Diarrhea- or loose or watery bowel movements that occur frequently is one of the most commonly reported ailments in India. According to WHO, India is the third biggest victim of diarrheal deaths especially children under the age of five. Malnutrition and compromised immune system contribute more child deaths in India. In most cases, the condition subsides on its own (Acute diarrhea) and in few instances, diarrhea may last for four or more weeks (Chronic diarrhea).
Bacterial (eg, salmonella), viral (eg, norovirus or rotavirus), or parasitic (eg, giardia) infection of the bowels cause diarrhea. Rota-viral infections are common in infants and Norvo-viral infections in adults and school-age children. Among these, bacterial infections occur following consumption of E.coli contaminated food and drinks and cause severe symptoms.
The causes of chronic infection include:
1. Bacterial Infections
2. Osmotic and malabsorption arising from lactose intolerance and Celiac disease
3.Irritable Bowel Syndrome
4. Inflammatory diseases (eg, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease)
5. Bowel Cancer
6. Medication-related Infections
7. Intestinal ischemia, or lessened blood flow to the intestine
The main symptom of diarrhea is loose, watery stool followed by dehydration. And the severe episodes of diarrhea usually go with,
1. Severe abdominal pain
2. High fever
3. Mucus, pus or blood in stools
4. Prolonged Vomiting
6. Rapid heart rate
Following tests are used to diagnose diarrhea.
1. Stool culture to confirm the causative agent
2. Blood Tests to rule out few diseases
3. Fasting tests to check for the effect dietary changes have on the symptoms
4. Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
5. Imaging tests such as X-ray and CT scans to rule out structural abnormalities
In most cases replenishing water and mineral loss will bring back the natural equilibrium. Apart from that doctor may suggest avoiding caffeine, dairy products, and greasy, high fiber, or sugary foods as they worsen the symptoms. Adsorbents to imbibe water in the small intestine and colon, thus make diarrheal stool less watery. Anti- motility medications are prescribed to relax the intestinal muscles to slow the flow of intestinal content. Antibiotics are prescribed for patients with traveller’s diarrhea, heart diseases, and other major ailments.
Oral re-hydration and IV (in severe cases) are suggested for the infants with diarrhea. Breastfeeding mothers might have to adjust their dietary style to avoid worsening of the symptoms arising from the foods that could trigger diarrhea.
The best way to prevent diarrhea is thoroughly washing the hands after using the toilet, changing nappies, and before meals. While preparing food, please ensure to
1. Properly cook the meat
2. Disinfect table tops, stove tops, and chopping boards after the use
3. Drink filtered and boiled water