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WHAT AND WHAT NOT TO EAT WHEN YOU HAVE DIARRHEA

Hunger pangs aren’t the only thing that make your stomach grumble. Leaving a meeting half way through or storming out of class can be outright embarrassing. But you know what they say, ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go! So, was it something you had for dinner last night? Perhaps the morning coffee didn’t quite sit well this time. Whatever the reason, diarrhea can be a pain in the butt! No pun intended.

This article will focus on the foods that cause diarrhea and how to stop diarrhea. Before we get into the depth of things, let’s start with the basics. Medically, diarrhea is defined as ‘loose, watery stools or a frequent need to have a bowel movement.’

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea usually lasts for a couple of days. A cramp here and there and it’s gone before you know it. No or little intervention is required. In other words, it is self-limiting. Depending on how long it lasts, diarrhea can be classified into two types; acute and chronic.

  • Acute diarrhea is when the condition lasts for a couple of days (typically less than a week). It may be due to a viral or bacterial infection-comes and goes-nothing serious. Frequent travelers often experience upset stomachs (or Delhi belly) as their exposure to different bacteria and parasites is high. A condition often referred to as ‘traveler’s diarrhea’.
  • Chronic diarrhea can last up to four weeks or more, generally indicating a more serious underlying cause like intestinal disorders that usually require further investigation. Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as Crohn’s disease are common causes of chronic diarrhea.

Diarrhea can make you lose a considerable amount of body water and electrolytes, even in a few days. It’s extremely important to keep yourself hydrated during this time.  If the diarrhea persists for a longer time, you may experience abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and may feel feverish as well. Later on, signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, lightheadedness, dry mouth and decreased urination may begin to appear. If you feel increasingly tired and lethargic, it’s better to contact your doctor as soon as possible or can find doctors online by downloading an app for healthcare solutions on your smartphone or mobile device. An online medical consultation can help treat the diarrhea and you can even get a prescription online. The sooner the treatment begins the better.

Diarrhea in children

The most common cause of diarrhea in children is the rotavirus. According to a recent study, diarrhea associated deaths in the United States appear to be increasing in recent years. An average of 369 diarrhea-associated deaths occurred annually among US children aged 1 to 59 months.

Young children and babies can become dehydrated in just one day. They become irritable, sluggish, develop sunken eyes and dry mouth. They may cry without tears and you may notice a depression or a sunken area in the middle of the head, also known as a ‘sunken fontanelle’. You should take your child to the emergency room if the diarrhea persists with fever or occurs with blood or pus.

Pediatricians often get asked about ‘green diarrhea’, particularly by anxious first-time parents. No, it’s not because the baby is cold (myth). Typically, there is nothing to worry about. Green stool is in fact a common stool color change and is caused by the presence of bile pigments which are normally present in stool. Diarrhea moves the food so quickly through the gut that the intestinal bacteria aren’t able to break down the pigments, preventing the stool from attaining its normal brown color. Green vegetables and foods that contain green food color can also cause the stool to turn green. 

For expert medical advice connect with a pediatrician online with a doctor availability app like Mylivedoctors and ask about your child’s health condition. Find best doctor online through video call so your child can be evaluated for any visible signs of dehydration. In case of a fever you’ll be prescribed medication to help with that or called in for more extensive testing.

Diarrhea treatment

So how do you deal with an unexpected stomach bug? It really depends on how long you’ve been suffering from it and what the cause is. The first line treatment for diarrhea is aimed at replacing lost fluids. Just focus on drinking lots of water and if the diarrhea continues for more than a week, start consuming electrolyte replacement drinks/beverages. You should be able to get them easily at your local drug store. Sometimes, intra-venous fluids must be administered in case of dehydration to restore water and electrolyte imbalance. To be on the safe side, prolonged diarrhea warrants a visit to the clinic. It is best to consult your physician as antibiotics may have to be prescribed to eliminate any infection.

Various medications are used to treat individuals who suffer from chronic conditions like IBS. Anti-spasmodics, anti-motility agents and low dose antidepressants help control most symptoms.

Foods to avoid

Diarrhea treatment involves small but pertinent diet and lifestyle changes which can really help change the course of the disease process. There are a number of foods that exacerbate diarrhea and should be avoided:

  • Spicy food
  • Raw vegetables
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Coffee and other caffeinated/carbonated drinks
  • Onions
  • Fried and greasy food

Foods to eat

If you happen to encounter diarrhea in the morning and can’t afford to be late for work, grab a banana or munch on some toast before heading out. These foods won’t aggravate the digestive system. They act as ‘binders’ and will augment diarrhea treatment by firming up the stool.

Here are some other foods that stop diarrhea fast or have shown to give quick results: 

  • Rice
  • Apples/applesauce
  • Cooked cereal
  • Soda crackers

Remember to stay hydrated. You can take other liquids besides water as well such as:

  • Clear broth
  • Coconut water (without added sugar)
  • Sports drinks (they contain electrolytes)
  • Mild teas and herbs

Diarrhea prevention

There is a reason they say, ‘prevention is better than cure’. It’s less of a burden to stop something from happening than to repair the damage after it has happened. Here are a couple of quick pointers that can help prevent diarrhea:

  • Be more vigilant and frequent in cleaning the washing and cooking areas.
  • Immediately refrigerate cooked food after heating
  • Use bottled water while vacationing
  • Avoid raw food while dining out
  • Wash hands well
  • Use sanitizer when out

The next time your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to it! For more information please visit www.mylivedoctors.com