Healthy Living

Diarrhea: The Top 10 Questions

Diarrhea: The Top 10 Questions

Is diarrhea a sign of early pregnancy?

Diarrhea is a very common sign of early pregnancy. Every woman is different and so are her experiences of pregnancy. Not every woman experiences the same symptoms. Hence, diarrhea is also not a symptom that every pregnant woman experiences, although it’s quite common. Many women make sudden changes in their diet when they come to know that they are pregnant to ensure that the baby is getting the sufficient amount of nutrients it needs. This alteration in diet can sometimes lead to an upset stomach or diarrhea.

Some pregnant women also become sensitive to particular foods, which give them an upset stomach or diarrhea. A woman experiences several hormonal changes during pregnancy, which may also cause a digestive upset. Some kind of bacterial or viral infection may also cause diarrhea.

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Can diarrhea cause a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when the bacteria Escherichia coli invades the urethra and travels up to the bladder. Diarrhea itself doesn’t cause UTI, but if you are suffering from diarrhea and not following a proper hygiene, you could develop this condition. During diarrhea, you frequently have bowel movements, which increase the chances of introduction of bacteria to the urethra. Thus, it becomes important to clean yourself properly each time you pass the stool to reduce the risk of infection.  

When experiencing diarrhea, always wipe from front to back. If you wipe from back to front, it can transfer the bacteria from the anus into the urethra, causing a UTI. Moreover, be sure to take a shower immediately afterward. Thoroughly wash your genitals and buttocks area with water to ensure proper hygiene. When cleaning the vaginal area with soap, be cautious as soap can get into the urethra and cause an infection. Wash the genital area thoroughly to clean it after using soap. If you suspect that UTI is present, immediately consult your doctor to receive proper treatment.

Can diarrhea cause you to lose weight?

Yes, chronic diarrhea can cause you to lose weight. Diarrhea that lasts for more than four weeks is referred to as chronic diarrhea. During this condition, the affected person passes watery or semisolid bowels for several weeks, without any improvement. If you are losing weight during that time, it indicates that the food you are eating is moving very quickly through your digestive tract without being properly digested or absorbed. Inflammatory disease, medication side effects, infection, and sensitivity to certain nutrients such as lactose or gluten are some of the common causes of chronic diarrhea and weight loss. If you are going through diarrhea and weight loss, consult your doctor to identify the primary cause of the problem and receive the proper treatment.

Sometimes, a particular problem with digesting or absorbing foods can cause diarrhea and weight loss. For example, if your pancreas is not producing sufficient enzymes or digestive juices to break down foods, fats simply pass through the intestines, causing watery or fatty bowel movements. It may also result in malnutrition, weight loss, abdominal distention, and smelly intestinal gas. Sometimes, due to the damage of the small intestine's absorptive surface lining, malabsorption occurs. Malabsorption can also result in chronic diarrhea and weight loss. Certain infections and weight-loss surgeries can also result in malabsorption problems.

Will diarrhea cause dehydration?

Chronic diarrhea causes the body to lose more fluids than it needs per day, resulting in dehydration. Dehydration mainly refers to the condition when your body doesn’t have enough fluid it needs to function properly. Severe dehydration can completely shut down your kidneys to stop functioning, which is a life-threatening condition if not treated early.

If you are having diarrhea, you should carefully observe the following signs and symptoms of dehydration:

When you are suffering from diarrhea, you rapidly lose fluid in your body. For this reason, it’s important to consume as much fluid as you can. Drinking plenty of water will help you replenish the amount of water you have lost.

Does diarrhea stop on its own?

Diarrhea is not an illness; it is a symptom of another health issue, such as an infection caused by certain medications, food allergies, and bacteria or viruses in food or water. In the majority of cases, diarrhea stops on its own within 48 hours without any treatment. All you need to do is to make sure that you stay hydrated while diarrhea runs its course and avoid foods that can make you suffer more. However, sometimes, specialized medical attention may be required if you are not seeing any improvement and your diarrhea is getting worse.

If diarrhea persists more than a few days, it may indicate some serious health problem. If your diarrhea persists for 14 days and you pass stools more than three times a day, it is referred to as acute diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide, which affects around 11 percent of the general population. Chronic diarrhea refers to the condition when diarrhea lasts for at least four weeks. Thus, it becomes important to immediately seek medical help whether you having an acute or chronic diarrhea.

Still, a mild diarrhea is good in a way that it helps in flushing the toxins out of your body. You can let it run for a while, but keep treating the underlying problem that is causing it. Make sure to drink plenty of water during the course to prevent dehydration and avoid electrolyte imbalances.

What should I drink after diarrhea?

