What is diarrhea and it’s symptoms?

What is diarrhea? 

To have diarrhea is to pass loose or watery stools. The majority of people cringe at the mention of it because it’s so prevalent. It never ceases to bother me to think of thin, sickly-looking excrement in the toilet bowl. Not knowing what’s causing your diarrhea or how long it will last simply makes the unpleasant symptoms worse.

The good news is that diarrhea typically subsides in a few days and is only mild, requiring a few trips to the bathroom each day. However, diarrhea might occasionally indicate a serious illness. It may lead to excessive fluid loss (dehydration) or impede the absorption of necessary nutrients. It’s critical to recognize the warning signs of diarrhea to decide when to seek medical attention and when to treat it on your own.

Types of diarrhea

Various names for diarrhea exist based on how long it lasts:

  • Acute diarrhea: 

This type of diarrhea lasts one to two days and is loose and watery. It’s the most prevalent kind and usually goes away on its own.

  • Diarrhea that persists: 

Diarrhea that persists typically lasts two to four weeks.

  • Chronic diarrhea: 

Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than four weeks or recurs often over an extended period. This prolonged diarrhea could be a sign of a more serious illness that calls for a trip to the doctor.

To what extent is diarrhea common?

It is quite widespread and impacts individuals of all ages. While children typically experience acute diarrhea twice a year, most adults only experience it once.

Signs and Origins

Why does diarrhea occur?

A virus that affects your digestive tract is the primary cause of diarrhea (gastroenteritis). Some refer to it as a “stomach bug” or the “stomach flu.” However, diarrhea may have a variety of reasons.


Diarrhea-causing infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. The norovirus that causes gastroenteritis is the most frequent cause of diarrhea in adults. The most frequent cause of acute diarrhea in children is rotavirus.

Foodborne illness

Contaminated foods and beverages have the potential to contain hazardous poisons and microorganisms. Diarrhea can be caused by poisons or bacteria after they enter your stomach. When you acquire diarrhea when visiting a new place with inadequate sanitation or hygiene, it’s known as traveler’s diarrhea. Diarrhea is typically caused by bacterial exposure.


One typical side effect of the medicine is diarrhea. Antibiotics, for instance, eliminate pathogenic bacteria, but they can also eradicate beneficial microorganisms in the process. Diarrhea can result from a deficiency of beneficial microorganisms. Antacids containing magnesium and certain cancer medications and therapies can also cause diarrhea as a side effect. Diarrhea might also result from overuse of laxatives.

Foods that cause stomach distress

When lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, is not properly absorbed by the body, it results in diarrhea. Fructose is a sugar found in honey and fruits that is added to various dishes as a sweetener, although it can be difficult for some people to digest. When you have celiac disease, your body cannot properly break down gluten, which is a protein found in wheat. This results in diarrhea.

Illnesses that impact your intestines

One of the most typical signs of illnesses that irritate and inflame your intestines is diarrhea. Diarrhea can be a symptom of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS sufferers may have worsening symptoms as a result of stress and anxiety.

Operations on your intestines

Many people who have colon surgery experience diarrhea. Your digestive system may need some time to process food particles, produce firm stools from trash, and absorb nutrients.

What signs of diarrhea are present?

Watery or loose stools are the primary indicator of diarrhea. Additional typical symptoms consist of:

  • abdominal pain or bloating
  • an intense and pressing urge to urinate
  • nausea 

Usually, these symptoms don’t necessitate seeing a doctor, especially if they pass quickly

Symptoms and indicators of extreme diarrhea

A major illness or other medical issue that requires medical attention from a provider may be indicated by severe bouts of diarrhea.

If you experience diarrhea with:

  • High temperature
  • excruciating pain
  • throwing up
  • Mucus or blood in your feces
  • Loss of weight (which may indicate that your body isn’t getting adequate nutrition).

If you or your child exhibits any of the following symptoms of dehydration, get in touch with a healthcare professional:

  • ache
  • hydrated, muscat skin
  • Disorientation and irritability
  • severe vomiting and nausea
  • dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Fatigue: a state of exhaustion that does not subside with rest
  • Peeing in little volumes, dark urine, or not at all
  • fewer than six infants’ wet diapers in a day
  • toddlers: no urinating or changing wet diapers for eight hours
  • When they scream, babies and toddlers don’t cry unless and until they are suffering from something

Examinations and Diagnosis

Inquiring about the patient’s symptoms and symptom history will help a doctor diagnose the cause of diarrhea. The doctor will inquire about:

  • any prescription drugs you take now 
  • They consider their family history and previous medical records
  • their past travel experiences
  • any additional health issues they may have
  • how often the stools are made and when the diarrhea started
  • whether the stool is watery, contains mucus or pus, or is bloody; whether the person has been vomiting; and the quantity of stool
  • They’ll also be on the lookout for dehydration symptoms. If rehydration therapy is not administered right away, severe dehydration can be fatal.

