woman-with-stomach-issuesDiarrhoea is the abnormal passing of more than three liquid or loose bowel movements a day. It also can be the passing of a volume greater than 200g per day as stated by the British Society for Gastroenterology (2003) It is common and can often be due to a gastrointestinal upset that will clear up without treatment. Usual duration is 5 to 7 days but it can last for up to 2 weeks (NHS Direct) However there are many other reasons for diarrhoea, and if it persists or makes you feel unwell for example a strong abdominal pain, persistent fever, or the presence of blood / mucus in the motions it is important to seek advice and assessment by your doctor. For the majority of us, diarrhoea can simply be an uncomfortable and inconvenient problem that we will all suffer from at some time in our lives. These are some of the common reasons for experiencing diarrhoea:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (sometimes constipation alternating with diarrhoea)
  • Medications such as antibiotics, some blood pressure medications, anti inflammatory drugs
  • Food sensitivities, allergies or intolerance
  • Bacterial infection
  • Parasite infection which can often be acquired during foreign travel
  • Food additives such as fructose or sorbitol
  • Excessive alcohol intake

Other Causes Which May Need Diagnosis And Treatment Can Include:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Crohns disease
  • Endocrine disorders such as a thyroid imbalance
  • Coeliac disease which can develop at any age and is a reaction of the small bowel to gluten (found in food such as wheat)
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Colon, pancreatic cancers and hormone producing cancers

What Other Symptoms Can Diarrhoea Cause?

Prolonged or watery diarrhoea can lead to dehydration which can make you feel thirsty, light headed, sometimes dizzy on standing, tired, lethargic and even if drinking lots of water it may be difficult to replace what you are losing Cramps, abdominal discomfort, bloating and excess wind / flatulence Chronic or longer term diarrhoea will usually mean you will be highly deficient in trace minerals such as zinc Can lead to deficiency of nutrients and weight loss, poor skin condition, hair, nails etc

What Can Be Done To Return To A Normal Bowel Function?

Depending on the duration and severity of symptoms it is important to see your doctor who may investigate / identify / treat an underlying medical cause

Top Tips

  • Reduce stress levels
  • Relaxation
  • Diet and lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding spicy foods, eating small meals regularly
  • Cut down on stimulants such as alcohol, tea, coffee, cigarettes
  • Avoid an excess of raw foods
  • Increase water intake to aim for 2 litres daily and use vitamin mineral supplement
  • Avoid anti-diarrhoeal medications
  • Use a bulking product to make bowel motions more formed, giving the gut time to absorb its fluid, minerals etc – example is apple pectin or psyllium
  • Probiotics can help restore healthy bowel flora

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