Diarrhea is a condition defined by having loose and watery bowel movements. When your stools are very loose and watery, even for one time, it can be considered diarrhea. It is not a serious condition and quite common. A wide range of things can cause diarrhea including stress, medications, dietary habits, and other medical conditions. Most people will experience diarrhea at least 1-2 times a year and can last 2-3 times each time. Additional types of diarrhea include secretory diarrhea which happens when your body is releasing water into the bowels, or exudative diarrhea when there is blood or mucus in the stool.
Causes of Diarrhea
In most cases, diarrhea is caused by a virus in the abdomen; this infection can lead to the stomach flu or intestinal flu. Other common causes are infection by bacteria, infection by other organisms, eating foods that don’t agree with your digestive system, food allergies, certain medications, radiation therapy, intestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, malnutrition, malabsorption, hyperthyroidism, cancer, laxative abuse, alcohol abuse, medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, running, or digestive tract surgery.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
The symptoms of diarrhea will vary based on the cause or the type of diarrhea. For example, uncomplicated diarrhea may include watery stool, thin or loose stools, abdominal bloating or cramping, a sense of urgency to have a bowel movement, nausea and vomiting. Complicated diarrhea includes these symptoms plus weight loss, fever, and blood or mucus visible in the stool. If you have diarrhea for more than 24 hours you should consult your doctor.
The severity and frequency of your diarrhea will determine what the proper course of treatment is. For mild diarrhea, you will usually just let it run its course or take an over-the-counter medication to relieve the associated symptoms. Medications you can use for treating diarrhea are available under brand names Imodium A-D, Pepto-Bismol, and Kaopectate which is in a liquid or tablet form. Lifestyle changes for treating diarrhea include drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, fruit juice, chicken or beef broth, or soft drinks without caffeine. Sports drinks can also be chosen though you don’t want to drink too many of them since they contain high amounts of sugar.
Treating Rectal Pain and Discomfort
Having diarrhea can cause a lot of discomfort and even pain in your rectal area. If you’re looking to relieve some of this discomfort, there are several things you can do. First, you can try taking a warm bath and pat the area dry very gently, without rubbing it. Next, apply a cream such as hemorrhoid cream or petroleum jelly to the area to get some relief. This will relieve the discomfort until the diarrhea is gone and everything starts feeling normal again.