Diarrhea tests

Diarrhea is usually curable without medical intervention, and a physician can frequently make the diagnosis without testing.

But in more extreme situations, a stool test can be required, particularly if the symptoms last more than a week.

Additional testing could be advised by the physician if the patient has:

  • indications of a fever or thirst
  • bloody or pus-filled stools excruciating pain low blood pressure
  • a compromised immune system, having recently traveled, taken medications, or experiencing prolonged hospitalization-induced diarrhea

A person’s doctor will prescribe tests based on the likely cause if they have persistent or chronic diarrhea.

These could consist of the following-

A complete blood count: 

  • Anemia could be a sign of IBD, malnourishment, or bleeding ulcers.
  • Tests for liver function: These will measure albumin levels.
  • Malabsorption tests: These will measure how well calcium, vitamin B-12, and folate are absorbed. Thyroid function and iron status will also be evaluated.
  • IBD may be indicated by elevated levels of C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
  • Antibody tests: These can identify celiac disease.
  • Stool tests: Through stool cultures, medical professionals can detect bacteria, viruses, and parasites. White blood cells, tiny blood, and other diagnostic hints can be found with stool testing.

When is diarrhea something to be worried about?

Most of the time, diarrhea is nothing to worry about and goes away on its own without the need for medical attention. Nonetheless, it’s critical to get medical attention when there is:

Continuous vomiting

  • Dehydration, severe weight loss, persistent diarrhea, and blood in the stool—which, if it originates further up in the digestive tract, could color the feces black—all contribute to chronic diarrhea.
  • It is important for anyone experiencing diarrhea following surgery, hospitalization, or antibiotic use to get medical help.
  • Adults who experience difficulty sleeping as a result of diarrhea should also visit a doctor very once, as this is typically an indication of more serious issues.

For diarrhea, how long is too long?

A person should see a doctor right once if their diarrhea persists for longer than seven days.

Additionally, if a child has had more than five episodes of diarrhea or more than two episodes of vomiting in 24 hours, they should consult a doctor right away.

Things to avoid

To help avoid diarrhea, consider the following:

Consuming wholesome and secure water possessing only excellent sanitation systems, such as sewage and wastewater, and excellent hygiene habits, such as routinely washing hands with soap, particularly before making meals and eating, as well as after using the restroom.

Research indicates that hand-washing campaigns by public health organizations can cut diarrhea rates by roughly one-third. However, due to unsanitary conditions and contaminated water, preventing diarrhea may be more difficult in impoverished nations.

What is the best way to get rid of diarrhea?

Untreated cases of mild acute diarrhea may go away.

In addition to treating the symptoms of diarrhea, a doctor will treat any underlying reasons for persistent or chronic diarrhea.

We’ll go into more depth about some potential treatments for diarrhea in the sections that follow.

Replenishing fluids

Supplementing with zinc may help lessen the intensity and length of a child’s diarrhea.

Medication to prevent diarrhea

There are additional over-the-counter antidiarrheal drugs available. These consist of bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) and loperamide (Imodium).

The antimotility medication imidazepam slows the flow of feces.

Pepto-Bismol helps adults and children with diarrheal stools produce less of them. Additionally, it can stop traveler’s diarrhea.

Antidiarrheal drugs have raised concerns that they may increase the duration of bacterial illness by decreasing the elimination of germs through feces.


Only bacterial infections causing diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics. Changing to a different medicine could be helpful if it’s the problem.

Note: Consult your doctor before taking any medications.


In case you have diarrhea, try these dietary suggestions:

Drinking clear beverages after every loose stool, such as fruit juice without added sugar, electrolyte drinks, or water ingesting high-potassium foods and beverages, such as diluted fruit, juices, skinless potatoes, and bananas; replenishing lost fluids with at least one cup of liquid; and consuming the majority of fluids between meals rather than during them. Eating and drinking foods and beverages high in sodium, such as soups, broths, sports drinks, and salted crackers. Consuming soluble fiber-rich foods (bananas, oats, and rice) to help thicken the stool and avoid items that can exacerbate diarrhea (creamy, fried, high in dairy, and sugary foods).

Some foods and drinks that could exacerbate diarrhea include:

Gum without added sugar, mints, sweet cherries, prunes, coffee-infused beverages, pharmaceuticals, fruit juices, grapes, honey, dates, almonds, figs, soft drinks, and dairy products all contain high levels of fructose.

Anything that has artificial sweeteners in it is a fat substitute called magnesium olestra (Olean).

Prebiotics- The role of probiotics in diarrhea is supported by conflicting data. They might aid in preventing traveler’s diarrhea, and there’s evidence that they could shorten diarrheal illnesses in kids by one day.

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