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Corn
  • Fried or greasy foods
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Onions
  • Pork and veal
  • Processed foods with additives
  • Rhubarb
  • Sardines
  • Spicy foods
  • Tea

Although diarrhea can be treated with rest, a bland diet, and rehydration, there are some cases when medical assistance is required. A doctor should be contacted when the affected person has bloody or black stools, severe abdominal pain, and/or a high-grade fever. In the case of children, a pediatrician should be called if they exhibit these symptoms:

  • Cry without any tears
  • Have a dry mouth or tongue
  • Have a sunken appearance, particularly in the abdomen, cheeks, or eyes
  • Haven’t had a wet diaper in more than three hours
  • Show no improvement after 24 hours

Where to learn more


Diarrhea is a digestive disease wherein affected persons pass loose, watery, and unformed stool. There are numerous potential causes of diarrhea, ranging from bacterial infection to inflammatory diseases to specific medications. More than just watery and loose stool, diarrhea is also marked by abdominal pains, nausea, and dehydration. Diarrhea usually isn’t dangerous, though it can be fatal for young children.

The goal of diarrhea treatment is to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration. This will involve drinking more fluids than usual, eating a bland diet to avoid aggravating the symptoms of diarrhea, and possibly taking some medication to relieve the symptoms.

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