Diarrhea that lasts for several days can cause excessive dehydration, loss of vital body fluids, and electrolytes. In order to make up for the lost fluids and prevent an electrolyte imbalance, you should drink plenty of water and fluids in the form of soup broth or water mixed with juice. Take frequent sips of clear liquids such as plain water. If you're drinking a sufficient amount of fluid, your urine will be light yellow or almost clear. Drinking sports drinks is another effective way of fighting dehydration. Sports drinks are helpful because they contain salt and sugar, both of which allow water to be more easily absorbed by the body. You can make your own sports drink too by adding a pinch of salt to a glass of apple juice. Also, make sure to keep your drinks at room temperature because a warm drink works better to counter dehydration than a cold one. Herbal teas with honey or freshly squeezed lemon may also help.

Sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks and can worsen the symptoms of dehydration. Hence, you must avoid them. Milk and other dairy products should also be avoided because diarrhea causes temporary lactose intolerance.

When is diarrhea a concern?

Most cases of diarrhea are completely harmless, provided that you are keeping your body hydrated. There is nothing serious about a brief stomach upset, but sometimes, diarrhea may indicate a serious underlying health problem. If diarrhea continues for more than three days for an adult and more than 24 hours for a child, you should consult your doctor. Some of the common causes of persistent diarrhea include amoebiasis, food handler's diarrhea or Campylobacter infection, cholera, giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, food poisoning, shigellosis, Norwalk virus, salmonellosis, rotavirus, traveler's diarrhea, medication toxicity, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • black, tarry stools
  • blood in your stool
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • signs of dehydration
  • rapid weight loss

These symptoms of diarrhea can be warning signs of conditions such as irritable bowel disease (IBD), infection, pancreatitis, or even colon cancer.

If you are not seeing any improvements even after two weeks, then you have chronic diarrhea. In order to identify the primary cause of your diarrhea and suggest an appropriate treatment, your doctor may further discuss with you about your symptoms and medical history.

How long does diarrhea last?

Diarrhea refers to the condition when you pass loose, watery stools two to three times a day or more. Some other symptoms that accompany diarrhea include:

Diarrhea normally goes away on its own within 1 or 2 days without any medication, but it may also take longer to stop. Depending on its duration, diarrhea can either be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea refers to the condition when diarrhea lasts for less than 14 days. Acute diarrhea can be due to a viral or bacterial infection. However, it is most often the result of food poisoning. You may also be having traveler’s diarrhea if you were exposed to parasites or bacteria while on vacation. Acute diarrhea is quite common.

Chronic diarrhea is a more persistent form of diarrhea that lasts for at least four weeks. A wide range of problems can cause chronic diarrhea such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), malabsorption syndromes in which food cannot be digested and absorbed, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic infections, irritable bowel syndrome, endocrine disorders, food allergy or sensitivity, and certain medications.

You should contact your doctor if diarrhea persists for more than three days.

What should you eat when you have diarrhea?

Some foods can aggravate the symptoms of diarrhea while others keep you nourished while you are recovering. If you want a faster recovery, you should exactly know what to eat and drink.

After having the first bout of diarrhea, you should eat plain, simple foods in the first 24 hours. It is best to eat thicker, bland foods, including bananas, oatmeal, plain rice, and applesauce.

Other bland foods that you can eat while suffering from diarrhea include:

  • bread toast
  • boiled potatoes
  • bananas
  • rice
  • pretzels
  • applesauce
  • plain crackers
  • baked chicken without any skin or fat

In addition, research shows that foods with probiotics including yogurt may shorten the duration of diarrhea.

While you have diarrhea, you should avoid foods that contain high sugar or fat content. You should also avoid carbonated beverages, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks. Apart from that, limiting your consumption of vegetables and fruits that give you gas may also help you recover faster. Dairy products should also be avoided, but only if they aggravate your symptoms. Potatoes are rich in potassium and are relatively bland, hence, they make a good choice. Salty foods, such as pretzels or soup broths can help replenish the electrolytes you have lost during the course. Cooked carrots, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, acorn squash, and asparagus are easy to digest as well. Pasta, oatmeal, crackers, skinless baked chicken, and pancakes (without much syrup) can also be eaten.

Are bananas good for diarrhea?

Yes, bananas are good for diarrhea. In fact, bananas are often described as the perfect food for patients suffering from diarrhea. Although you don't need to limit your daily diet to bananas only, they really help you recover from diarrhea if consumed in a right amount. Bananas may help you recover by acting as a binding food, which means that they make your stools a bit more solid and help them pass more slowly through the intestines. Eating cooked green bananas may also reduce the frequency of your bowel movements and improve rehydration during diarrhea. Bananas are also rich in potassium, a vital nutrient often depleted during bouts of diarrhea. Bananas also provide essential nutrients such as manganese, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins B6 and C, which will give you energy. 

You should stay on a restricted diet for a limited period only. Since eating bananas alone won’t give you enough of all of the essential nutrients, you should go back to your normal diet as soon as your stomach starts tolerating it. Eating some of the other foods that your stomach can tolerate during diarrhea aside from bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast will fulfill your body’s other nutritional requirements.